As valuable as time is, we play with it too much by procrastinating and sometimes, end up paying for it. As a developer, time is everything. For starters, in a development project, you can't be totally sure how long it will take from idea to market. Why? You don’t know how well your software will perform, the number of bugs you might have to fix, or the extent of adjustment and modifications you may have to adopt.
What’s more, you also want to remember that getting to the software market in time is key as you don't own the monopoly of knowledge. Someone else may just be engineering a similar product as yours. Therefore, arriving at the software market in time might just be the only leverage you have at claiming enough market share.
That said, are you struggling with managing your time and maintaining productivity? Do you find it difficult to maintain focus and keep your time-wasting side in check? Do you frequently complete projects/tasks only after your panic-side kicks in due to an approaching deadline? You are not alone. With the following time management tips for developers, let’s help you up your game and boost your productivity levels.
1. Have a plan.
Whether it’s a software development project or your life’s journey, you need a plan to get you to your desired destination. If it’s the latter, setting long and short and term goals and working towards it will help. This isn’t just about making a casual mental note along the way. I’m talking about a physically documented plan about where you want to be in the next five years.
It could include the programming language you want to gain competence in within a number of months? Yes, it may not work out exactly how you planned it. There might be a few adjustments or bumps along the way, still having a “compass” to guide your moves per time is better than just going with any available trend that comes your way.
When it comes to a software development project, whether personal or client-sponsored, planning is even more essential. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short project, a one-week project, or a two-year software design. Having a realistic plan with time limits works well for everyone. You can design a list of things to be done either on paper or on your computer. Then jump on them without forgetting to keep track of where you are per time.
2. Consciously Track Time
One of the most important time management strategies for developers is consciously tracking time. You can do this via your mobile phone by setting alarms, which notify you of hours or minutes gone. This way, you can check what you've achieved against the time you've spent. If you notice you are behind schedule, you can step up your work rate and cut down the break times you have in between. Many senior developers who can’t bring themselves to plan properly often adopt tracking.
You can also use time management software, which is applicable for office settings and personal use. If you are a software development supervisor, you can also manage remote developers with time management software to ensure productivity is maintained.
One of the advantages of using the track-time approach is that it could help you check your personal time-wasters. For example, if your desire to jump on Instagram or Netflix suddenly overpowers your will to stay productive. An alarm buzzer you have set at an interval of half an hour or an hour will give you a quick reality check. This way, you can snap back into productive mode without wasting too much time on your addictions.
3. Focus on one thing at a time
One of the fastest ways to mismanage time is jumping on too many tasks at once. Yes, multitasking is a skill every software developer should have. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you will achieve more by handling more than one thing at the same time.
Once you have a proper plan and you have divided your project into small tasks, jump on each individual. Avoid having too many screens and trying to work on multiple aspects of your project at the same time. You’ll not only achieve little but also suffer the risk of burning out. When you are burned out, your productivity hits zero.
4. You might need to go off-grid.
If you are a Netflix junkie or have a very active online or offline social life, the desire to put work away for a little bit of fun can be tempting. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you can’t take out time to chill. In fact, you should include a cool-off period in your work plan.
However, if you find that your regular time-wasters like binging on movies, online video games, social media engagements, etc., are becoming an addiction, you might need to adopt the going-off-the-grid approach. As a developer, spending lots of time crunching codes is not uncommon. So, you can tuck your phones and tablet away when it's time to go on a coding marathon.
It’s easy to feel like you need to be connected to the online world all the time, especially in this digital age. However, consciously denying yourself those moments of fun so that you can focus on the task or milestone ahead can be productive. As mentioned earlier, keep track of what you are doing against time. You don't want to go radio-silent for nothing. So, try to ensure you are actually productive.
5. Sprint or Marathon? Night or day? Know thyself.
If you are a software developer that works with a team in an office setting, you’ll probably have to discharge your duties according to your line manager or supervisor’s instruction or plan. This scenario may be a 9 am-5 pm arrangement or as the case may be. If you don’t want to get fired or penalized for lagging behind, you probably have no choice but to come through with whatever task your manager assigns to you within the given time frame.
However, working independently is a different ball game. It leaves you with the liberty of making all the decisions, including planning, execution, and rounding up. Time management in software engineering doesn’t have to be a one-way approach, so it might be best to decipher what works best for you. It is not uncommon for developers to have an affinity for marathon work mode.
