Hello fellow nerds, I hope you’re all doing well. I thought I’d share with you my top productivity tips for software developers. With these tips, I can help you boost your productivity so that you can reach your potential as a developer faster! If this is something that interests you, please consider subscribing to my newsletter so you don’t miss future blog posts.
Tip 1: Managing your time using the Pomodoro technique
I’ve been practicing the Pomodoro technique for the past year or so and it definitely made me more productive. The way I’ve been using this technique has been by planning out my personal workloads for a day in Pomodoros. One Pomodoro corresponds to 25 minutes of work followed by 5 minutes of rest, and 15 minutes of rest every 4 consecutive Pomodoros. For example, my schedule for today consists of 2 Pomodoros for working on this blog, 2 Pomodoros for working on a backend for some students, 5 Pomodoros for working on a school project, 2 Pomodoros for studying for an upcoming exam, and 1 Pomodoro for reading. I tend to give myself a little flexibility with this as long as I still do the same number of Pomodoros I planned to do or more. At the time of writing this, I usually go for around 10 (sometimes more) Pomodoros on weekdays and around 5-10 Pomodoros a day on weekends depending on my workload that week. Although it obviously depends on the amount of uncommitted time you have in a given day. Of course, I allow myself to have some rest days now and then since following that schedule every week can get exhausting.
The benefits of this are twofold. With the Pomodoro timer, I’ve felt that it made it easier for me to get to work and not procrastinate. As soon as I press that button, my mind instantly goes into focus mode most of the time. As well, since all my work is timed I can more easily manage my time and understand where it goes each day. A nice tool I use to do this is called kanbanflow which should make it easy to do.
Tip 2: Having some form of accountability
It’s no secret that social pressure makes it easier for you to do things. Having other people see what you are up to and know what your responsibilities/plans are can put pressure on you to follow through. When I’m doing group projects, the fact that other people depend on me gives me some motivation to do the very best I can. When I'm at school, having teachers and peers around pressures me not the slack off.
One way I’ve used this technique is by having study sessions with a friend of mine. This is something I’ve been experimenting with more recently but it has had a good impact on the two of us. I would do some video calls with her where we would do some work for our common classes together. I would say that having someone there watching me added that accountability to work and not slack off. And of course, it’s nice to hang out with your friend for a bit during the Pomodoro breaks and when the session is over. Overall, I found that it helps me not get burned out as fast.
I would say this idea of accountability isn't limited to being external. Having a strong sense of self-accountability is also something I’d recommend. I tend to make certain rules for myself such as how many Pomodoros I need to do on a given day and the intensity of my workout routines. In my mind, these rules feel like a law for myself like I need to get this done or I won’t feel good about it. Of course, these rules need to be realistically achievable to be fair to yourself but still difficult so you move forward and feel accomplished.
Tip 3: Planning out your code ahead of time
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty several times of making this mistake when I code things. My mind is excited to jump into coding without making a detailed plan first. If I could go back I’d tell myself to plan out the architecture of my code more thoroughly before I get started. I’ve experienced many situations where had I made a detailed plan from the start, I would have saved time refactoring my code leading to a net amount of time saved. Your plans don’t have to be perfect and work every time but planning things can make you less vulnerable to coding it one way and then having to change it to work another way.
One cool aspect of this is the fact that in some ways you can multitask and write out code to help you plan out the architecture. This sounds contradictory but let me explain. In case you haven’t heard of this before, there is a practice called test-driven development. In a nutshell, that strategy is centered around writing your unit tests first before actually implementing the code you want to test. With this, you define how different units of your code work as tests to help you plan out the architecture while writing unit tests for later! This is something I haven’t applied in my projects but it is an intriguing strategy I would want to try more.
Aside from test-driven development, I’ve found another great multi-tasking strategy to both write code and plan architecture. Keep in mind however that is more case-specific so feel free to skip this part if it does not apply to you. To explain this, let me draw on my recent experience developing a backend for a blogging web app. For this project, I’ve decided on trying an interesting software development approach I’ve seen from a course by Spring Framework Guru. In this approach what I did was create dummy API endpoints that only give out 501 (unimplemented) responses back. By doing this I’d plan out what the endpoints in my backend would do before even writing the logic for it. In the process, I also added Swagger documentation to write out what each endpoint is for and what the JSON models represent. This way, I both created documentation for the frontend developers to build around, and planned out how my API would function! Alongside this, I also created interfaces to plan out how my service classes would behave before actually implementing them. This has the added benefit of making it easier to follow the SOLID object-oriented design principles, more specifically the dependency inversion and substitution principles. In case you don’t know, those principles are for writing clean and maintainable object-oriented code. If this is something that interests you, you can find the gist of it here.
Tip 4: Fabricating a positive environment
This last tip might be a little different than your typical productivity hack. This isn’t something you can get started with right away for your work; it’s more of something that you develop over time. What I’m about to share isn’t even specific to software development and can be used to be more productive in general! The reason I bring this up then is because doing this has had a large impact by giving me a good mindset to be successful.
To start, I’ve been consuming a lot of content on self-improvement through books and videos and it has had a large impact on my mindset that has given me more willpower to be productive. I try to read these types of books regularly to both develop my mindset and to learn new things. It doesn’t even have to be that much reading every day I tend to do about 25 minutes of reading in one day on days I decide to read. You can even listen to some audiobooks while doing chores or repetitive tasks and get quite a bit out of it. I would recommend stoic philosophy to anyone trying to get a good mindset but I have much more book suggestions you can ask for in the comments below.
I’ve also found that having a strong purpose for yourself further builds this willpower to be productive daily. I’ve developed this by giving myself positive affirmations and finding work I love to do and doing it often. This might be difficult for some of you who might not know exactly where you want to be but even if you vaguely want great things out of yourself it can go a long way. I’m not even quite sure where I want to be as a developer but I want to make great things out of myself and so I work hard to do so.
With all that, you should now have a good idea of the strategies I’ve used to be more productive as both a person and a developer. Feel free to leave your productivity tips and questions in the comments below. Stay tuned for more content like this in the future.
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