While sometimes there’s nothing to do but crack open that energy drink and grind out an all-nighter, coders tend to work smarter, not harder by finding ways to increase their productivity without sacrificing work quality. No matter what specific industry you work in or which programming language you’ve specialized in, finishing projects under deadline is a major component of your job, so finding productivity hacks that yield good results are a necessity; here are five of some of the most useful.
1. Make Hay While the Sun Shines
No one will ever characterize the average coder as a morning person. Late nights spent writing, compiling, and bug-hunting leads to bleary eyes, massive pots of coffee, and a generally disheveled look that translates to coder chic. Also, would it kill you to take a shower?
That being said, “average” coders don’t exactly rise to the top of their field. As painful as it might sound, tackling the day head-on by getting up early maximizes the time you have to spend on projects. It also demonstrates how serious you take your job to clients or employers. Finally, your end product will likely be better; there have, after all, been several studies on the benefits of working early, finding that most people do their best work of the day before noon.
2. Do the Hardest Part of the Project First
Now that you’re up with the dawn, it’s time to adopt a targeted approach to your daily tasks. It’s as much of a productivity trick as it is a psychological hack, and all from a simple and effective strategy. It’s also, unfortunately, probably going to make you groan: tackle the hardest part of your task first.
The reasons for this are varied. One is that you’re at your freshest and most likely to have the best chances of finishing more difficult tasks with better results. Another is that once you do finish that task, it will have been the hardest thing you’ll do today, as the rest of the day’s work will literally be much easier to handle.
3. Use a Productivity Management App
Most coders don’t work on just one project at a time. Just like a circus performer, you may need to keep any number of plates spinning at one time, and this means it’s easy to overlook an important deadline because you were distracted by another project you’re working on. This also means you need a tool to help keep everything straight and on track.
This is where you can harness the power of technology to come to your aid. There are a number of productivity management apps available that will help you keep your schedule straight, track your progress on multiple projects, and ensure you don’t miss a critical deadline.
4. Avoid Workplace Distractions
Nothing drags out product completion more than being distracted constantly. Whether it’s colleagues or supervisors interrupting your workflow, your phone ringing off the hook, the programmer Slack channel blowing up, or just your own self-sabotage by checking Facebook or Instagram, there is any number of opportunities to get distracted at any given time.
Just how much can these distractions impact your work? A British study found that UK workers, in particular, lose around 60 hours a month, as much as 759 hours of work a year, due to any number of office distractions. Imagine if you had an extra 60 hours last month to complete your coding projects — how much extra work could you have completed? Turn off the phone, tell your chatty cubicle mate to keep their mouth shut — you’ve got work to do.
5. Take Regular Sanity Breaks
When you’re working on a tough project, it’s only natural to want to bang out some serious code as efficiently as possible. The lone programmer blasting through hundreds of lines of code in a six-hour stretch might be a heroic image in your own mind, but in many instances, those long, mind-numbing multiple-hour-long coding marathons are doing you more harm than good. The truth is that that level of sustained concentration is likely going to result in an overall dip in the quality of your code.
Statistics show that the most productive employees of any company tend to work their best in short, controlled bursts. Research reveals the top 10% of these workers put in around 50 minutes of work at a time before taking a 10 to 20-minute break. It’s thought that this leads to better efficiency overall, so it’s imperative that you take regular sanity breaks, even if you’re coming up on a looming deadline. Rushing through will only create errors and mistakes that you’ll have to go back and spend time to fix anyway. Take a break and get it right!