By August 23, 2019

6 Productivity Tips for Busy Developers

In the dynamic atmosphere of change that is the software development industry, it is important to find ways to stay on top of deadlines and to be productive on a daily basis. Considering the hundreds of tactics people apply to stay productive, it is important to find the ones that work for you as a programmer to make your work process easier and more efficient.

Working for an Angular development company has taught me that finding the right method to stay productive makes all the difference, both in a professional sense (keeping up with deadlines) and with my personal well-being, mentally and physically. 

Being mindful of the way I choose to approach my daily routine has made a drastic change in my productivity levels. I have picked out some of the best methods that have helped me create a consistently high quality of work on a daily basis to share with you. 

After implementing each of those, I observed that I was able to submit high quality work consistently simply because I no longer have as many spikes and lows in my daily productivity. And this is all due to optimizing my work process! 

Below you fill find each method in a refined form, perfect for any busy developer to apply and reap the results as well!

1. Write It All Down

Google Sheets, to-do lists, a notepad on your desk, sticky notes on your monitor, a white board; it does not matter what you choose. Find a method that works for you, and write down anything potentially important as it pops into your mind. There are many ways to use notes in order to help remember details and stay organized, but none of them work unless you take the time to write them down so you can review them later. 

As developers, we all know that when your workday requires handling multiple small tasks, it is easy for one to slip your mind. Now that we know why it is important to keep notes: 

What Should You Write Down?

  • Notes in categories – While keeping notes is helpful, having a mess of a notebook is definitely not. Create task categories such as project notes, personal, tasks, meetings, urgent, etc.—personalized depending on your work. Digital note-keeping comes in handy here, as you can have different files or pages for each, and you can jump between them easily. This helps both when you are writing things down and also when you need to find something quickly. 
  • Notes that contain code – This is a great option in the case where you are working on a module of a project and a possible solution pops into your mind. You can develop it directly as a code in your note keeper and then transfer it to your project code once you are sure it is a plausible solution, compatible with the overall product.
  • Ideas for your current project – Ideas come and go, so writing them down for later minimizes the chance of your completely forgetting something that could have helped your work. Write down anything that could help you resolve what you are working on regardless of how small it seems. Don’t be afraid of being repetitive in your notes: Write it down as many times as you need. 
  • Any commitments – Meetings and deadlines, dates and times. You can definitely benefit from an organizational app such as GoogleTasks, in conjunction with Google Calendar, which sends you notifications in advance so you never miss an important meeting.

Writing things down even gives you the added bonus of your brain creating a connection between a thought and an image from when you were writing it down (referred to as photographic memory). The way this type of memory is used is by association. 

This means you can create a memory that is linked to a certain topic. Whenever you think of something related to that topic, the connection between the concept and the image is evoked.

But even if you can’t remember what it is, you know you have it written it down and can look it up! What do you have to lose?

2. Know Your Most Productive Hours

As our habits develop differently depending on how we were raised and what we needed to do to keep up with our duties in the past, the most optimal working hours tend to be different for many. 

Personally, I have observed that more repetitive and easy tasks (such as responding to emails and attending planning meetings) are better done in the morning. While the more difficult or demanding assignments that require more focus and dedicated effort are something I handle much better and quicker in the afternoon.

Be Mindful of Your Most Productive Hours During the Day

Arrange your work so that you can tackle the most demanding assignments during this time. Then, distribute the smaller or easier tasks throughout the rest of the workday. Naturally, you will need to try out different combinations to see what method works for you. 

Unfortunately, your job’s schedule may not always allow for extreme customization. Especially if you have a 9-5 standard job or need to match the working hours of other employees. Often, you cannot work in the evening even if you want to. But you should definitely optimize your productivity as much as you can within contract-approved working hours.

Schedule Your Tasks

Speaking of tasks and calendars, staying productive is all about organizing your upcoming work. When creating your to-do list, try to do the following:

  • Break down your assignments into a series of smaller bitesize tasks.
  • Put each task on your list in order of priority and assign a date. 
  • You can enter a time frame within the day to get it done as well (for example, 1 pm to 4 pm on Monday, Aug.11). 

By scheduling your tasks in your calendar, you remind yourself to dedicate enough time for each so none end up underestimated or forgotten. Remember to include some wiggle room in the time frame—you can always pull up the next task if you finish early!

3. Make the Most of Your Nutrition

As we have all been told throughout the entirety of our lives, the fuel you put in your body matters. If you are aware that certain foods and drinks have a negative impact on you—make you sleepy, lethargic, nervous, jittery, or even upset to your stomach—try to avoid consuming them within your workday so that your workflow isn’t interrupted or distraction-filled.

For example, having a high-carb meal causes your insulin levels to spike quickly in order to deliver the nutrition to the cells. But this also causes blood sugar levels to drop and the body to become less energetic in addition to making you feel tired and causing your brain to work slower than usual. This can cause you to fall behind on the work you needed to get done through the day simply because your head is not in it. If you have noticed any of these symptoms in your day-to-day, throw in some protein and veggies with the rice you had for lunch for a more balanced effect. 

