If you’re reading this, you’re likely a programmer like myself. Whether you work freelance or on contract, time is one of your most valuable commodities.
Still, developers often find themselves sucked into projects without paying attention to how well they manage their time — if at all.
This post gives actionable tips to increase your productivity, and how to keep track of the time you waste while coding. I have five questions for you and we can roll from there.
1. Do You Prioritize Your Tasks?
Just like any person who has control of their own schedule, developers often find themselves starting off their day with the simple tasks.
They definitely make it easier to start off your day, but they also push those looming, daunting tasks off towards the end of the day.
This can create undue stress, and make it so you don’t actually get the most important things done.
That’s why developers should take the time to prioritize their daily tasks, and begin with the most pressing things on the list to maximize your time spent. You can do this with a simple pen and paper, or check out some task management tools like Trello or Producteev.
Prioritizing your tasks doesn’t mean you have to get hung up for 30 minutes without progress — if you’re stuck, just move on to the next task and circle back to the first one later.
2. Do You Manage Your Distractions?
Most people don’t realize how much time small distractions take out of their day. If programmers don’t make a concerted effort to eliminate them, it can seriously affect their productivity.
If you work from home, make sure you have a designated work space away from the rest of the house. Office clutter can also reduce your productivity, so be sure to have a clean desk. Minimize your use of online applications that aren’t completely essential for work, such as email, chat, social media, YouTube, etc.
If you’re a compulsive Facebook checker (like many of us), there are tools you can use to kick the habit. GetColdTurkey.com for Windows and SelfControl.com for Mac will help you block out pre-set web distractions, so you don’t have to turn off the WIFI completely.
3. Do You Take Breaks?
Many developers work too long hours at a go on projects and that kills their productivity. I recently had to remove a ransomware from a project and found myself working for 8 hours at a go without a break. I was dog-tired, frustrated and still did not achieve my goal. I was able to fix it within 30 minutes after I took a break and cleared my mind.
Taking a break sounds like the opposite of productivity, but that’s actually not the case. Several research studies have shown that an hourly break can actually increase productivity and serve as creative fuel.
The most productive developers take their breaks seriously — that means getting away from their computer and doing something completely different. Surfing the web for 10 minutes isn’t a break (though it does waste your time).
4. Do You Set Time Limits?
Deadlines can often seem like a looming stressor that doesn’t actually do much to get you moving. But short, tangible time limits are a different story.
Instead of motivating yourself by saying, “This project is due next week,” try to think of more specific and actionable deadlines throughout your day. If a task takes about 2 hours to do, then make a time limit. “I will have this done by 2:30.”
The close sense of urgency works as a great motivator, especially if you plan a small reward for your success (such as a 15 minute break).
5. Do You Focus On Your Goals?
Developers have a lot to handle for any given job they’re working on. Focusing on all the small things you need to do to accomplish the task can be overwhelming, to the point where you stall.
Thinking about the small things is valuable when you’re putting together your daily to-do list, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your day. To avoid undue stress and resultant procrastination, it’s much healthier to focus on your larger goals, the end-products, which are tangible projects you can tackle step by step.
How to Know for Sure...
There are a lot of tips and tricks developers can follow to make sure they’re not wasting time while coding. But the best way to really tackle poor productivity is by knowing how much it really impacts your daily work.
With the help of time tracking tools like TimeDoctor, this task is fairly simple. TimeDoctor helps you keep track of how much time you spend working on different projects, so you don’t have to.
It will also show you exactly how much time you waste on social media, checking emails, or surfing the web. Checking Facebook a few minutes every hour can add up to a lot more than you realize.
Knowing where exactly your time goes is the first step in finding ways to get it back, using the tips outlined above.