10 things every software developer should know to stay productive
Software development is a complex and dynamic field. There are an infinite number of things to know, and new advancements in technology happen every day. As a result, it's incredibly easy to get lost or overwhelmed with all the new information that comes at you on a daily basis. In order to stay competitive as a software developer, it's important to be productive - but what does that really mean? This article will explore how being more productive can have a huge impact on your career as a software developer!
As a developer, you must be productive in order to stay competitive. A good way to think about productivity is by considering the impact of your work on someone else - whether it's another employee, manager, or client. When you finish something at work (a program, documentation, test plan), does it make someone else's life easier? By always thinking of this person and how the outcome of your work impacts them, you can determine where to spend your time and energy when working on a task.
What does it mean to be productive as a software developer?
Being productive means that a software developer is completing tasks in a fast and efficient manner, while still maintaining a good quality of work (and not having any errors/defects in your work). Quality is always more important than speed - no one wants to work with a developer that does sloppy, inaccurate job after job. A developer who is productive will get things done quickly without sacrificing quality or accuracy.
Ways to stay more productive in the workplacePhoto by Marc Mueller on Pexels.com
There are many ways you can stay focused and increase productivity at work today! Here are some of my favorite tips:
- List out tasks for each day ahead of time so you aren't spending too much time planning. If there aren't any deadlines, write down what your project goals are for next week so your brain isn't thinking about them all day long when they need to be completed.
- Structure your days by identifying which parts of the day require more focus, and which ones you can give a bit less attention to without sacrificing quality. For example, I keep a daily journal when working on a project in my free time to brainstorm ideas for the week. When it's time to sit down and work on that project, I know that this is when 100% of my focus is required.
- Identify your bad habits at work and find ways to eliminate them! This might be different depending on who you are as a person - maybe you eat junk food in the middle of the day or chat with coworkers too often in Slack. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for productivity, but everyone has things they could do better - make sure you're doing what works for you!
- If you find you aren't getting much done when taking breaks, limit them to 10 minutes every hour. This is long enough to give your brain a break but not too long that it's harder to refocus on what you were working on prior.
Why being more thoughtful and careful with your code matters for its longevity
There are many reasons why it's important as a software developer to write reliable and high-quality code (including the fact that this ensures less time will need to be spent troubleshooting), but one of the top reasons is because your product/application will last longer if it has great quality and tests in place! When there are no defects or errors in an application, there isn't anything that needs to be fixed or re-done. If you are confident that your application cannot fail, then you can be sure it will last for many more years without having to make changes to the codebase.
Based on my personal experience, below are some tips to improve your productivity.
1 . Write more, delete less!
As a developer, one of the main things you focus on is writing code - and there's nothing wrong with this! However, sometimes we get caught up in writing and forget to remove our old code when it's no longer needed. This kind of unnecessary bloat makes finding things later on much harder because now there is code everywhere and none of it is clearly documented. Delete what isn't necessary so future developers (or yourself!) won't have such a hard time navigating the project. Also, consider writing pseudo-code before you actually write any code. This reduces the chances of errors and unnecessary code.
2. Write tests to ensure your code is reliable and repeatable
As a software developer, it's important for you to write tests whenever you make changes to the codebase - this both ensures that new features are working as intended, and also provides documentation about what was added/changed. When automated testing isn't done before any kind of "code review" takes place, there isn't anything preventing another developer from adding in more unnecessary bloat because they weren't aware of what was already present. Software should be written for humans first and then computers second!
3. Test-driven development (TDD) can improve your productivity by allowing you to write cleaner code
Test-driven development become increasingly popular over the last few years, and there is a good reason for this! When you follow the TDD process, you write tests (to run automatically against your code) before writing any actual code. This means that when you are finished writing the test, your application will work exactly how it was intended to by creating all of the expected conditions.
