As a programmer, this probably sounds familiar. You have a full day’s work ahead of you, bugs to fix, or worse, a client deadline coming up, but somehow, you just can’t get the job done. You walk away from your computer far too many times or sit there staring at it, doing anything and everything apart from the task at hand.
There are many names for it - procrastination, distraction, or burnout, but we just call it decreased productivity. If you’re spending your day looking and feeling busy but with nothing to show at the end, here are some simple tweaks that may help boost your productivity:
1. Get Enough Rest
Sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? And top of our list too? A programmer’s life entails sitting at your desk for long hours, logical thinking, and a tremendous amount of concentration. Some developers put in 12 plus hours of work regularly, leaving them exhausted and ultimately burned out. In fact, losing just two hours of sleep is similar to becoming intoxicated. How are you supposed to produce high-quality code under such circumstances?
If you find your productivity and enthusiasm for the job reducing by the day, it may be time to unplug and get a goodnight’s sleep. Proper rest helps boost mental health, and a sharp brain will remember tasks (written or otherwise) and work more efficiently.
2. Minimize Distractions
Did you know it takes 10-15 minutes for a soft developer to regain focus every time they are interrupted? If you get disrupted every hour or so, guess how much time you’re losing? Close to two hours for a typical workday.
Schedule specific times to check and respond to your email, turn off notifications on your computer and mobile devices, and minimize the number of open tabs in your browser. It will help limit the temptation to take a sneak peek at your social media pages.
You may have difficulties staying uninterrupted in an office setting, and you certainly shouldn’t be rude to your colleagues. There are polite ways of letting others know you don’t want distractions like:
- Setting the “don’t disturb” status on the company chat
- Wearing headphones
- Letting your colleague know in advance that you need to concentrate on a task.
3. Identify Your Most Productive Hours
And guard them jealously. Plan your work so that you tackle the most intensive tasks when you’re most productive. You can then distribute the easier or smaller tasks for the rest of the day. This is especially important for freelance developers or anyone working from home and have their loved ones around.
Of course, this may prove challenging if your work requires you to match other employees’ working hours or have a 9 to 5 job, sorry night people. But try to optimize your productivity within the contract-approved hours.
There are several different ways to find your most productive hours, such as by following your ultradian rhythm.
4. Master Your Tools
Developers use different tools depending on their area of focus. Take the time to find out what’s available within these tools to help you work more efficiently and reduce manual tasks. Command-line is a fine example that many beginners avoid getting deeper into, possibly because of its wordy documentation or obscure syntax. In doing so, they miss out on a host of useful tools that could make their everyday tasks easier.
While we’re on the subject, take time to read books and tech stories as these offer a deeper understanding of programming language, the industry practices, and can help improve the quality of your code.
5. Automate Stuff
Handling menial tasks in development can frustrate and slow down productivity but you change things by automating repetitive, boring, and time-costly tasks. It will free up time for more important tasks.
Writing automation scripts may feel daunting at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll come up with fine solutions that will be worth your while and time. You can also automate tasks for your colleagues to help make their work easier and less dependent on you.
6. Learn a New Skill
It’s easy to get into the monotony of work. You use the same technologies every day and and handle similar tasks. It’s easy to become complacent and lose your edge, which might affect your career in the future.
Find a side project that you can work on. Even if it means carving out some time in the evenings, early mornings, or on weekends. A new project will re-energize you and flame your passion for coding, and there’s no telling what new opportunities it can open up.
7. Write it Down
Our brains are pretty smart, but we can’t always rely on them to remember everything, especially when it comes to coding. Transferring ideas from your mind to sticky notes to notepads, Google sheets, or whiteboards can be useful for current or future projects.
Make a habit of jotting down (in an organized way) possible solutions for projects as they come to mind. You can develop these possibilities directly as codes in your notes and transfer them to the project code the minute you’re sure that they are plausible.
While you’re at it, write down the dates and times for important meetings and deadlines to help keep things in perspective.
A Quick Recap to Become a Productive Programmer
Most of the tips we’ve shared here are easy to do and can be implemented immediately. You may not reap the benefits immediately, but you will see improved productivity over time. These seven simple tweaks can help you become a more productive programmer:
- Getting enough rest
- Minimizing distractions
- Identifying your most productive hours
- Mastering your tools
- Automating tasks
- Learning a new skill
- Write it down
Stay productive, not complacent!
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