“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell
- Workflow Optimization
- #1 – Don’t go straight into your emails.
- #2 – Skip the meetings.
- #3 – Get rid of any distractions.
- #4 – Write out your tasks ahead of time.
- #5 – Start with highest priority.
- #6 – Apply the concept of batching to all tasks.
- #7 – Go full-bore with automation.
- #8 – Go back-and-forth between work and breaks.
- #9 – Take notes.
- #10 – Stay in the zone.
- #11 – Use faster hosting.
Productivity is essential in any role, but it’s particularly important for software developers since more than three in five (62%) experience crunch time on a periodic basis, according to the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA’s) Developer Satisfaction Survey released in September.
Here are a few ways that you can improve your productivity so you can complete projects ahead of schedule and avoid those 70-hour work weeks:
#1 – Don’t go straight into your emails.
There is often a tendency to warm up for the actual work of development by getting caught up on email as you drink your coffee in the morning. That can often be detrimental to the creativity that’s required for strong development.
It’s also a good idea to only check email during preestablished time blocks. For instance, you could check your email at noon and then again in the late afternoon. Don’t allow your inbox to distract you: very few messages really require an immediate response.
#2 – Skip the meetings.
Meetings are typically a huge time-waster. It doesn’t just use up your time but the time of everyone who is in the meeting. Is it really necessary that you attend?
If you must do a meeting, here are good parameters:
- Schedule it for late in the afternoon.
- Create a strict outline for discussion.
- Set an end time, and stick to it.
- Gather takeaways before departing.
#3 – Get rid of any distractions.
Avoid creating distractions and giving into those generated by others. Typical ways that we distract ourselves include getting unnecessary digital notifications, jumping back and forth between projects, or sticking our heads into Reddit and similar communities.
The key is to eliminate all distractions when you are focused on a particular task. You don’t want to be notified about anything that isn’t critical. You may even want to put your phone into airplane mode. Log out of distracting sites, such as Facebook and Hacker News.
Removing your own distractions is easier than removing those created by others, since the latter can require social finesse, notes software engineer Ilias Tsagklis in Java Code Geeks. “Some ideas would be using headphones …, allowing the incoming calls to go to voice mail and checking them later,” and “hanging a piece of paper on your PC that says “Do not disturb, coding in progress,” he says.
#4 – Write out your tasks ahead of time.
The night before every workday, right down two or three tasks that would really push your projects forward. It helps for it to be a small number so you can complete the list.
#5 – Start with highest priority.
Look at your list, and do the most important thing first. It’s best if you can get that first item out of the way without too many distractions or breaks. Do the item that is the second-highest priority immediately thereafter.
#6 – Apply the concept of batching to all tasks.
You probably know what query batching is. You basically bunch together a number of similar database queries and submit just one request to optimize performance.
Batching your daily tasks allows you to “minimize the activation costs and various overheads,” says Tsagklis. “Good examples of tasks that batching can be applied to are e-mail checking …, phone calls and any [other] repetitive work.”
#7 – Go full-bore with automation.
Developers are of course no strangers to the power of automation. However, it’s easy to neglect tools and repeatedly perform mindless, menial tasks yourself. Automate whatever you can – such as one-click application builds and single-script deployment.
#8 – Go back-and-forth between work and breaks.
It’s a good idea to set aside stretches of time for work and play. That will make it easier to stay focused on the work and be productive during the designated windows.
A good balance is 45 minutes of continual work followed by 15 minutes of break. It’s best to get away from your computer when you take breaks, both for your eyes and for your back – after all, the lumbar spine experiences 40-90% more disc pressure when sitting.
#9 – Take notes.
Write everything down if only to get it out of your head. You don’t want your brain to be stuck on nonessential tasks or other minutiae. Jot it down and set it aside.
If you think of your brain as a CPU, extra thoughts are like background processes, Tsagklis explains. “It will eventually cause it to hang and not work properly,” he says. “The process of jotting things down will offload your brain and allow it to perform in a more optimal way.”
#10 – Stay in the zone.
The productivity of your day will in large part be determined by the amount of it that you are able to spend in the zone. (That said, remember to take breaks too. Otherwise it’s easy to start to feel distracted.)
#11 – Use faster hosting.
Finally, a faster development environment can make a major impact on your productivity. Does your cloud hosting provider use distributed storage? You might be surprised that many still use centralized storage, a remnant of the mainframe era. Do they use InfinitiBand? Many hosting services use 10 Gigabit Ethernet, even though InfinitiBand offers latency that is dozens of times lower. Finally, do they oversell? Overselling can make performance of cloud hosting incredibly unreliable.
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