I gave a talk about this topic a couple of months ago at forloop Summit Lagos, Nigeria. I decided to write a blog post out of it so here it goes.
As developers, we are constantly trying to churn out work and we often find ourselves distracted from doing the actual work. In this article, I'll be sharing tips on how you can stay productive as a developer and also share tools to help automate this process.
What is Productivity?
Productivity is an act of getting quality work done without the need for adding extra effort.
This is my definition of productivity and I am sure a lot of developers are already familiar with the term productivity. Daily in our lives, we all try to churn out meaningful work, tick that task off our to-do list and the cycle continues. One hard truth I'll like us to think about is how many developers around the world actually struggle with being unproductive daily due to different circumstances.
Here's a fun fact. I think this is the case for most developers we don't work actively for straight 8 hours mind you if you do this then it's totally fine, this is just my point of view because I know in order to work efficiently you need breaks so please don't come for me :).
Causes Of Low Productivity
I'll be brief and butcher these points on why I think these are some causes of low productivity for developers.
- Distractions: Our phone notifications, unread emails, and meetings are some of the biggest distractions that can cause us to be less productive during our working hours. I personally turned off notifications from all my devices when working yet there's still an urge to pick up my phone while working.
- Low Work-Life Balance: Burnout is real, when you spend your time working past your usual hours or when you are supposed to spend time away from work this will eventually lead to low productivity because all you eventually concerned about is work and the other part which is You is lacking.
- Unhealthy Company Culture: An unhealthy company culture can also trigger low productivity in several ways. Working in a toxic environment significantly affect developers. People have to deal with some unpleasant scenario at the workplace and this tends to affect the quality of work they produce.
- Stress: Learning when to take a break is also key, A lot of developers are guilty of this act. If you overwork yourself you become stressed and that eventually leads to low work output and lack of productivity.
- Lack of Growth Opportunities: Working at an organization that doesn't align with your goals or you are in a position where you keep doing the same task over and over without learning anything new or you don't see your self getting that promotion anytime soon then that can cause low productivity towards your work output.
Recommended Tips To Supercharge Your Productivity
- Minimize Distractions: The best way to get rid of distractions is by restricting it entirely. What this means is you'll have to figure out ways to reduce the notifications and email you get. You can either mute notifications on your mobile devices or make sure you don't have it close to you when working. Use whatever works for you but the goal is to reduce distractions. Some tools that can help you are Stay Focused, Self Control for Mac, gofuckingwork.
- Automate Your Process: As developers, this is one of the things I think we should be interested in because repeating a task can become daunting when we can automate it then why not. If you figure out you spend more than 2 minutes doing the same thing every day then you should find a way to automate that task. Tools for automating your process. .dotfiles, ohmyzsh, cheatsheet.
- Time Management: Managing your time is another important tip you can leverage to stay productive. when you plan ahead efficiently it'll help boost your productivity. Some tools to leverage Tomato Timer.
- Work With Right Tools: It's important to work with the right tools, this way we don't spend a lot of time figuring out why the task we are trying to complete is not working as expected when we are using the wrong tool.
- Take Breaks and Rest: This is as necessary as every other tip I've shared. Take breaks when you need to and rest. If there's anything I've learned then it is I and my life comes first before any work because at the end if you're not healthy you won't be able to the work eventually.
- Prioritize Your Work: This works for a couple of people, in fact, I've tried it and I saw the need to use this technique. Making sure to prioritize our work is one way to improve your productivity. You can either choose to do the hard and time-consuming task first and then do the easy ones last or vice versa whichever works for you but make sure you prioritize.
- Plan Ahead With Note Taking: I love note taking it's a habit for me and I've found that it's one way the works for me I take notes of what I want to accomplish for the day and at the end of the day I can visualize the amount of work I've been able to achieve. I must confess on some days this gives me chills and goosebumps other days I'm disappointed but still, I don't give up. Tools I use Notion, Numi, Taskade.
- Break Tasks Into Chunks: I can't emphasize this enough make sure you break up your tasks into smaller chunks that way you're able to visualize them in bits size and it doesn't become overwhelming for you to achieve.
- Schedule Your Time: Lastly, use your calendar. Schedule activities for the week so that you don't skip or forget things you're supposed to do. Personally, I use Google Calendar
How Do You Define Success?
After going through these steps and applying these tips, how do you know when you've succeeded.
- Improved Time Mangement: You know you've succeeded when you can now effectively manage your time and stick to it and there's a noticeable improvement in the work you churn out.
- Gain Focus And Stability: You are now very focused and stable because you have dedicated time to rest and take breaks so you feel refreshed when working.
- Career Advancement: The amount of valuable work you achieve now leads to possible promotion including better opportunities.
- Work-Life Balance: You now have proper work-life balance, no signs of burnout and you can take time outside work to go on a vacation or spend time with family.
I hope you found these few tips helpful and you can start using them in your daily workflow to improve your productivity as a developer.
You can find the talk slides here