Maintaining a high level of productivity as a developer, especially as a remote developer working from home, can be exceedingly difficult. Not every line of code you write will come easy and you will likely find yourself scratching your head as you search for a solution to an issue. Distractions can be particularly problematic during these times.
Developers are many things. They’re problem solvers, creative’s, inventors, and many times artists. From the beginning of a new project to the moment the final line of code has been written, maintaining focus and productivity levels is essential. If you are working as part of a team, having your bits and pieces in place when they are needed becomes especially important.
So, how do you maintain productivity? The office is where we go to get interrupted, but what do you do when you have no choice?
Try these productivity tips to help keep your work on track.
Make sure you have the right tools
Find a text editor that works for you. If your software is getting in the way of your work, it may need to be replaced.
Sublime Text has been an excellent solution for us. It is packed with features designed with developers in mind, and an active community of extension developers is always coming up with new ways to expand functionality and make the software even better.
If your email app is constantly shooting notifications across your screen, you are probably going to have a difficult time ignoring it, especially when fatigue sets in.
Even reducing the presence of toolbars in your text editor can help. Whatever you can do to bring your focus back to what you need to focus on can help.
Make managing distractions a to-do item
Email, chat, Facebook, YouTube, TV, and even a cluttered desk can distract even the most dedicated developer. Take some time each day to manage distractions. Set aside scheduled breaks, close unnecessary applications, and keep your environment clean. A clean desk can actually boost productivity.
Set time limits
If you know how long a particular project should take you, try setting a time limit around that. A sense of urgency, even from an artificial time limit, can improve focus and efficiency. Ideally, these limits should be set well within the actual deadline you have to work with. That way, you can set aside another period of time to go back and make improvements on what you have already created.
A sense of urgency, even from an artificial time limit, can improve focus and efficiency.
If you get something done early, reward yourself with a break during the extra time. This can be a great incentive for stepping up to the plate and cranking something out a little earlier. It’s a mind hack, but it really works.
Take proper breaks
If you skip breakfast you’re more likely to overeat throughout the day. The same principle applies to taking breaks. If you push yourself to work through the majority of the day, it can be easy to burn yourself out, making it difficult to get back to work later.
If you have a list of tasks to complete throughout the day, consider scheduling breaks between tasks, and schedule out your day accordingly. Get up, walk around, and go outside for some fresh air. Apart from the fact that sitting all day can kill you, there’s nothing like creating a little mental and physical space to help re-focus or get your motivation back.
Even if you don’t have time for a 10-15 minute break away from the computer, spend a minute looking out the window, or stretch your arms. Anything you can do to give your mind and eyes a pause can make it easier to renew focus as you head into the next task.
Automate the simple stuff
Repetitive jobs that can be automated should be some of the first things a developer eliminates from their daily task list. If you can spend an hour setting up an automated program to get something done for you that takes you 10 minutes per day, you’ll have gained that time back in a week.
Focus on the outcome
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed when you focus on the problem. If you concentrate on the goal, and build towards that, you may find that the time and effort it takes to reach that point becomes less relevant.
When we start building a new template, the design of the demo is drawn up in an image. The template is then built to match that initial design concept. Some changes happen along the way, but having something visual to build towards makes it easier. Conceptualize, and then develop.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you focus on the problem.
Prioritise the work you can do immediately
It happens to every developer. You tackle a seemingly simple problem only to discover that the solution takes a lot more effort than you originally anticipated. Meanwhile, the most important task is pushed back as you continue to hack away at the problem.
Tackle the highest priority first. This gives the important job the attention it needs, and the advantage of being worked by you when your mind is at its freshest.
If you are tackling a problem and unable to make any progress on it after 15 minutes, move on to the next thing and loop back around. The brain is a mysterious thing, and you will likely find the solution a lot easier to uncover after you have spent some time away.
This does not mean you should procrastinate, but rather spend your productive time making progress on something rather than staring at the same brick wall in hopes a solution will present itself.
The truth is, most of us know this stuff instinctively. We just don’t apply it to our daily lives. The Programmer Productivity Paradox suggests less than five per cent of a developer’s time hunched over a couple of screens is productive.