Our Top 10 Productivity Tips for Software Developers

You Can Do It

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Run-through

Every day when I get home from work I feel so frustrated. The boss is a jerk And I get my sticks and go out to the shed and I pound on that drum like it was the boss’s head. Because I don’t want to work I want to bang on the drum all day I don’t want to play I just want to bang on the drum all day.

– lyrics from “Bang The Drum All Day” by Todd Lungren

Hey! Hey! Hey! Oh… sorry, got a little carried away… A bit of levity might help when it comes to how to be productive when that’s the last thing you want to do. The mind’s a funny thing, if you let it tell you that you can’t do something – you probably won’t even try. You can always do it later. Tomorrow, maybe? Friday, perhaps? As a software developer or engineering manager, you know you can’t afford that luxury. If you do, it’s going to impact your team, your project, your client, their customers, your profitability and reputation. Relax, breath deep, smile. You got this.

What Can Cause an Unproductive Day?

A whole bunch of things, if you let them – and we’re not just talking about late nights out drinking or binge watching on Netflix. Health issues, problems with relationships, stress with bills, not getting enough sleep, and all kinds of real-life curveballs can be responsible.

You could be working too hard and starting to burnout. You might not be keeping hydrated, eating right, sleeping well. Not taking breaks or thinking you can do the work later (procrastinating) can weigh in. You might be getting lost in the details of your code or taking on more work than you can reasonably handle.

12 Tips to Stay Productive and Get Your Day Back on Track

A lot of things can cause an unproductive day. But there’s also a lot that you can do to prevent unproductive days – and just as much to help get a bad day back on the right track. Here are ten plus 2 of the best ones that can work for your own and your developer team productivity. Two freebies:

  1. Take breaks. Actually, it’s a labor law. It’s good for your physical health to stand up and move. It’s good for your eyes to see something other than a computer screen. And it let’s your mind percolate. Yes… percolate. As you go grab a cup of coffee.
  2. Get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night. That’s Jeff Bezos’s advice (the richest man in the world) and Benjamin Hardy (one of the best organizational psychologists in the world).

Productivity Tip #1. You Can Do It

What’s this about getting things on the right track? Well, everyone has different tastes in music, but sometimes all it takes is a funky beat to help get you motivated. If it’s on YouTube, it’s safe for work right? You can do it. We’ll combine this tip with the need to have a sense of humor. Even if it’s dark humor. We’ll revisit that in Tip #12.

Productivity Tip #2. Watch Benjamin Hardy’s videos.

Okay, yeah, I know – there are a lot of motivation coaches out there. Ben Hardy is an organizational psychologist who focuses on productivity. That’s what we’re talking about, yes? For several years, he was the top author on Medium, he’s been in Forbes, Fortune, NYT, and Harvard Business Review. He has a ton of valuable 10-15 minute YouTube videos. One of his key points is that “willpower is not enough.” If you’re serious about being productive, you need to design your day with that in focus.

Productivity Tip #3. A Prioritized Checklist of Things To Do

Work smart by creating an Eisenhower Matrix. The goal here is to maximize the value of your effort. Not everyone’s in a position to delegate, and some tasks are not urgent or important but still need to be done eventually. Focus on what you need to do today. Tomorrow – do the same thing, make another checklist.

 URGENTNOT URGENT
IMPORTANTDo it nowDecide (schedule it)
NOT IMPORTANTDelegate it if you canDelete it

Productivity Tip #4. One Thing

Going along with your Eisenhower Matrix, tell yourself that you only need to do “one more thing.” The trick is to keep telling yourself that. The longest journey starts with a single step, and as cliche that may be – there’s a trick. The more you’re able to convince yourself to do one more thing, the easier it becomes to do yet another as you’re building momentum. You only need to focus on one thing at a time. That’s all.

Productivity Tip #5. Design First, Code Second

Outline the task before you start coding. Keep a pen and notebook at hand to flesh out a diagram or schematic and outline the logic. Having a hard copy reference can make it easier to focus than switching back and forth between windows. This tip goes along with the next one.