Crunching codes can be time-demanding. Sometimes, you may spend hours trying to find what broke your code. If you are built for this type of work mode, it can be beneficial, especially when you’ve got a large project at hand.
On the other hand, if you are a sprint type of person, short-term projects might be your thing. Nevertheless, if you have a large project on your plate, you can split it into very small parts and assign short time frames with breaks in between.
Also, knowing what time of the day you are most productive is also a good idea. For example, you might not be a daylight person. What you’ll deliver between the hours 1 am and 4 am might always beat your outcome during 8-5 pm.
6. Have a break.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon for developers to get lost in hours of coding. It comes naturally with the love and demands for the job. However, on the verge of trying to finish on time try not to fall into the trap of burning out. You’d only end up wasting more time. Therefore, inculcate a regular break within your work plan.
Yes, you can adjust your break if you find that your productivity is dropping significantly. Still you need a refreshed mind from time to time. Apart from taking adequate rest, an exercise routine is not a bad idea. You also want to make sure you have a non-addictive hobby outside coding, which will serve as a means of get-away from time to time.
7. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate.
Even if you have excess time on your side, some jobs can’t be done alone. Perhaps, you are working on a personal project, and there’s no client or supervisor breathing down your throat to turn in a project quickly, there are times you might need to bring in extra hands. One of the obvious advantages of delighting duties is finishing on time. Well, that’s not all.
Delegating isn’t always about sharing tasks to arrive at the finish line at the same time. Sometimes, it’s about letting someone better at a specific task handle it. This could be in an office setting or otherwise. Furthermore, you can also delegate your software development work to someone that can do the job in a scenario that you are incapacitated. Having someone around that can do your job can be a lifesaver.
8. When it comes to time management, Good is enough.
Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re not trying to tell you to set the bar too low. That’s doing a shabby job, which is often a product of lazy planning or rushing things when a deadline is at the corner. Still, obsessing or unnecessarily aiming for perfection is one of the reasons why you are not delivering in time.
News flash, setting the bar way too high isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. In fact, you may be mounting insurmountable walls on your path. Instead of overly focusing on perfection, put your efforts into other aspects of your project, like eliminating errors, improving customer experience, security, etc.
Try to uphold the line of thought that good enough gets the job done in time. Nevertheless, when you are done, you could add other features, tweak, or introduce improvements. Sometimes, trying to attain perfection is an illusion that could impair performance. If you are too caught up in the cloud of perfectionism, you may become frustrated and end up with a poor job.
9. There’s only so much you can handle.
Okay, so you don’t binge Netflix, and you aren’t addicted to video games but you have a problem saying no to multiple project offers. Trust us, even if you are the best software developer in the world, there’s only so much you can handle. We totally understand that new challenges are always a temptation for software developers.
You are hungry to spread your tentacles and apply the knowledge you’ve gained over the years on real projects. So, we understand why turning down a new business pitch might not be top on your to-do list. However, you might want to remember that too much on your plate will naturally cause you to have your attention divided into too many projects. You don’t need me to tell you the likely outcome of this scenario.
Not only will you suffer the risk of finishing behind schedule, but you may also end up with poor performance, and burn yourself out. Sometimes, it is just better to say no when you already have enough work. The software development world will always have projects coming your way.
10. Write scripts for repetitive tasks
A senior engineer time management tip you can adopt is having ready scripts for recurring tasks. As a software developer, chances are you are exploring uncharted terrain. However, it’s not uncommon to have repetitive tasks in the journey of developing or engineering software. Therefore, you’ll do well to prepare scripts for this journey. This way, you can save a huge time instead of coding all over again. What’s more, you can reduce the number of broken codes once you have a well-written template for certain tasks.
It’s a common fact that time waits for no one and procrastination is common among many professionals, including developers. So the only way to not run out of time is to adopt effective time management methods to keep you on top of your game and maintain productivity.
You can adopt as many time management tips as possible including the ones not listed here. Still, you need to find and adopt what mode of work is best for you, which could be a sprint/marathon, day/night.
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.
Work with world leading tech businesses
We connect high-performing software engineer talent in the Philippines with some of the world’s leading and most innovative Tech companies.Submit CV