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developer productivity tips

November 11, 2020

Productivity tips busy developers need to know
byAmanda FullerinTips

Software development is a dynamic field. This has always meant that it’s essential for developers to take an active approach, and stay on top of changes. And that, in turn, means that the best developers tend to have reliable ways of keeping themselves productive.

In 2020, this trait — being able to stay productive — is arguably more important than ever. Numerous industries related to software development have taken hits, and many developers are working under different conditions than they’re used to. The ones who are best able to keep up their standard and complete their projects are the ones who are going to handle these challenges most effectively. And that leads us to our main focus: a few productivity tips busy developers need to keep in mind.

Eliminate Distractions

This is a general tip for anyone working from home, like so many developers are doing today. Basically, when you’re working from home, anything from family members and roommates, to television, to your own mobile devices can become a serious distraction, and detract from productivity. Fortunately, avoiding this issue is a simple matter of discipline. Creative Bloq posted tips on avoiding distractions that can help give you an idea of what to focus on. The best ideas they highlighted include getting comfortable physically, closing unnecessary apps, and shutting yourself into a home office all as ways to start walling yourself off from distractions.

Frankly, we see all of these as part of one bigger tip: establishing a home workspace. Particularly these days, with more people working from home, it’s important to have an area where you can be comfortable and able to focus on projects. For starters, we’d recommend an ergonomic desk and chair and a piece of lounge furniture (even a beanbag can be brilliant). Make sure temperature control and lighting are available to you. And if possible, bring in some natural light and plants. All of this will make the workspace cosy and liveable, allowing you to feel your best, focus, and stay put without feeling shut in. With a space like this, you’ll be certain to see a spike in productivity.

Schedule (Including Breaks)

In just about any situation — working from home or otherwise — a clear schedule can boost productivity in a few different ways. A Verizon Connect piece on how to work intelligently explored this idea, suggesting (rightly) that scheduling every task does two things. First, the article said, scheduling gives you a clear picture of what you have to do in a given day; second, it gives you a clear path toward a small sense of accomplishment when you complete outlined tasks. These benefits can absolutely lead to more productivity by software developers.

How you schedule will depend somewhat on your specific work and the projects you have on hand. But we recommend breaking things down (something we’ll speak on more below), and writing your schedule out in a format that allows you to cross off tasks. Even a simple Excel sheet or note-taking app (such as Evernote, OneNote, or even a simple but perfectly functional Apple Notes) can serve as a scheduling book, where you can lay out each day’s activity and cross items off as you fulfill them.

Break Down Projects

As you go about scheduling, and looking for that little sense of accomplishment you get by moving through tasks, it’s also a good idea to break down projects into parts. This might not always be doable, but in development there are often ways to segment jobs into different stages. This can first and foremost make a job seem less formidable, and make you more willing to dive in and start doing the work. But it also leads to more of that sense that you’re checking things off your list and progressing successfully through a day’s work.

These benefits are in fact what many developers get out of tools like Asana and Jira, which exist in part to help organize projects and segment tasks in an orderly fashion. While it’s easy to think of “project management” as something meant for entire teams, busy developers make excellent use out of the idea and the tools that help to make it easier.   

Automate Where You Can

“Automate stuff” was arguably the most interesting idea within Developer Circles Lagos’s developer productivity ideas posted on Medium. While that same post had some other interesting points, what showed through is the notion that people working in software development tend to have some idea of how to do a little bit of automation — say, by writing scripts that accomplish certain tasks on their own. And this sort of effort can help to simplify a job in a way that significantly improves productivity.

Automation may not help with every project, and naturally, some developers will be better able to take advantage of this idea than others. But generally, automating where you can is a sound strategy. Even using your development skills to automate a sort of record-keeping that logs your hour-to-hour activity can be extraordinarily helpful. This example would afford you a better picture of your own working habits, and enable you to adjust accordingly.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that you may not even have to do this sort of automation on your own, given the ready-made tools that exist within modern work programs. As an example, consider Slack’s “Standup Bot,” which is essentially a built-in project management assistant that can help to keep you on task.

Maintain Personal Health

Personal health doesn’t always come up with regard to on-the-job productivity, but it’s a mistake to assume it’s not a factor. As stated in our piece ‘5 Challenges for a Freelance Developer’ it’s important not to forget to “eat well, sleep and keep an eye on your health” in order to stay productive. Simply put, if your body and mind aren’t healthy, you’ll be less prepared to focus and have productive workdays. You’ll be a better and more prolific developer the healthier you are.

Written/Edited by: Amanda Fuller

Amanda Fuller is a freelance writer for over seven years. Since becoming freelance she has written extensively about work practices, both at home and in the office. She maintains that in order for a company to be successful they must pay as much attention to their employees as their profit margins. In her free time she practices yoga.

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