It’s not easy to sustain productivity as developers. It’s a mentally demanding job that can quickly drain your mind and requires a lot of focus. Understanding how to focus on your work, take shortcuts using automation, and manage distractions can greatly help you make the most of your working hours. In this collection, you’ll find the best productivity tips for developers, from finding the best development tools to taking regular breaks and eliminating distractions during work.
1. Find the Best Code Editor
Developer productivity starts with a good code editor. Although there are many excellent options on the market, it’s hard to say which one is the best—it depends on your goals and needs. It’s worth trying different text editors to see which fits your workflow best. Here are some key considerations:
- What programming language(s) are you using? You need a code editor that provides syntax highlighting for the languages you need (at least through plugins). Some code editors also come with syntax highlighters for popular technologies like React, not just programming languages.
- If the chosen code editor has a suitable theme and a plugin ecosystem that provides the features you need (e.g., a high-contrast theme if you have vision issues).
- If you entrust your work to a code-sharing platform like GitHub or Bitbucket, you might find the integrated Git feature useful. For example, Visual Studio Code allows you to commit your work directly to GitHub without leaving the editor.
- If you want to use your code snippets and/or keyboard shortcuts, it’s also a good idea to choose a code editor that allows you to add or import them.
2. Start Each Day with the Hardest Task
It’s easy to get lost in daily tasks, and procrastination is a common habit among developers, especially if you work as a freelancer and have to manage your deadlines. Therefore, it often happens that you work all day and at the end of the day realize you’ve barely accomplished anything. You can avoid this by creating a hierarchy of daily tasks and starting each day with the most difficult task.
While multitasking has been seen as positive for many years, it has been found that it is not suitable for most people. Research has shown that only 2% of the population is good at multitasking, while the rest can experience a productivity loss of up to 40%. So, if you’re in the 2%, go ahead with multitasking; otherwise, prioritize your tasks and focus on one thing at a time.
3. Take Regular Breaks
Humans cannot focus on the same thing for an unlimited time, and this is especially true for the mental work of programming. There are various studies on the time limit during which people can focus on an activity without their minds drifting elsewhere. For example, this study states that sustained attention is possible for about 45 minutes, while another study mentions 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break.
Then we have the famous Pomodoro Technique, which uses a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato to measure time. It works with 25-minute time intervals with short 5-minute breaks and long 10-minute breaks. The Pomodoro technique has become so popular among the developer community that there are even Pomodoro apps you can use while working.
All in all, there’s no golden rule here, and everyone has a different time limit, so you’ll need to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you. Also, it’s not worth sticking to a very rigid rule: if you’re already in the flow, don’t interrupt your work just because it’s break time.
However, there’s one important thing to remember. The break must be a real break when you get up from your desk. Checking emails, Slack notifications, social media, blogs, or just staring at any kind of screen does not count as a break for your brain; every single research on the subject states it as a fact.
4. Plan Your Activities in Advance
Planning activities in advance can also significantly increase productivity. You can create task lists and track completed tasks using To-Do apps like Wunderlist and Todoist or set up workflows with an app like Trello. Nowadays, there are also many great options that allow you to integrate different productivity tools, such as Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That).
With activity planning, you’ll also need to conduct some experiments and think about the type of tools you’ll really need. You can certainly use more than one app to manage tasks; however, using too many tools simultaneously can be distracting. In some cases, excessive complexity can even lead to a loss of productivity.
5. Track Your Working Hours
While not everyone likes to track their working hours, using a time tracking app can be very helpful in case of time management issues. Time tracking can increase your productivity mainly because you can see how you spent your hours throughout the day so you can eliminate possible distractions. Timers can also be a lifesaver if you’re a freelancer since they help you bill your clients on an hourly basis.
6. Automate Repetitive Tasks
Automating repetitive tasks is a must these days as a developer. It’s no coincidence that DevOps (the intersection of development and operations) has been all the rage recently. You won’t need much automation in the development phase; however, making your development code production-ready involves many repetitive tasks.
For example, as a frontend developer, you can use a task runner to automatically perform routine tasks on your code, such as minification, image optimization, and more. We have a recent article on the best build tools for frontend developers, but there are also many excellent options for backend programming that are worth checking out.
7. Use the Command Line
In addition to automating tasks, it’s also a good idea to get into the habit of using the command line in your daily workflow. First of all, you can significantly speed up your workflow if you use a CLI (Command Line Interface) instead of a GUI (Graphical User Interface). For example, here’s a tutorial on setting up the WordPress CLI to speed up WordPress development and maintenance. Secondly, the secure use of CLI commands is an important programming skill that you can use in many other areas of your work.
8. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are the biggest enemy of productivity, so you need to find a way to eliminate them as much as possible. Unfortunately, they have a sneaky nature, so capturing them is not easy at all. This is mainly because many times they don’t seem like distractions before they are.
For example, checking email every hour, watching a new tutorial video on YouTube, or chatting with colleagues on Slack can be seen as work-related activities, but if you spend too much time on them, you may find that you haven’t accomplished much by the end of the day.
So, you need to be very careful with distractions and take precautions wherever you can. For example, you can decide to check your emails only twice a day, turn off Slack notifications
while working, or block frequently distracting websites during work.
If you follow these productivity tips or at least some of them, you can use your working hours more efficiently while improving your workflow and development. Although adopting a new habit may be difficult at first, it quickly becomes second nature.
Remember that experimentation is the key element of productivity. If you try a technique or tool that doesn’t work for you, abandon it and move on to the next one until you find what fits your workflow and personality best.
And, if you need more unique tips for developers and programmers, don’t miss our article on how to choose which programming language to learn.