Naturally, everyone reacts differently to food, and you should be aware of the reactions you have when you eat certain things. Being mindful to observe how your body responds can help you keep consistent energy levels that directly link to great productivity. However, you should be patient, as this type of knowledge is something that is built over time.

We all know programmers who chug down multiple mugfulls of coffee within the workday. While it does have undeniable benefits, it is important to be mindful not to overdo it with our caffeine intake. Overconsumption can be the cause of unpleasant side effects, some of which are anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, high blood pressure, and more. Once again, as it is with food, you should be mindful of what you drink, and keep an eye out for how it affects you.

4. Get a Headstart

When you begin a new project, start taking off nibbles of work right away. The longer you procrastinate to start working on the assignment, the harder it will be for you to get into the mindset of working on it. 

Start by:

  • Breaking the assignment into small pieces – Once you receive a new project, it can be overwhelming, as, often, you need to develop a solution for a big problem and then implement it in the form of code while making sure it is also compatible with other modules of the project. By breaking down the assignment into smaller tasks, you can focus on them one at a time until they no longer seem as intimidating to tackle.
  • Starting with a small task right away – Often, the most difficult task is to actually start working on an assignment. After you have broken down your assignments into bite-sized tasks, take one and start working on it right away. 
  • Preparing research and equipping yourself with reliable resources Now that you know exactly what task you need to tackle, it’s time to find the needed information so you can create an implementable solution. Starting with all the information beforehand will ensure you won’t have to go back later and rewrite parts of the code due to it not being compatible.
  • Planning meetings with colleagues – Working with other employees is an inevitability, so discussing the distribution of the work and the process right away will make for a better organized solution in the end.

Handling an intimidating project is about getting in the groove of working on the project. It’s just like riding a bike! Kick it off hard and your work will be easier as you go along.

5. Check Your Email Regularly

Emails have a way of piling up, so you absolutely need to stay updated on your inbox, as new developments are definitely something to keep track of. Here’s how to do it:

  • Check your email at the beginning and the end of each day – Just by dedicating a few minutes of your workday, you avoid having to sort through dozens of emails trying to see whether something is important or just the usual chit-chat. Doing this will significantly reduce the chances of your missing any important information.
  • Sort your emails into folders based on content or sender This will make finding any specific email so much easier in the future. Every busy professional runs the risk of ending up with the clutter of hundreds of emails, turning trying to find the one email containing the details you need into a nightmare—especially if you do not remember who the sender of the email is or what the subject was.

6. Handling Distractions

When working with people on a daily basis, it is practically impossible to go through a day without getting interrupted by a colleague who needs help or is simply asking you to take a break with them.

While you should definitely not isolate yourself completely or be rude to your colleagues, you definitely should have a way of dealing with distractions.

Start by asking “How long will it take?” and “Is it urgent?”

If it is something quick and you do not think it will derail your work, great! Give your buddy a hand, especially if it is urgent

If it is time consuming and can wait, try to arrange for a better time that works for both of you. Setting up a meeting later in the day to discuss a solution to your colleague’s issue is definitely a good way to go about it. 

Here are some other clever ways people have casually let their colleagues know they are busy and would like to not be disturbed:

  • Keeping headphones on – the universal sign for “I am focused and do not want to be distracted.” 
  • Setting the status on your company chat to “Do not disturb.”
  • Simply communicating with your colleagues that you have something important to get done or letting them know nicely that you are busy after they reached out to you.
  • Propping up a “Do not disturb” sign on the desk has been done, usually in a joking manner, and it is definitely a creative decision. A company called “Kuando” even took this to the next level developing “Busylight system,” which uses colored light signals to let your colleagues know if you are available.

While those are some great ways to handle distractions, try to not overuse these techniques as teamwork is still a huge part of the work process, and you need to learn to handle your own tasks even when interrupted.

Optimizing Productivity Over Time

Being productive involves a long process of getting to know yourself in a professional setting and learning the conditions you need in order to maximize your productivity. 

In the IT Industry, that depends greatly on the employee’s proactiveness—the way you handle your assignments makes all the difference. By setting up a solid organizational system, you can stand out as someone who is reliable and can become the person others think of when they are asked for an example of a good employee—or even the person considered when there is a higher position open!

This is a long process, so you should approach it with a “this is a marathon, not a sprint” type of attitude. The important thing to remember is to be mindful of how you do things on a daily basis. The focused, consistent effort over time will make your work much easier and less stressful to the point where you apply these principles subconsciously. 

About the author

Danila Petrova

Danila Petrova is a Marketing Assistant Manager at Dreamix, a custom software development company, focusing on strategy building and audience engagement. With a background in mathematics, informatics, she has extensive knowledge in web design, business communication and a deep understanding of the IT industry. She is involved in numerous graphic design projects and is passionate about the advancement of software development.