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How to Maximize Your Productivity As a Software Developer

Today’s article is all about how to maximize your productivity as a software developer. How you can maximize your study time and learning time if you are learning to become a software developer.

Before I dive into what those productivity hacks are, make sure to subscribe to my blog as I release helpful tips for people trying to get in this field.

Now let’s talk about productivity.

How can you be as productive as you possibly can when you’re knee deep in software development. Or even when you’re learning by yourself, doing the self study route or the classically educated route.

Before I get to my first piece of advice, let me talk about how I started as a software developer and how I learnt this mistake firsthand. So, when I first became a software developer and got my first job. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that situation to learn as much as I could in a short period of time.

Not only did I want to stay hired but I was also on a three months contract where they could let me go down in the contract for any reason. I was in kind of a test run to make sure I was as decent as a developer.

Anyhow, there was a lot of pressure on me. In those early days I just showed up for work for my eight hours. Stayed late if I needed to and I also worked on my side projects on the weekends.

I just put a lot of time. I knew the one true thing about success in general is that if you spend the time doing something, you will get better at it.

So, my one paradigm was that if I just sit on my chair and stared at the code that things would get better.

I put my trust in that process and it worked to a large degree because when you face a problem and you don’t know your way around, one of the best things you can do is just work endlessly until you figure out the problem.

That was the most intuitive thing that made sense.

The problem in those days was that, I didn’t take breaks. I was obsessed with hustling. I felt like any time that I spent away from the computer it was me being lazy or me being not a hard worker.

That was my mentality. I lived it and it worked to a large degree. I was living that life and I improved my skills to a certain degree but it was 100% unsustainable. At some point you start to burn out.

You start to realize you can’t be working this hard for long unless you really enjoy coding to the point where you’re doing it 18 hours a day. Which is a ridiculous thing to do!

I started to realize that I wasn’t that efficient with my time. At the end of my work day I was really tired and exhausted. My mind was spent. I would come home and be like a vegged out because when you’re working on all these problems, challenging your skills, it can be tiring for your mind.

Especially when you’re not taking breaks, there’s no recharge time. Here are some productivity hacks I practice to avoid burn out.

Pomodoro Technique

I don’t know exactly at what point I came across this technique but my life has never been the same since. Essentially, it’s a time blocking technique which means before you get started on any piece of work you have finite amount of time on which you’re going to finish it.

You set a timer for 20 minutes, you take a five minutes break and you work in those blocks. If you just keep doing 20 minutes on 5 minutes off, you will go anywhere from 20 minutes to about 50 minutes.

That’s my range depending on where my mind is at that moment. I will work a time block let’s say 20 minutes and then take a five-minute break.

If it’s 50 minutes you can take a 10-minute break but essentially I rarely sit down without a finite time block to my work because a lot of bad stuff happens when I don’t set that time limit.

The best way to describe why time limit is so great for yourself and why just working until you’re burnt out or mentally frazzled is a bad thing is because you have two brains when you’re coding.

The first brain is like a hard hat brain. Like you put on the hard hat, you plug away, take the jam jackhammer or whatever. And you just hammer away.

I would compare that to like when you’re working on something, just going away and plugging away. You keep going. The other brain is the more contemplative brain.

It takes a step back and looks at everything you need to do and is able to prioritize your work. It’s able to look at the big picture and basically make everything fit together. And those things are diametrically opposed.

So, I think when you set the timer when doing the Pomodoro technique and you know what you’re going to work on before you start working in the time block, kind of gives you those finite period of time where you can just wear the hard hat and keep plugging away.

You can jump all over the place doing different stuff guilt free but when the timer is up, that’s when you stop, pull back, go get a break and that’s when you’re more contemplative brain gets into the gear.

From there you’ll be able to put all pieces together and solutions to some of the problems you were having during the working phase.

You need breaks to actively let your brain process things. If you think of your brain as a computer, it needs time to recharge and get that processing power back.

I highly recommend time blocking Pomodoro technique. That has been my experience with it and it’s absolutely worth trying out.

Plan Your Day

Another huge productivity tip I cannot recommend enough is planning out your day. Again, going back to the beginning, the way I operated for a very long time when I was getting started as a software developer, I just showed up to work.

Opened my computer, open a bunch of applications and I didn’t have a great approach on how to start my day. I rarely sat down to contemplate what I needed to do for that day. It was more of what’s in front of me that I need to do.

Certainly you can just open up your computer every day, just to see what needs to be done and go that way but if you really want to maximize your time and effort, you want to be efficient with your time.

You want to be an effective software developer.

It’s best to spend 10 to 15 minutes every single morning figuring out your bigger priorities, smaller priorities and what work items need to be done.

Also, think about what you should be working on for yourself and personal career development. Think of what technologies you need to work on today. Maybe it’s a JavaScript framework or whatever your long and short term goals are.

You need to factor that into your daily work. Not only that, you also want to be a good worker by being organized about how you work.

Spending time planning at the beginning of your day is going to make you more effective in accomplishing your goals.

Be Focused

The last mistake that I made a lot in the beginning and still make to this day, it’s temptation that I think all of us understand.

The idea of distractions.

There are so many distractions on a computer. It’s amazing that we actually get any work done.

For example, on my computer. In front of me I have got my cell phone yelling mean text messages, email updates and I also have slack open because I use it for work.

I have two emails, personal and work email up. I also like watching youtube videos when taking breaks. Youtube is amazing but it can also suck you down the rabbit hole.

Just too many distractions!

Those are just to name a few and the challenge is that if you want to do work efficiently and effectively you need to narrow down your focus to one thing. You need tunnel vision to really be most effective.

You need tunnel vision of what you’re doing. Block out everything else and get engaged in what you’re doing. The more you can block out distractions the faster you will be able to accomplish what you are doing.

Don’t shatter that moment just because of a notification when you’re really deep in the code thinking about a problem.

I hope you utilize these productivity tips to become a more productive software developer.

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