6 productivity tips every developer should know

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If you are a programmer, the chances are, you have an inability to mind just your job. You’d want to work on your passion project in your free time. You’d want to contribute to open-source projects that you love. Becoming a programmer is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.

Even if it were just the job, with the increasing demand at your workplace, you’d struggle to juggle your workload and personal life when you only have 24 hours on the clock. When the projects outside of work also come into this picture, what wouldn’t you do for a magical boost in your productivity, allowing you to do more work in less time?

As it turns out, increasing your productivity as a programmer is an achievable goal. Surprisingly, the transformation doesn’t require drastic changes to your daily routine. It’s the little things in your work routine that matter when you are concerned about increasing productivity.

Before you follow any productivity-increasing tactics, however, you have to understand that productivity doesn’t amount to the number of hours you spent in front of a computer. Sometimes we make ourselves busy without doing anything actually productive. Identifying such cases would help you increase your productivity—do more in less time—without eating away the hours of the day.

In this post, we are going to look at 7 tips that would help you increase your productivity as a programmer and complete your tasks faster to save more time for other important things in your life. Not all of them will benefit each one of you the same, but they can always be tailored to your needs and habits to deliver the maximum results in the long run.


Don’t shy away from breaks

What if I say breaks help you stay productive when you are working? It may seem counterintuitive at first glance. But it’s a truth that’s supported by years of research and data .

When you try to stay focused on a task for a long time, it can wear out our minds and make our decision-making process less effective. You’ll find yourself being easily distracted by the surroundings or taking longer to figure out the obvious solutions. This mental fatigue leads to an inevitable drop in productivity that ultimately results in you clocking up hours spent in front of the computer without getting much work done.

Spending four hours straight working without breaks is not something to be proud of as these findings suggest. Instead, taking pre-planned breaks from your work at least every hour or so could help you retain the focus on your work for better productivity.

Pomodoro technique is an excellent method many people use to allow your mind the time to reset after an intense work session. If you are not keen on adapting to the exact Pomodoro technique, experiment and figure out what is the work-to-break ratio that maximizes your productivity.

Your breaks can be as simple as doing a few stretches, taking a short walk, talking to one of your colleagues, or making a cup of coffee. Just focus on taking your mind away from the working mindset for a short time.


Breaks help us be more creative

Not only do breaks replenish our minds, but they help us stay on top of our creativity game.

Research has found out that a group of people who took breaks while working generated more ideas than a group that didn’t take breaks. When we work on a single problem for a long time, our minds find it harder to step back and look at different angles to solve the problem other than the one we are currently considering. Breaks help us detach from that thought process to give us the chance to look at the problem with a fresh perspective when we go back to work.

Breaks help us be more creative and become better problem solvers just by giving us space to see the bigger picture clearly. As a daily requirement of the life of a programmer, becoming a better problem solver could increase our productivity drastically.

If you thought of breaks as a hindrance to your productivity before, the actual data suggests that you should instead embrace breaks as a way to boost your productivity. So always remember to take that routine break to give your mind some breathing space before going back to work.


Customize your IDE for faster development

Regardless of your choice of IDE for coding, customizing it to maximize coding speed and accuracy is an action you have to take for an increased productivity.

Without a doubt, the IDE has to be the tool you spend most of your working hours with as a developer. And modern-day IDEs come with a lot of configuration options to tailor them to each developer’s needs. Starting with simple things like syntax highlighting, you can configure it to help you with mundane and repetitive tasks that add up to take a chunk from your working hours.

For example, you can set up the IDE to provide code completion, code suggestion, auto-formatting and refactoring, code analysis, and report generation. If your IDE doesn’t have built-in configuration options to set up these tasks, install plugins to handle them.

The takeaway here is to stop treating your IDE as a tool a little better than a text editor. Take advantage of how much the IDEs have advanced over the years and the set of functions they now provide to automate the tasks we had to manually take care of before. Customizing your IDE properly even results in writing cleaner, reusable code without having to spend too much of your precious time on manual refactoring.

So, go on and find a bit more about your IDE’s configuration options and available plugins and set it up properly for an instant boost in your productivity.


Master the command line

GUIs are cool. But they are also a major reason for losing seconds that add up to hours when we are working. Every click on a GUI is followed by a wait time the system takes to render the new interface. You may think that time is negligible, but when they add up, use of GUIs slows you down by a significant margin.

But if you master the command-line, you can complete tasks from creating and editing files to handling big data without even taking your hands off the keyboard. True, when you are new to the command line, mastering it may look like a daunting task. And it does have a somewhat steep learning curve at the beginning. But once you have passed that phase, knowing how to work on the command-line is a reward that could increase your productivity considerably.

Some time ago we wrote an introduction to the command line that is the perfect starting point for beginners.


Automate the repetitive stuff

This is a practice that can help you save a precious few hours every week if you learn to do it right. As a developer and as a simple computer user, we do a number of repetitive things daily that can be easily automated with at most several hours of coding.

Running local project building and testing workflows, filling forms, taking notes, and sending generic emails are some of the instances where automation can give you the opportunity to do something rather productive. Even automating a simple task like moving the files you download to the correct folder free up a large portion of your time in the long run.

You can use a scripting language like Python, Javascript, or Ruby to handle automation. While some of the automation tasks take only a few minutes to complete, others may take longer—hours or even days. But those longer automation jobs could eventually pay off if the task you are automating is tedious and time-consuming.

However, not every task that can be automated is not worth automating. Only you can be the judge of whether the task you are trying to automate is worth it. Do a comparison between the resources manual and automated executions of the task take, and decide if automating has clear benefits.


Keep yourself updated on new tools and technology

As developers, our job is to build software that makes our lives easier. So, every new tool and technology introduced to the programming market comes with that purpose in mind. Keeping up to date on these new tools to find the ones that could make your programming life easier is a must for a developer to stay productive in this field.

Always keep an eye on the latest programming news and buzz words in the developer community to identify the tools that would allow you to do more things in less time. After initial research to make sure it has the right set of features you are looking for, you can test the tool yourself to discover if it has the potential to improve your productivity.

Programmers have increased their productivity today compared to ten years ago with the introduction of techniques like CI/CD and Agile development. And when we look back at current times after ten more years, the change will feel as drastic as it does today. You have to adapt to these fast-changing technologies to maintain the level of productivity expected by the industry.


Prioritize your work

One of the main reasons for our dropped productivity is not working on the right task at the right moment. Think of the times you worked on a task due a month later because you find it interesting while tasks due sooner pile up. What you are doing at that moment is, in fact, a form of procrastinating. And it eventually results in a productivity loss in your work.

To avoid finding yourself in such a situation, always strive to work on the most important and urgent task on your task list instead of going for the one you “feel like doing”. When you get that urgent task off your plate, your list of tasks won’t feel as overwhelming as before.

When you focus on prioritizing tasks based on their urgency, you stop waiting for the right moment to come to start doing something. You start to look at your task list objectively instead of relying on your feelings. And you begin to complete your work at the right time with 100% commitment to your work.


Summary

In this post, we went through 6 tips and tricks you could follow to increase your productivity as a programmer. Increased productivity will not only make your job much easier, it will save you valuable time to spend with your family members, engage in your hobbies, and work on your passion projects.

If applying all these changes to your lifestyle at once sounds intimidating, why not pick one tip and start your transformation from there? Despite how you plan to use these tips in your day-to-day life, we hope they will somehow boost your productivity for the better.

If you have suggestions on tips developers could use to increase our productivity, don’t hesitate to share them in our comment section.