4. Make use of editors/IDEs to increase productivity
Although not every developer has the same preferences when it comes to what kind of text editor or IDE they would like to use with their projects, some tools can make our lives much easier when writing code! Programmers who often switch between different languages may benefit from using an IDE over a plain text editor because IDEs typically have autocomplete features and advanced syntax highlighting.
5. Make use of syntax extensions to increase productivity
Syntax extensions are plugins made for your text editor or IDE that can make writing code much easier! For example, some syntax extensions may support autocomplete features depending on what kind of language you are using (PHPStorm is a popular IDE with many available autocomplete extensions for PHP), while other IDE-specific extensions can automatically generate project files if you don't want to keep track yourself. Lots of software developers find that the more programmable their text editor is, the more productive they'll be!
6. Keep up-to-date knowledge of programming languages and tools by regularly reading articles/blogs/stack overflow posts
As a software developer, it's important for you to keep up-to-date knowledge of the programming languages and tools that you use in order to be more productive in your current and future jobs. If you don't like reading articles on a website, there are also many book titles that can provide useful information - such as "Python: The Right Way" or "Clean Code". Additionally, blogs are full of great content if you are looking for something specific! Stack overflow has revolutionized how people get help with their development problems, so it's good practice for developers to check the site frequently - just remember not to post unfinished code unless absolutely necessary!
7. Know your tools, but don't let them own you
You learn how to work with a new programming language or framework every day, right? You're always stumbling upon something new that could make you more productive. The trick is learning how to work quickly without getting bogged down in the details of what you are doing. If you are using a technology for the first time, this can be hard since it requires you to take extra time setting up your environment and learning the language syntax. That said, if you already know these things about your required tools then it will be much faster next time around!
8. Back-track and keep a note of how long it took you to complete that task
In some cases, it's not your productivity but it is that you under-estimated the time required for a task to be complete. Everybody always thinks they can do tasks faster than they actually can. This may be because we play computer games, visit social media too often, or even just dream about how we would like our software to function. Whatever the reason is, it's important to figure out how long things actually take so that you can budget your time better. There are two ways to do this: either you note down how much time tasks take when you first start them, or - if you know already - backtrack and figure out how long it would have taken. Use timers to keep track of your progress
Sometimes setting up a timer for every project seems like too much work, but there are other times where it really helps push you to get done faster. If you want to challenge yourself using timers, make sure to put something on the line (i.e. money). If nothing else works, then try giving yourself small goals like finishing one section within 5 minutes! Don't be sloppy. You can also use extensions like WakaTime
9. Over-Document and Over-Communicate
When you're in the zone, it can sometimes seem like you don't need to check for typos or mistakes. Some developers might even think that writing good comments is a waste of time and effort. However, making these small improvements can help prevent your colleagues from thinking: "Ugh I wish they would have commented their code better". You wouldn't want to read an article with misspelling or poor grammar, so why write confusing code?
This will help you to prevent having to go back to a previous task/feature just to explain the logic behind how it works
If you have been working on a large feature, give smaller updates to your stakeholders. This will not only keep you motivated but also help you get timely feedback and avoid having to scrap everything and start fresh.
10 .Prioritize Tasks Appropriately
Sometimes programmers forget about everything else happening around them when they are focusing on one specific task/project at hand. This means that they may not realize how much time they spent doing that one thing until it's too late. To avoid this issue, always keep track of what you're working on and prioritize tasks that are required for other developers to complete their tasks, i.e their tasks are dependent on your tasks. By finishing such tasks before, you'll be under lesser pressure and won't be nagged by anyone to get something done.
11. (Bonus) Have a break, Have a KitKatPhoto by Vie Studio on Pexels.com
Maybe don't have KitKats that frequently but take a break every hour or so. It is easy to get caught up and spend hours just heads down coding. But no feature is worth sacrificing your health for. Take occasional breaks, trust me it'll do you good.
I hope you find this article helpful. Share your tips on how you stay productive and things you do to improve your productivity.