Five Ways to Improve Your Personal Productivity as a Developer
Written by Aleksandrina Vasileva   
Friday, 19 February 2021

Working remotely due to the global pandemic has disrupted our established working patterns. Here are five tips for techniques and tools to help maintain, and even improve, your programming productivity.

Even if you love your job as a software developer (and I am sure you do), there might be times when you experience productivity setbacks. After all, the very nature of this occupation involves high degrees of dynamics, context switching and workflow interruptions such as emergency meetings or code bugs. These work-related tasks are inevitable but they don’t need to affect your productivity per se.

From my experience working in a bespoke software development company I learned that working in small teams of mutually supportive and enthusiastic software developers noticeably raises productivity levels. Last year though, unprecedented work environment shifts took place and the vast majority of the companies implemented the remote working method as a precautionary measure against Covid19. 

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To find yourself less productive than usual is perfectly normal from time to time. In case you observe drastic changes in this area that do not go away for several weeks and you struggle to go back on the productive track some external support may come in handy. Without further ado, here are five ways to improve your personal productivity.

1. Take Initiatives

As I was planning to write this, I organised several interviews with my software developing colleagues to find insights of how they manage to stay productive. What stood out as a pattern was that almost every one of my coworkers pointed out that taking more responsibility actually contributed to being more productive at work.

This may have something to do with personal characteristics and intrinsic motivation, but many of those choosing a career as a software developer are high-achievers and want a sense of accomplishment. Consider what technologies you want to master and take a daily course on JS frameworks, for example. Given that, it is logical that you too will want to take more initiative because you will be interested in what you do and this will give your productivity a boost.

Firstly, when you choose to be proactive and, for example, take over a project or propose to work on a bug fix for a client independently, you take more responsibility and when you finish the task you feel great satisfaction which additionally makes you want to be more productive. Secondly, if you are a Junior Developer, by being more accountable you can build up strong programming skills faster. Last but not least, by taking more initiative at work not only do you increase your personal productivity but you also pave your way for climbing the career ladder.

2. Automate Repetitive Tasks

As a developer you know that menial work slows your work and decreases productivity because it distracts you from essential tasks. Chances are you find some of the monotonous tasks drain your energy. In fact, a McKinsey research found out that IT professionals spend up to 40% of their time on repetitive tasks and 70% of them declare that those are a waste of time.

Luckily, you can make use of your coding skills to automate day-to-day tasks and ultimately optimize tasks like command lines, log mining, refactoring, building, deploying or integrating. Apart for maximizing your own personal productivity by giving you more time for deep work, automation benefits your entire company.

Among the many advantages of automation are overall in organization because of the seamless information flow, reduced redundancies such as wasted hours that could have been spent on new product developments. Furthermore, automation calls for better use of personal skills, helping to unleash the full potential of employees.

3. Master Time Management

The life of a developer may seem repetitive, but it is still worth planning your day and sticking to a routine as this will help your mind get accustomed to different tasks and switch faster between them when time comes. A typical work day of a programmer who works as part of an agile team involves morning sprints devoted to analysing achieved results and assigning new tasks.

Then, you and your colleagues may organise a standup meeting to discuss some of the important issues that need to be taken care of urgently. After you’ve exchanged knowledge and pieces of advice, you start coding and fixing unresolved problems. When you reach a point where you need external support, you reach out to your dev team and ask for help.

This may seem like a structured routine but the time you spend on your day needs to be well organised as well to achieve satisfying results. It all boils down to personal productivity and time management. If you haven’t already, you can try the famous Pomodoro technique for time blocking, set a timer for 25 or more minutes and devote your full attention and focus on the current task. After that, take a 3- or 5-minute break and after four pomodoros indulge in a longer break. It is said to be one of the most effective time management techniques, so try it out and see if it will work for you too.

4. Try Some Productivity Tools
If you do a quick research online you’ll immediately stumble upon numerous productivity-boosting tips and tricks, some of them distinguished and proven and others not so much. You are probably familiar with the famous concept of flow. Coined by motivational psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 90s, flow refers to the mental state, in which people find themselves completely absorbed in a current task, forgetting external surroundings, not perceiving external distractions and increasing their productivity up to 500%.

Reaching such a deep focus seems super exciting but let’s not forget that it can take up to 30 minutes to immerse in the flow. Not to mention that it can be mentally exhausting to constantly re-establish this mental state. If you are a developer, you know that for every problem out there, there is a practical solution that can be implemented. In this case, to spend more time in a quality flow state of mind during work, you can try these recommended productivity tools.

For example, an alpha version of a software called Dewo will help you focus on deep work, understanding when exactly you’ve reached flow state and then automatically blocking notifications so you can stay there. Another useful tool is Tuple - a new pairing app (alternative to Zoom and Slack) that is designed collaboratively working in pairs. It stands out with its remarkably low CPU usage, claiming to use less than when Chrome sits idle. For those of you tired of switching between environments, CoderNotes lets you take advantage of a code editor and note-taking, while providing you with access to a global community-based learning platform.

5. Take Regular Breaks and Sleep Well
Recently many young individuals, full of dreams choose to adopt a mentality of working many hours a day (aka hustling) and constantly skipping breaks in order to increase productivity and to learn more faster. This may work for a short period of time, but in the long run most of us cannot endure it physically and psychologically because if you are obsessing and feel guilty every time you’re not in front of a screen, your mind can’t take a proper break.

Put simply, this working lifestyle is unsustainable. If you do follow it, your mind is continuously trying to solve complex problems in the background and drains your natural problem solving capacities as a result. Back in 2014 a Stanford productivity study found out that productivity per hour shows a steep decline when people work more than 50 hours weekly and after 55 hours additional work hours could be practically considered pointless.

Working that many hours might also affect your sleep habits and change your biological rhythms. Most recent sleep deprivation research from Harvard Medical School revealed that it is not our brain that is most affected when we are not well rested. Rather, the organ affected is the gut. In experiments on fruit flies and mice, the intestines were revealed to be where molecular damage occurred, establishing a link between lack of sleep and failure to process oxidative stress, causing premature death. The key takeaway is that just like an actual computer system, our biological systems need to recharge to function well, if you want to stay productive, be sure you are well rested.

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  • Aleksandrina Vasileva is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen innovative technological solutions with a positive impact on our world. Her teaching background mixed with interests in psychology drives her to share knowledge.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 June 2021 )