Taming the chaos of a developer's working life

Published Sep 06, 2017
Taming the chaos of a developer's working life

Almost 500 books during lifetime – that is how productive Isaac Azimov was. He is one of my favourite writers, and I'd like to look up to him. It is inappropriate to compare writing fiction and coding, however if there was a gadget transforming my work into text proportionately, I am afraid I would be an author of some Dinosaur roar! in the end of my life. At least if I kept working the way I used to.

For a long time I could not help a feeling I was not productive. I often got frustrated not being able to organize the working process, write to do lists on a regular basis, learn what I had to learn. I used to stop midway working with my own projects. And, honestly, these guys who achieved this and that by the age of 25 made me nervous instead of motivated. I thought my colleagues were doing much better. Some of them really did, and some were in the same boat as me, as it turned out. This is why I decided to share my experience of struggling with productivity gaps. It is not something brand new, of course, but this is how I managed to reprogram myself – mostly by reading and listening to other people’s stories.

1.I stopped comparing myself with successful people. Maybe I could achieve the same results they did. However, we all had different starting positions and it is not an empty excuse. My successometer should show how much I have progressed compared to the previous me, not to the others.

2.They say you get your work a halfway done once you planned it. True, but not really. I used to like planning as it gave me a feeling of being busy and doing something useful. However, there is no point in writing a plan if I you not follow it. And there is a big chance you won’t, because you have no idea how to approach all the things you wrote down. They seem to be too complicated. In order to avoid postponing, I also break the tasks into smaller ones, what makes them far more manageable, and use a modified Pomodoro technique. I have set a general rule for myself to look for simple ways for achieving my goals.

I noticed that thanks to it, I don’t get distracted, and also I am not afraid of missing an important message, because I have regular breaks. It helps with my household chores too. 20 minutes spent on cleaning every day allow me to keep my house in order and save me much time.

This is how my typical day looks like:

8:00-9:00 – reading
9:00-12:00 – work (with 6 breaks)
12:00-13:00 – communication
13:00-14:00 – lunch/rest
14:00-16:00 – work (with 5 breaks)
16:00-18:00 – studying, household chores, daydreaming
18:00-21:00 – work (with 7 breaks)
21:00-22:30 – studying (with 2 breaks)
23:00 – bedtime routine

3.I try to do the most important part of work when I am in the most productive state, unless it is not something urgent. This way you do not overload yourself with toxic thoughts like “I have not done something the way I’d like to” or “I could do it better”. You just know that your result is the best one possible.

4.I keep incoming data in order thanks to sorting it just the moment I get it and saving files in appropriate places. Sounds simplistic, but I used to ignore it. I had a huge problem with correspondence. Now I use a Mac OS X cleaner for a regular cleanup, and do not get distracted by unread letters I do not need to receive.

5.When I have breaks, I like to read something interesting. However, I avoid reactive reading. Our social media accounts are littered with reposts of popular articles and the temptation to click on them is high. After two clicks you are already captured by 31 facts about Mila Kunis and 20 places you have to visit before you die. Oh, and there are also 3000 tabs you keep open while surfing on the internet. Well, the catchier a title, the sillier you are for buying into it. Proactive reading is more conscious. It is when you have a list of books and articles you want to read and you follow your plan. Next time you catch yourself reading another “useful” article, ask yourself whether you have something more important to do. Alternatively, if you hardly control yourself, try killing the bad habit with Time Warp for Chrome.

6.While working, I listen to the monotonuous music that makes me a robot for some time (trance, house, etc.). If you do not want to listen to music, at least you can have your headset on to create the distance between you and the others.

7.During compilation, I do not switch tabs and windows. I just close my eyes and have a rest, or turn away from the monitor and think how I can check my code for potential bugs.

8.When I am beset by laziness, I close my eyes and DO NOTHING. Effing nothing. After some time I find myself thinking, that I need to do the this and the that, and have an overwhelming desire to DO SOMETHING. This is the state when you need to work hard while you are “high”.

These are key points, but coming up with new ideas for productivity boost is much fun, so I am constantly seeking for more. It is like a game and definitely worth spending time on. I cannot say my life changed 180 degrees, however, such simple changes led to visible results.

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