Productivity Tip #6. Divide Large and Complex Tasks into Smaller Tasks

This one is powerful unto itself. Check out how story splitting is also helpful for improving utilization. You might be looking at an 8-story point task and wondering where to even start. Heck, 8 story points make it sound like you need to write a book. Books are divided into chapters, paragraphs, sentences, and words.

You can apply the same analogy to code. It should start and end a certain way. Then you just need to work out the logic that goes in-between. But don’t hesitate to ask for help to break up the task into smaller parts.

Productivity Tip #7. Delegate

If you’re overloaded, talk with your manager or Scrum Master to see if portions of that 8-story point task can be delegated to another developer. This requires discretion. Every time you don’t feel like coding, you can’t go asking to have someone else do it for you. Well, you can, but that’s probably not in your best interest. But, senior developers do end up getting overloaded frequently. It qualifies as a tip of its own to learn the art of how to politely say, “No” – as compared to, “*#$! No!”

Productivity Tip #8. Metrics

Are you tracking your productivity? As a manager, are you watching your team’s productivity? The longer your team works together, the more it should approve across all metrics, but is it? Automated software development analytics gives you visibility into all levels of productivity – organization, project, team, and for each developer to see:

  • Is your team’s code complexity increasing dramatically?
  • Are your developers working efficiently?
  • Is their code churn trending as expected?
  • Do your developers effectively collaborate?

These and many other software developer metrics provide the data needed to help identify the root cause of problems with productivity, efficiency, quality, and teamwork.

Productivity Tip #9. Work Processes

In some cases, it may not just be you, but the entire team being ground down into unproductive trends. Your software team may be working hard and yet, it still feels and looks like not much is getting done – or what is getting done needs a lot of rework. This has a tendency to create situations where the harder everyone works, the more work they have to do. Everyone’s in emergency mode putting out all of the fires instead of looking for what’s causing them.

It’s necessary to put the fires out, but engineering managers must spend time to get to the root cause asap. This means doubling down on what is most important and urgent. You may have to take the hit for lesser issues while working with your team to improve work processes tied to the root cause.

Again, automated software development analytics can help you determine whether you’re dealing with bad hair days or a progressive decline in developer productivity.

Productivity Tip #10. Be Thankful

One of Benjamin Hardy’s pieces of advice is to always try to find gratitude, especially at the end of the day. He suggests keeping a journal, and before going to bed – list three things about the day that you are thankful for. It will help you sleep better. He also suggests listing 1-3 things you will do tomorrow.

And that partly ties into my own tip. Things can always get worse. Always. There’s working outside performing physical labor in extreme heat or cold, and other inhospitable conditions. A lot of jobs require you to get down into the dirt, or filth daily. Many places are simply very dangerous to live. Use your imagination, it can always get worse. Be thankful they aren’t.

When life really sucks, when you don’t feel like coding, debugging, refactoring, or even reviewing code – ponder how life might be if you weren’t a software developer. Take a look at some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Imagine being a land mine clearing specialist. And then imagine being a distracted land mine clearing specialist. Under the hot sun. Under fire. And you haven’t had breakfast. And gotta go #2. But you’re in MOPP Gear. It gets worse from there.

You’re making good money, perhaps working from home or in a nice office, likely to have air conditioning, fresh water, and can probably afford your next meal. These are things to be very thankful for, even with life’s curve balls. Barring a health condition that physically prevents you, whatever it is, you can do it. Otherwise, it’s your mind telling you that you can’t or making excuses. Deep down, you probably know it.

So, take a look at what others have no choice but to endure – especially in third world countries. This can offer a powerful argument to that part of your mind that’s holding you back. Somehow, they manage to get through it. You can, too.

About Gitential

Our team at Gitential constantly watches trends across the software development industry. We also get down into the code with you to find ways to make it easier for you to make your team more efficient. Please take a moment to arrange a free demo – or sign up for a free trial, no credit card is needed.

 

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