How to be productive

By 27th May 2014Creative

As a developer, I have a variety of work that I deal with. Some is intense problem solving, and some is repetitive and time consuming work. Below is a round up of approaches I have learnt that help me be more productive in my day to day job.

The idea of improving productivity is not to work less or more, but to produce more work at a higher standard. As a result, you should feel happier with your job, and more relaxed in your free time.

Time boxing

Time boxing is a technique I use on a daily basis. It helps me focus on an individual task, and keep track of how that task is going. For example, at the start of each day I take each task that requires my attention and roughly estimate the amount of time it should take to complete. Some task won’t get done in one day, that’s fine, just break it down into manageable chunks.

Learn when you work best

Once I have time boxed my tasks I need to know which order to do them in. Rather than start with the easy quick ones first (this is how I used to work), I start with the biggest, and most challenging task first. I know that later in the day I can tick off the easy jobs.

This may be different for you but I have found that I do my best work early in the morning, from about 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. When I leave my tougher tasks to later in the day, it is more likely I will have less focus and energy and as a result put them off for another day.

Don’t get caught in a spiral

So, I have time boxed my toughest task for the day, I have planned to tackle it between 8:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m. I have a few other time consuming jobs, but they are not mentally taxing. I leave these for the afternoon.

At 12 a.m. I realise I am over my time boxed period and I only have 20% of the tough job done. I have come up against some difficult issues that could not have been foreseen.

This is when knowing when to quit comes into play. Many times before I have continued working on the problem until the end of the day. More often than not I still would not reach the desired goal by the end of the day.

Put it on ice

At this stage, I find it far more productive to move onto my other less taxing tasks and come back to this issue the next day. That way I will leave the office feeling positive that I have ticked off some jobs.

After a good night’s sleep, I can return to the issue, often with a fresh approach. The most important thing is, I have not got caught in a spiral where I loose motivation and become negative about the task.

I hope you find this approach useful, your profession may not mean you can follow it step-by step. However I think there are some principles most of us can take away.

  • Justin Tyler Broomes

    Great article. A genuinely interesting and honest insight into the day to day productivity of a developer!

    • Simon

      Thank you Justin, I will be writing more on productivity and better workflows in the future. Keep checking back!

      Simon