Want to Take Your Coding to the Next Level? Check out These 7 Productivity Hacks.
Between constantly designing, coding, testing, maintaining and updating, most developers likely feel that their work is never truly done.
As someone who has worked closely with developers, I can confirm that no matter which field of computer programming and technology these talented people inhabit, they're constantly juggling new ideas with existing projects, responsibilities and spontaneous crises -- which can change from minor to catastrophic in seconds.
Because of this, developers need to constantly update their arsenal of tools and keep a close eye on not just their workload, but their effectivenss at moving from task to task without sacrificing productivity.
To get the most out of limited time and resources, developers need solutions to help them minimize the time wasted and maximize their efforts. Here are seven of the best tools and hacks I can recommend to improve your development productivity and to get the most out of your work.
1. Automate your change-tracking.
Tracking changes is vital to your company's development projects, especially as code is rewritten, modified or added to daily. Manually tracking changes is not viable in massive projects and can lead to breakdowns and wasted time down the line. That's where Git can help a developer: It's a control-management tool designed to track changes in source code files and reduce the time developers spend looking for a clear history of changes.
Additionally, automating change logs lets developers create branching paths in directories. This means they can test several versions of the same idea without losing each one and having to start over. Git also allows every team member in a project to automatically track his or her local changes, which are then uploaded and distributed to everyone on the project directory.
2. Audit your open source code and close any vulnerabilities.
The development and computer science community is increasingly embracing open source, as everyone from freelancers to corporations as large as Microsoft contribute to the world’s coding knowledge for free. Developers today simply can’t develop software at the pace needed, without open source. After all, why should any of us re-invent the wheel when we can simply download it from GitHub?
However, open source brings new security and compliance challenges, and currently most developers lack the necessary tools to handle these unique challenges alone.
Software composition analysis solutions, like WhiteSource, automate the process of selecting and approving open source components and send alerts in real time on security and compliance issues so that you can use open source freely without worry.
3. Refactor your code consistently.
Aside from rewriting and making wholesale changes to your code, it’s important that you constantly ensure it’s written in the clearest and most efficient way possible. Especially for repositories that will be in widespread use -- as with most major projects -- clean code is a vital attribute of functionality and usability.
Refactoring code helps you accomplish three things: It keeps you familiar with the code you’re writing, improves the applicability potential for the code and makes it easier to maintain the code.
4. Leave your mouse behind.
One of the hardest habits for developers to break is using their mouse. While a mouse is a vital peripheral for navigating your operating system, most IDEs and editors can and do work almost exclusively with a keyboard. Constantly switching between your mouse and keyboard can interrupt your flow, and usually means you’re browsing away from your IDE. Moreover, spending hundreds of hours coding and using a mouse for minute movements can hurt your wrist.
Instead, create keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys that remove the need to constantly shift your hands around. AutoHotKey, and other scripting languages like it can make it easier for you to automate actions into single hotkeys and key combinations. This can include anything from keystrokes to mouse clicks, menu selections and more.
5. Keep your projects in separate desktops
One of the biggest productivity roadblocks for developers is the number of screens, windows, editor tabs and other clutter they have open simultaneously on their desktops. It’s not uncommon to work on several projects at once while having a browser with multiple research tabs active, as well as messaging or project management tools open simultaneously. This makes it harder to find the right window, information and application and causes a lack of organization and method.
Separating your projects, research and other uses of your time into separate virtual desktops can help you keep organized and streamline your productivity. You can better focus on the specifics of the task at hand. Most operating systems already have this option available. They include Windows 10, Mac OS X, and Linux -- the three most popular operating systems for developers. You can even add to this concept by incorporating multiple physical displays to help you keep better track of the information you need while you work.
6. Build a code base and update it.
The more you code and learn different languages, the harder it becomes to keep your knowledge fresh and easily accessible. It’s easy to forget small shortcuts and useful functions you’ve created in the past, and frustrating to spend hours trying to recreate code from scratch. Moreover, knowing useful functions can improve your productivity down the line by reducing the time you spend on smaller tasks.
Get into the habit of building a code base full of past programs; distinctive tools in the languages you use, including widgets and snippets; and functions that you can implement in a number of applications. You can use Git or Github repositories, or even keep things in programs like Evernote, which offers a code snippet feature.
7. Be conscious of your physical needs.
The biggest mistake developers make is to think that working around the clock will improve productivity. It’s common to eat poorly, skip exercise and short yourself on adequate sleep while working, all of which is ncredibly detrimental to your productivity and overall health. Instead, focus on doing things that improve your health and well-being, and you will notice a significant improvement in your work.
It's so important to get a good amount of proper sleep, eat nutritious and good meals instead of snacking and be mindful of how much you’re working every day. More importantly, focusing on time away from your screen has the added benefit of helping “reboot” your mind by letting you focus on other things.
Find a balance between your work hours and time off, and make sure to keep your body and mind fit to ensure that you're motivated, rested and productive.