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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 September 25, 2018

The Careful Art of Delegation

The Careful Art of Delegation

Do you find yourself constantly feeling busy? Or, maybe you feel like you have too much on your plate? Perhaps you have a to-do list with no end in sight, or many responsibilities to juggle on a daily basis at work. When you get home, you have household responsibilities to take care of, too, and it just seems like you never have much time for a breather.

Being busy is good, it’s better than not having anything to do and letting time slip away. But, what many people don’t realize is, being busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. The more time you take to complete something does not equal to more success. Many people end up falling into this trap as they pack their day with tasks and errands that may sometimes produce little outcome or output for the effort that they’ve put in.

For example, let’s say that your washing machine at home broke down and you need to fix it. Instead of calling the handyman to come, your husband decides he’s going to fix the machine. He ends up spending half a day figuring out the machine, and does eventually fix it. He did however have to make a trip to the tool shop to buy some extra tools and parts for the machine. Now, if you had called the handy man, it would probably have taken the handyman much less time, and he would have all the necessary tools and parts already, because that is his job. So in this instance, was your husband’s time and effort worth it? Oh, and because he took half the day fixing the machine, you now had to take over his duties of dropping the kids off at soccer and swim practice.

We Need Not Be That Busy

I hope you would agree, that it would have been ideal to delegate this task to the handyman. That would have saved you time and effort, so that you and your husband could focus on doing other things that were more important to you, like being there for your kids or spending time with each other. This is just one example of how we often impose busyness on ourselves without us even realizing it.

But, I’m going to show you just how you can gain quality time from external sources. Whatever big goals or ambitions that you may have, it’s normal for them to involve a lot more of your time than you first expect. I’m talking about things like starting a new business, changing careers, perhaps even moving to a new city. New challenges often involve things that are outside of our experience and expertise, so covering all the bases ourselves is sometimes not feasible as it takes too much time to learn and do everything.

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You Are Just One Person

At the end of the day, you are just one person, and you have a limited amount of time. So, you have to do things that are meaningful to you. While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones needed to get there may be meaningful. Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, not every task will be enjoyable or all fun & games. Some simply require pure willpower and discipline to grind through. And that is where delegation comes in.

What is Delegation?

You may hear this term a lot in the business or corporate world; it’s an effective way for managers to distribute (or sometimes avoid!) work. But, that’s not what I’m referring to. Instead, delegation means leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time. By outside source, we simply mean that it’s not your own time that you’re spending.

What Should You Delegate?

To delegate effectively, it has to be done with deliberate intention. So the aim of delegation is to create more quality time for yourself. There are 3 types of tasks that you should generally delegate, called the Delegation Triangle.

The first are tasks you don’t enjoy doing. These are things that you know how to do, but don’t enjoy. Second, are tasks you shouldn’t do. These are things you know how to do and may even enjoy, but may not be the best use of your time. Third, are tasks you can’t do. These are things that need doing, but you don’t have the skills or expertise to follow through with them at this moment.

Have a look through your daily tasks and responsibilities, and see if you can fit them under these 3 categories.

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Pitfalls of Delegation

Using the Delegation Triangle, you can decide which tasks are worth delegating. In theory, it might look easy to sort actions at first glance; but often, it’s actually harder than you think! 

One such example, is diverting time on tasks you shouldn’t do. Let’s go back to the washing machine example. Your husband decides to fix it on his own instead of simply getting an expert to fix it. Why? Because it’s probably a challenge he enjoys, and it’s an accomplishment that would bring him satisfaction. However, if the value of the task is too low, you really ought to delegate it to others.

Sometimes, when you have a larger goal in mind, you might have to sacrifice some actions in return for making progress. Always think about the bigger picture! One thing that can help you avoid this pitfall is to keep your deadlines in mind whenever you set milestones for a project or task.

Deadlines are a commitment to yourself, and every bit of time is precious. So if an activity you’re focusing on is taking time away from progress towards your goal, it may be time to let go of it for now. You can always decide to pick it up again later.

Then there’s the other extreme of delegation. And that’s when you start delegating everything you dislike doing to external sources.Sometimes it’s tempting to abuse delegation and get carried away outsourcing everything on your “don’t like doing” list.

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Some people are too picky on what they’re going to do. But sometimes, if you don’t like doing so but you’re the only one who can do it, you still need to finish the job. At the end of the day, it does take your own hard work and effort to achieve the success you want.

So if you find that you’re constantly running into this problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation, or reason for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Ask yourself, “Is this task contributing towards a meaningful objective that I want to achieve?” and “what kind of progress do I make each time I carry out the task myself?” If the task is both meaningful and creates progress, then the next step is to ask yourself questions that can help you create actions.

What obstacles are causing you to avoid this task? Is it because of low confidence in your ability? Do you think someone else can do a better job? Is it your level of focus? Or is there an alternative action you can take that can produce the same results?

Take Action Now

Take a look at your current tasks or to-do’s that you have planned this week. Which tasks are possible candidates that fall under the Delegation Triangle? Are there any that fall under the pitfalls mentioned above? Which tasks can you immediately identify that should be delegated out right now?

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I hope this exercise helps declutter your tasks and responsibilities a little and allows you to see how much more time you can be saving for more important things. But, this is not the end of delegation. After you’ve sorted out the tasks that can be delegated, the next step is to determine who it should be delegated to. Besides people like your co workers, or spouse/family members, did you know that there is a whole delegating industry out there?

If you’re keen to learn more about this delegating industry, and find out how you can decide who’s the best fit to do your delegated tasks, subscribe to our newsletter today. We will help you discover many more skills that will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds!

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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