Working in IT headhunting I speak with candidates and our developers at Cloud Employee daily. Many developers have become great friends and I recently picked their brains on what they viewed as their top tips to maximise productivity and output.
Programming is so multi-faceted that it can at times become labor intensive. Nevertheless, the option to work smart and improve efficiency is always on the table.
It’s important to look for ways to make work both easier and more optimal for yourself. Not only will you spend less time on the mundane tasks, but your productivity will soar. Some of these tips may seem overly obvious, but it's the little things that are often overlooked and we need to remind ourselves of. With that in mind, here are the top productivity tips every software developer should know.
Keep learning how to use new tools.
You may be the best in your field, but without the right tools, your work will suffer significantly. The tools you use for work can either make or break you. That's enough reason to learn how to use new tools. The thing is, you need to learn how to use the right tools. Using everything and anything is one way to dampen your productivity as a whole.
When choosing tools, start by assessing your business needs. As you already know, software development is a broad field. You cannot use a blanket approach when it comes to the tools you need. So, let's say you're a python developer, your needs will be vastly different from those of a Ruby developer. Even more, developers within the same line have preferences when it comes to the tools they use.
The endgame is to search for tools that will eliminate the number of mundane or repetitive tasks. Once those are off the table, your productivity will escalate. With that in mind, it is incredibly important to invest time and energy into finding new tools that will work for you.
Do not underestimate the power of breaks.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when you have a lot on your table. But pouring all your energy into the tasks at hand can end up being counterproductive. If you have not had enough rest then you won't be able to put in 100%. You probably already know that writing code needs your total concentration. Going over it again to fix bugs is even more tasking than writing the code in the first place. To avoid this issue, it is important to get enough sleep and rest.
Even more, taking regular breaks may be the magic that opens up your mind to new and creative ways to solve some problems. If you tend to power through the workday without stopping for breaks, there are apps that can suggest timely breaks throughout the day. Even if the break involves stretching for a few minutes or resting your eyes, it goes a long way to recharge you for the task ahead.
Besides the issue of productivity, it is not good to skimp on rest healthwise. Anything from eye problems to stress-related health issues can set you back. So, when you're tired don't hesitate to rest.
Take time to write your code.
Writing code should not be a race to the finish line. Sure, you need to work within set deadlines but give yourself enough time to concentrate. Do not underestimate the importance of writing clean and accessible code. Whether you like it or not, you will have to revisit it afterwards. If you present it well, then it will be a lot easier to look over in the long run. Even more,It is not enough for your code to be clean, it should equally be written in short blocks.
This makes it a lot easier to spot errors and tackle them accordingly. Think about it this way, when you are reading normal text, a huge block of words can come off as daunting. In fact, if you are not an avid reader, your mind shuts down. Likewise, you will hit a mental wall once you have to deal with a huge block of code. An added plus is that anyone else who has to read the code, be it a collaborator or a client, will have an easier time.
Nevertheless, you should never sacrifice comprehension for a neat block of code. In the grand scale of things, writing understandable code is more important than writing neat code.
Go in with a plan.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. One of the biggest causes of unproductivity is approaching a task with a broad sense. Sure, you know the endgame, but you need to map out a direct path to it. One major advantage of having a well-laid out plan is that it keeps you focused at each stage. You know exactly what you want and how to achieve it. With that on the table, you won’t end up derailing or adding unnecessary features along the line.
Here’s the thing about neglecting the planning stage, you won’t have a detailed understanding of the project at hand. You may approach it from one angle and discover that you’ve made an irreparable error. That would lead to you starting all over again which, in turn, is counterproductive. But, isn’t having a detailed planning stage a bit of a time-waster altogether?
The answer is no. Planning before starting up a project can shave off hours of time. Especially when working on broad projects, planning is what will ensure that you deliver in terms of quality.
Automate, automate, automate.
No one is saying it is easy to set up automation in all cases. Some automation tasks can take days to put in place. But those days are well worth it if the tasks you want to automate are incredibly mundane and time-consuming. Nevertheless, when handling automation do not take things overboard.
