A software developer’s success hinges on their productivity. But being productive in a world full of distractions is no small feat. It’s a struggle that Chainlink Labs Developer Advocate Solange Gueiros, who travels around the world teaching people how to build with Chainlink, is all too familiar with. During SmartCon 2022, she took the stage to share her top tips and tricks for staying productive at home and on the road.
Create An Optimal Environment
Arrange a space that facilitates your best work by minimizing distractions and maximizing comfort. Make sure you have hardware that meets your needs. For Gueiros, a second computer screen is so essential that she bought a portable one for travel. Ergonomic workspaces support longer, more focused coding sessions. Your work desk or table should be set to your ideal height. Invest in a high-quality chair that allows you to sit for long periods of time and good lighting that promotes sustained concentration.
Because the average person needs 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted, just a handful of interruptions can waste hours of time during a single workday. When it comes to interruptions, Gueiros said, “You need to decide what is essential and nonessential for you.” She recommends configuring your phone to mute nonessential notifications and utilizing the “do not disturb” feature during work sessions.
Dividing the workday into intervals allows you to consolidate deep work into dedicated, distraction-free periods and catch up on notifications and messages during breaks. It’s also important to design your soundscape. Determine whether you work best with music or silence and always have noise-canceling headphones on hand.
Take Breaks And Get Some Rest
Though it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes taking a break is the fastest way to complete a tough task. If you’ve hit a block, getting some fresh air or exercise can hit the productivity reset button. Gueiros said breaks can boost creativity, focus, mental health, and information processing/retention while reducing stress. “Be flexible and work smarter,” she said. “Being productive doesn’t mean being stuck at a desk from 9am to 6pm.”
Understand And Be Understood
Clarity is key. Know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it before you get started. “Define the tools and strategy that you will use, design before you implement, and draft before you start to develop,” Gueiros advised. Explain your ideas and plans to someone else to ensure they make sense before you invest time in them.
Keep Your Code Blocks Clean And Short
Gueiros recommended a concept, first mentioned in The Pragmatic Programmer, called DRY (don’t repeat yourself). Boost efficiency by creating codes that you can reuse when and where appropriate. She also advocated a strategy called KISS (keep it short and simple). Automate whenever and wherever possible. “Don’t do the same thing more than once,” she said.
Implementing CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery/continuous deployment) will ensure that quality is built into your product, help deliver better software faster, automate to catch any bugs early in the process, and reduce time spent on manual testing. Gueiros recommended documenting your code before or while you’re coding, never after.
Learn And Connect
“Never stop learning from other people’s mistakes and successes,” she said. While coding is often a solitary activity that requires deep focus, true improvement comes from interacting with other developers and sharing ideas about how to fix bugs, manage time, minimize distractions, and – of course – improve productivity.
Cultivate Good Habits
Before you embark on a productive workday, you have to get your mind and body right. Gueiros believes your overall health and the habits you create outside of work are just as vital to your productivity. These actions might include drinking more water to stay hydrated throughout the day, eating a more nutritious diet to support cognitive function, monitoring and prioritizing your mental health, and spending time doing things you love with friends.
Find Your Flow State
“Just as a muse comes to writers or artists, developers who can catch the wave and be fully involved in the process also stop noticing the passage of time,” Gueiros said. When you’re working in a flow state, you’re fully immersed in the task at hand and thoroughly enjoying the process, which naturally means you’ll get more done. Flow states can feel magical but Gueiros believes you can demystify the process of finding flow by observing your own energy ebb and flow throughout the day and scheduling work when you expect your focus and creativity to peak.
Develop Yourself First
Being able to solve problems often requires thinking outside of the box. The more knowledge and life experiences you have under your belt, the easier this becomes. “Be a constant learner, feed your brain, read books, do different projects, collaborate outside your team, and connect with people,” Gueiros said.
It’s most important to remember that just because a technique works for someone else doesn’t mean it will automatically work for you. Gueiros compared developers to NFTs.
“Each of us has a different way to do things and to learn and to be productive,” she said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. Each of you has a unique personality and working style and what works for one developer could be a total failure for another.”
Finally, she said, productivity is a lifestyle.
“This is a never-ending story. Being productive isn’t a project that you complete; it’s a continuous process and productivity gains don’t happen overnight.”
Watch Solange Gueiros’s full presentation at SmartCon 2022.