Whether you develop internal software at your full-time job or have contract projects with several different clients, you probably know that in today’s fast-paced business world, everyone wants things done yesterday. Because of that, it might seem like you’re always under the gun to get the next project completed, and you may be feeling pressed for time. While you can’t do much about work volume, what you can do is make your days more productive so you can complete all projects on time — maybe even early — and advance your career as a result.
Of course, you can look at inspirational stories from your fields and use millions of apps. But they can only get you so far. If you’re constantly wishing for more hours in the day, take a look at these seven productivity tips for software developers.
7 KEYS TO TRANSFORM YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
1. Use a Daily To-Do List – If you expect to get more done during the workday, it’s essential to know exactly what’s expected of you. At the beginning of each workday, take a moment to write out a to-do list. The list should be kept in front of you on your desk, allowing you to refer to it and monitor your progress throughout the day.
If it helps you prioritize, divide your list into categories. One category could include items that must be completed within the eight-hour workday, another category could be for projects due by the end of the week, and the last category could be for less important tasks with no hard deadline. The goal is to get to everything, but if you can’t, any unfinished business can be moved to the following day’s list.
2. Eliminate Interruptions and Distractions – Turn off smartphone notifications for email and social media updates, and consider using software to block your access to websites that might be sapping your time and attention — Freedom and Focus are both excellent options. When you receive non-urgent phone calls, let them go to voicemail and address them after work. In today’s digitally dominated world there are potential interruptions and distractions around every corner — ward them off to stay more focused.
3. Prioritize Your Work – If you’re typically at your best first thing in the morning, schedule your toughest projects for the early hours. If you don’t really get an energy boost until after lunch, do your heavy lifting during that time of day. Matching up your toughest assignments with times you’re mentally at your strongest can improve productivity dramatically. You can also use apps to prioritize your work.
4. Set Time Limits – Does checking email normally take 30 minutes each morning? How about an hour? The important thing is that you set a time limit and stick to it. If double-checking your code on a particular project normally takes an hour, set a mental time limit for yourself when performing that job. If you need something more tangible, set an alarm. It’s these self-implemented deadlines that can remind you when work must be completed.
5. Manage Your Inbox – If you’re like me, a cluttered email inbox causes nothing but stress and agitation. Solve that problem by clearing it out every day. Create sub-folders so you can transfer messages that aren’t immediately important, shoot irrelevant messages to the spam folder, and only leave items in your inbox that require attention right away. When responding to these emails, know that if you can speak your response faster than you can type it, a phone call follow-up may be a better idea.
6. Take More Breaks – Taking more breaks might seem like it runs counter to improving productivity, but that’s not true. An extra five minutes at the water cooler or a short break to visit a coworker down the hall might be just what you need to clear your head and get back in the game. Just make sure your supervisor is okay with your stepping away so no eyebrows are raised.
7. Improve Work-Life Balance – Once you walk out of your office building every evening, try to clear all work-related thoughts from your mind. Bringing work home with you does you no good unless you’re actually working on a project after hours. When you’re not at the office, don’t even think about work. Instead, try to enjoy your time with family and friends. Once you clock back in, you’re more likely to be refreshed and ready for a productive day.
Once you increase your productivity, take a few moments at the end of each workday or work-week to review your performance. Where did you excel? Where did you get bogged down? If you notice a pattern of sluggishness, don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers for assistance. They’ve probably struggled with productivity just as much as you and they may have tips for improvement. Remember, you can always be more productive — just keep moving forward by refining your time-management skills until your workdays are flowing along like a well-oiled machine.
Do you know of any other productivity tips for software developers?
Bradley Smith is a software developer with a decade of experience in the industry. He also contributes to digital platforms on topics related to technology and management. He is based in New York.