You should not automate some tasks, even when they are automatable. Some things need that human touch to reach an acceptable quality. You are the judge and jury when it comes to picking tasks to automate. Weigh the pros against the cons before you choose to automate, that way you will be more productive.
Do not try to multitask.
Multitasking is profitable in a number of fields. Needless to say, software development is not one of them. The intricate nature of writing code makes it a task that needs your full attention. Even though your project is multifaceted, it is advisable to focus on one task at a time. This is why planning is so important. If you have a clear and detailed plan on ground, then it will be a lot easier to work on it one step at a time.
The moment you take on too much, you will end up spreading yourself too thin. What happens is that your brain will start lagging in a bid to keep up with you. Even more, switching contexts rapidly is confusing on so many levels. So, try to approach one problem at a time because you will get the best results at the end of the day. Even more, it will help you hone your focus and power through your project.
Beyond multitasking your project needs, ensure that you block out external tasks. For instance, writing code while trying to catch up with your favourite show is not the best combination. Ensure that you give your full attention to the task at hand.
As a software developer, there is no doubt a whole lot of work on your table at a go. With that in mind, you need to have your priorities all laid out. Let’s say you stumble across a project that piques your interest and it's due in a month. That is no reason to drop other urgent tasks to get started on it. At the end of the day, this is a job and you need to deliver on or before your deadline.
One of the most difficult and discouraging things is having to deal with a pile of work. There is a certain psychology behind it. Once you see a huge pile of work in front of you, it is disconcerting and demoralizing. The best way to approach your work and avoid pile-ups is to prioritize. Any work that is more important or urgent should be done first. With the most urgent task out of the way, you’ll feel more motivated to move on to the next one.
Even more, attacking urgent tasks first is one way to guard against procrastination. For some reason, having a huge amount of tasks at hand makes people reluctant to get started in the first place. You'll end up telling yourself that you are waiting for the right time to start a task, meanwhile there's no better time than the present.
Do away with distracting noises.
There's a reason we used the word distracting here. Some people enjoy a little bit of background noise while working which is completely fine. That makes this more of a "personal preference" issue. The key here is to stay away from any sound that hinders you from giving your full attention to the task at hand. While blasting loud music may work for you when you're handling other tasks it may not be the same while coding.
Besides turning the volume down, you could go for alternatives like white noise or calm instrumentals. It's scientifically proven that music stimulates the brain, but the fact is that not all music will stimulate you in the right way. But at the end of the day, you need to find what works for you. Better still, you should cancel out all noise if it distracts you. If you need to, get noise canceling headphones, then by all means do so.
You will be surprised at how much you can get done when you cut out unnecessary noise. Your productivity level will soar and the quality of your work will not suffer.
The field of software development is vastly changing. If you are not willing to learn then you may end up stuck with tools and techniques that are out of date. These days people are coming up with new and creative ways to approach tasks. The only way to get on top of it is to do your research and be open to learning. Some of the most successful programmers in the field are constantly going back to learn new things.
It's not because they have too much time on their hands. It is simply because they know the value of knowledge. Working smart and not hard doesn't just happen on its own. You need to be armed with enough knowledge to properly execute this philosophy. Professionals recommend that you seek out at least one opportunity to learn new things a month. This way by the end of the year, you are sure of 12 new skills that will help boost your productivity.
Whether you read a book, join an online course or attend a seminar, the end result will be phenomenal.
Design a conducive workspace
Whether you work from home or you frequent the office, your workspace is your haven. As such, you need to tailor your workspace to your specific needs. There are general things that make any workspace conducive. For instance, ergonomic furniture is always a plus.
Nevertheless, you may have preferences that are more specific. Try as much as possible to incorporate that into your space. Being uncomfortable while working can wreak havoc on your productivity whether you find the project straightforward or not.
So, do not hold back, especially if you work from home. At least, at home you have the liberty to truly make your space your own.
We hope you found this article useful. Here at Cloud Employee, we assist both developers looking for work and companies looking to hire dedicated offshore developers across many technologies. Talk to us, learn more about how Cloud Employee works, or see our Developer Pricing Guide.