10 Tips for Programmers To Work More Efficiently
Programming is more than just writing code on a computer screen. It is a combination of thinking, understanding, typing, learning, and debugging. When it comes to programming, balance is everything.
I have been programming for over six years, and over this period, I have tried different approaches to working efficiently. I have come to realize that it is precisely the nature of programming that sometimes makes it challenging to concentrate: Combining several processes, as I mentioned above, means people are more likely to lose concentration.
In this post, I will draw on my experience to share with you the 10 things programmers can do to work more efficiently. These tips will help you stay focused and increase productivity while also taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally.
The vast majority of the time, programmers debug the code, and believe me, once a programmer is stuck while debugging, time and everything fade into the background and become unimportant. It’s not surprising that brainstorming and problem-solving take energy. It’s important to remember the more time you spend on solving something, the higher the chances of building stress and reducing morale.
According to The Wellbeing Thesis, many studies have proved that taking regular breaks helps reduce stress and improve performance. So if you can’t understand something or feel lost, take a break and come back later. The break does not mean leaving the computer entirely, but doing something to get your mind away from coding, such as playing a video game, watching your favorite TV show, or going for a walk.
The key is balance. Taking a break is fine as long as you know that you are on track. Tracking time is an essential skill not just in programming but in almost every type of work. I use an app called Toggl to track my time. It’s completely free, and you get to create projects and assign different tasks. You also receive an email every week to see the time spent on each task.
Furthermore, the app reminds you every few minutes to track the time if you forget, while if you leave your computer for more than five minutes, it asks whether to store that idle time. The app has been quite helpful for me, and hopefully, it will be for you too.
Another time-saving trick you can do as a programmer is saving snippets. Code snippets can be helpful in similar tasks. You can save statements including loops, if statements, or a whole class to use later in another project.
Cacher is a freemium tool that allows you to save snippets for many languages. You can also share snippets with your colleagues and friends.
In Cacher’s free plan, you can save up to 15 private snippets. The rest of the snippets will be public. You can save unlimited snippets in the premium plan and enjoy additional features, such as an ad-free experience, no limit on file attachments, and plugin integrations.
Planning and Organizing
The next tip for programmers to work more efficiently is to plan and organize. A question from my first interview I still remember is “How do you plan and organize your tasks?” I, thankfully, knew a couple of strategies that showed I knew how to budget my time and energy well.
A great tool to organize tasks is Trello. It's free for individuals and fairly simple to use. You create boards (projects), and within boards, you create cards (i.e., software versions, upcoming features, bugs, etc.). In each card, you can add different types of data such as:
You can also add members of boards to specific cards for collaborative work. Trello has helped me boost my productivity, and I believe it can help you in your projects too.
Let’s look at this from a biological standpoint. According to Stunning Motivation, when you reward yourself, your brain releases dopamine, which is a chemical that makes you happy. So why don’t we turn this thing into a reward and give ourselves a treat when we finish a task?
Those rewards can be anything that brings you joy. For example, I like to watch an episode of my favorite sitcom upon completing specific tasks. Doing this will push you to complete a task to get the reward, and when you do get the reward, your brain releases dopamine to make you happy and want to do more. So in a way, rewarding yourself creates a loop of working enjoyably.
Split Into Steps
According to an article published on the University of Georgia website, splitting tasks into smaller tasks helps you prevent stress and procrastination. Stress is common, but it’s one of the things programmers should try to avoid. So here are a few additional ideas to help you break up tasks:
- Look at the overall project.
- For your best knowledge, understand and write down the major parts. You might need help from other team members if it’s a group project.
- Split the project into those parts.
- Use an organizing tool like Trello to add those tasks and assign them to developers.
For a website project, you can split the tasks into frontend, backend, and graphics (icons and images). A similar approach can be taken for app projects.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though splitting projects helps, you must complete each task such that it links with other tasks easily. In other words, don’t forget the big picture. A common example would be coding the front end of the app to connect to an HTTPS server just to find out that the server (app backend) does not support HTTPS yet.
Pseudocode is one of the many things they teach in early programming classes. Pseudocode is like programming but in plain English. For example, when we do a complex task that requires a lot of mental energy, like a loop containing mathematics, it’s difficult to picture all the code. In those types of situations, pseudocode can help.
I generally take myself away from my computer and use a pen and a pad because it helps me engage with the problem, but you can use a notepad on the computer. Just write down the variables and then start writing the lines. A common example of pseudocode for a for loop would be:
Start for loop
For each count do
Print the value of count
End for loop
Of course, this is an example of a simple for loop. Furthermore, the complexity of language depends on you because, in the end, you are the one reading it. Some pseudocodes look almost like programming, while some developers write in a more simple language.
A common characteristic among programmers is that they forget to test the program. This can lead to issues. It is fairly simple to debug the code with new programming tools, but in complex programs, it can get a little bit confusing.
Testing your work every few minutes can help in finding and resolving issues more quickly. Unfortunately, compilers can run code, but they can’t remind you to test the project frequently.This is a habit we learn as we go. Setting a reminder for yourself is a great way to help build this skill until it comes naturally. .
Are you familiar with the term spaghetti code? It’s a term used to describe messy code. Although ignoring the use of comments may feel like time-saving, in complex projects where most classes are over 200 lines, calling variables and methods from other classes will exhaust you if the code is not commented properly.
The value of commenting is significant, and still, new developers don’t bother to build this skill. No matter what language you write in, you should comment because those comments will someday save you an enormous amount of time and energy.
An additional benefit is that comments help you understand another developer’s code, which is useful if you share your project with someone else in the future.
There is no one way to program. A for loop can most likely be written in a while loop, so trying alternative methods is always good practice to prepare yourself for a stressful situation
For example, a friend of mine used to publish SEO articles on WordPress websites but found it to be a tiring process. So he created a PHP plugin to upload a CSV file in the correct order on the server, and the plugin would do the rest and save a draft. From there, it was just a matter of checking the article and publishing it.
When you have extra time or set aside some time, try experimenting with new ways to program. You will not get a win every time, but you will realize that there are faster ways to execute a program on some rare occasions.
Bonus Tip: Thinking Ahead
The final tip is thinking ahead. Although this tip is for experienced programmers, new programmers can adapt to it sooner if they understand the concept.
If you have a clear image of what the program is going to look like after completion, it will be good to think ahead and code in such a way that you don’t need to come back and edit a piece of code or even a class. The concept sounds strange, but here is an example.
While writing variables, I mostly know whether I will be using this variable in a different class. So I set the protection level (public, protected, private) straight away so that I don’t have to come and change it later. This isn’t applicable only to variables. It can be applied to classes and methods in almost every object-oriented programming language (OOP).
Efficient Working Is Possible
Programming involves several different processes, from thinking and understanding, to actual typing and debugging. It’s no wonder that it’s so easy for people to lose concentration. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Programming efficiently and professionally is possible, but you must master the concept of coding, debugging, brainstorming, and testing, and the mentioned tips above will help you build those skills if you utilize them in a mindful way..
I hope this post has helped you. Please reach out with any thoughts or suggestions you may have in the comments below so that we can discuss more.