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7 Developer Lessons That Help to Improve Productivity

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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