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7 Developer Lessons That Help to Improve Productivity

7 Developer Lessons That Help to Improve Productivity

I’m a software developer by profession and I have realized that there are quite a few productivity practices that can be applied to any office setting—be it a shared workspace or a home office—so I decided to write this post and introduce at least some of the practices to you.

Don’t worry: I try to keep things simple so that you can grasp these concepts easily even if you are not a developer yourself. Just go through the post and start implementing these lessons one by one, and eventually you’ll realize that your office productivity has improved and you feel good about yourself, and your progress as well.

1. Get multiple things done at the same time

I know what you are thinking: “You’re talking about multitasking, right?” Nope, I’m not. You see, developers can create code that is asynchronous and that’s a great way to avoid application’s performance bottlenecks. If this asynchronous processing wasn’t possible, the end users would in some cases just have to wait for the application to respond before they could continue with their tasks.

For instance, if you visit a web page, the asynchronous way provides the ability to read the text on the page, while the rest of the elements are loading on the background. On the other hand, if this wasn’t possible, each user would have to wait until all the elements of the page have been loaded first, and that would be very frustrating indeed!

How to apply this in your own office:

Take this same concept into a project that you are working on.

Let’s say you’re building a website for your business. Instead of doing everything by yourself, you would delegate the responsibilities to various professionals, like to a graphic designer, a copywriter or a web developer. This would speed up the process and you would be doing your tasks while other people would be working on theirs.

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Essentially, this is all about outsourcing where every member of the project has their role which ensures that the project gets done faster than if it was done the synchronous way. In other words, the project members can do their part without having to wait for each other before they can start working.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Advanced developers are capable of building solutions which are reusable: each piece of code they develop can be used in future projects, and that improves their productivity. The reusable code also makes maintenance of the application easier. This saves their time and effort—for instance, in the case of defect-fixing.

How to apply this in your own office:

The idea of reusability can be applied in two common situations in your home office:

1. You (or an outsourced designer) could create templates that you use in your presentations or in other company materials. Once the template is created, it can be used as many times as needed in the future, instead of creating it from scratch again and again.

2. You could document your business processes, and that documentation can be used by you or your virtual assistant many times in the future.

Obviously the biggest effort is in the creation of the documents in the first place. However, once the initial work is done, the only thing that’s needed is to keep the documents up to date.

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3. Automate

In order to free themselves from doing recurring work, developers try to find ways to automate those tasks. When the automation is in place, things roll along smoothly and the chance for human error is radically decreased.

How to apply this in your own office:

Try to take advantage of automation in your office wherever it’s possible. For instance, I don’t like paying bills, so I try to automate the process as much as possible. If needed, I can still be part of the routine by approving the bills before they get paid.

Another great example of automation is running backups from your computer: as the process of running the backups manually is error-prone, you should buy a dedicated service for this activity instead. You could also ask if your Internet Service Provider is offering this kind of service for your computer(s).

4. Batch process whatever is possible

Batch processing means doing many tasks at once, which is obviously faster than doing one thing at a time, like when databases do mass-updates on a lot of information at once.

How to apply this in your own office:

One of the natural places to do batch processing in your home office is with your e-mail. Choose daily time windows to process all your mail at once. The number of windows could be 3 times a day, for example, and within those time blocks (15-30 minutes) you process as many of your messages as possible.

Other ways to use batching could be by recording multiple video clips for your web site or approving/paying multiple bills at once.

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5. Workflows

Workflows are integral parts of any developer’s life. For instance, there may be a certain way to handle the bug fixes in an application.

As soon as the defect is found, it’s put to a developer’s task queue with the assigned status. When a developer starts working on the defect, he/she changes the status to in progress. Finally, when the developer has finished fixing the defect, the work labeled with fixed state. After this, the defect goes for testers, who then approve or reject the bug fix and set the status as closed or back to assigned.

Having a defined workflow ensures that things move on as smoothly as possible and that a task gets done according to specified rules and standards.

How to apply this in your own office:

You should find ways to standardize your repetitive work processes so that no time is lost and that the chance for human error is as small as possible.

You can do this by documenting your work processes and clearly defining how a task gets done from start to finish, and which kinds of roles different people have in this process. For instance, I have defined my blogging workflow, and although it has changed a bit since I initially documented it, it’s still valid. Once you have everything written down, it’s also much easier to see the parts which could be automated, outsourced or even removed.

6. Events

Developers write code which reacts to events. For instance, if a user tries to submit a form on a web page, it initiates a validation process, which in turn prompts an error message if required fields are not filled.

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How to apply this in your own office:

Although events are part of natural workflow in an application, you should take a different approach when it come to your own work productivity. Instead of checking your e-mail as soon as new one arrives in your inbox, you could define policies how you react to emails, and even how you react to certain types of emails.

You could also define how you want to handle other distractions when you are working: instead of giving others access to your by phone or by instant messaging, mute the phone while working or turn off the instant messaging client. You could also isolate yourself by changing the location when you work—if you work from home, consider going to a coffee shop, library or any other locale where family members cannot interrupt you.

7. If-then-else

Computer programs are based on logic and “if-then-else” is the most common piece of logic that developers can use. In essence, if a certain condition is met (if), something is done (then). Otherwise (else), something else is done.

How to apply this in your own office:

Use this same logic with your daily task list and create a plan B for your tasks.

Let’s say that you have a task of updating some blog posts to your website, but before you can update the content, it has to be proofread. If the proofreader has returned the material, you can update the content right away—otherwise you have to find something else to do while you are waiting documents back from him/her.

In general, having a plan B is always beneficial since you can keep yourself productive if you are unable to proceed with your main task.

Conclusion

Software developers can teach us a great deal about productivity. Just take these lessons and implement them in your own office environment, and you’ll notice that your productivity will increase. Hopefully this will eventually show on your bottom line as well.

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Published on May 20, 2019

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

Time.

When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

So, how do you start?

Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

Assess Your Current Time Spent

Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

Tricks to Tackle Distractions

Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

2. Beware of Emails

Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

3. Let Technology Help

As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

Time is in Your Hands

At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

So what are you waiting for? 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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