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Blog,  Web Development Essentials

A Developer’s Guide to Better Work Habits

Hey there, fellow developers!

Have you ever felt a twinge of panic realizing you’ve overwritten hours of work or perhaps lost it altogether? Ever felt overwhelmed by endless tasks, lost in a sea of browser tabs, or just uncertain about the day’s first step? Fear not! Today, we’re diving deep into some best practices every developer should adopt. Let’s explore how to be efficient, organized, and, most importantly, stay sane.

Backing Up Like a Pro

Let’s face it – mishaps happen. We’ve all had our share of ‘Oops’ moments. Here’s how to ensure your hard work is always safe:

Frequent Saves: Adopt the habit of hitting ‘Save’ after every significant change (or backing up your local, branch, or dev environments if utilizing The Tiered Workflow). Trust me, your future self will thank you.

Use Version Control: Platforms like GIT aren’t just for collaboration; they’re fantastic for tracking changes and keeping work safe. Commit often, push regularly. (Check out The Importance of Version Control and Git in Web Development.)

Cloud Sync: Leveraging platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, Confluence, and others can be a lifesaver. Automatic sync ensures that even if your machine crashes, your work remains untouched in the cloud. 

If your team or company already has a preferred method for backing up work, definitely follow their procedures. If your team’s backup process could use improvement, you may be in a position to help analyze the current process, brainstorm, and present improvements to your team lead or manager.

Mastering Time Management

Having 8 hours in a work day doesn’t always feel like enough, especially when the code refuses to cooperate, project deadlines are quickly approaching, you are juggling multiple tasks or projects simultaneously, or you just feel generally overwhelmed. Here’s how you can be the master of your time:

Time Blocking: Instead of continuously switching tasks every time an email arrives or you are pinged in Slack, block out chunks of your day for specific activities. Set aside 1-2 hour blocks for uninterrupted coding and/or specific task work. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re deep in the zone. Also set aside 5-15 minutes as the beginning, middle, and end of your day to review email and send follow ups.

Prioritize Tasks: When juggling many competing tasks or projects, you need to properly prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. Urgent tasks are those that require immediate attention and are often tied to a deadline. Important tasks are those that may not need to be tackled immediately but they are essential for long-term success. As priorities can shift, re-evaluate and adjust your priority list regularly to better adapt to changing circumstances.

Take Breaks: Yep, you heard that right. Regular, short breaks can massively boost productivity. Something as simple as a 5-minute walk or stretch can re-energize you.

Weekly Task Review: At the end of every week, spare 15-30 minutes to review your tasks and projects. This weekly review ensures you’re on track, helps prioritize the coming week, and flags any potential bottlenecks. Set reminders to periodically update any project management tools like Jira, Asana, or even your own task notes. Keeping these updated avoids last-minute scrambles and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Minimize Distractions: While certain apps can serenade you with background tunes to enhance focus, others can help you monitor and cut down digital distractions. Explore and find what suits your work style best. If you are in a noisy or busy work environment, investing in noise-canceling headphones may be an option to help you focus. If you work from home and find family continually interrupt, close the door and hang a “Focus Time: No Interruptions” sign. The idea is to craft an environment where you can work at your optimum, with minimal disruptions.

With these strategies at your disposal, you’ll not only enhance your productivity but also create a work rhythm that feels less like a chaotic dance and more like a harmonized symphony.

Navigating Task Management Like a Captain

Feeling swamped with tasks can be daunting. Even if your work if fairly routine or regular, you may notice that there are periods of time with more work than others. If you find yourself struggling in the task juggling for whatever reason, here’s how to keep on top of things:

Leverage Tools: A project and/or task management tool like Jira is invaluable for developers. Create tasks, set priorities, and track progress. The Kanban board visualizes your workflow, showing tasks in ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, and ‘Done’ columns. If your company doesn’t use Jira, you can utilize Asana for task management and/or Trello for Kanban visualization for your own projects.

Document Everything: While Jira is great for tasks, Google Drive or Confluence can store all your related documents. Whether it’s a project spec, a design mockup, or meeting notes, keep everything in one place. Organize your Drive in a way that makes sense and is easy to navigate.

Regular Check-ins: Set aside time each week to review your tasks. Adjust priorities if needed and ensure you’re always working on what matters most.

Crafting Detailed Project Notes

Good documentation isn’t just about clarity; it’s about enabling collaboration. If another developer needs to dive into your task to help troubleshoot an issue or to cover when you are out, they should be able to do so smoothly. Here’s how:

Be Thorough: Start with a brief overview, then delve into specifics. Details like why a particular approach was chosen can be invaluable down the line.

Use Code Comments Wisely: While it’s essential not to clutter your code, strategic comments explaining tricky sections can be a lifesaver for the next person.

Maintain a Project Log: Platforms like Google Drive and Confluence work brilliantly for this. Track your progress, decisions made, challenges faced, and more. It’s not just useful for others; it’s a great way for you to revisit your journey later.

Update Regularly: Notes are most effective when they’re current. Make it a habit to update documentation as your project evolves.

Curating Your Own Personal Cheat Sheet

One of the most underrated tools in a developer’s arsenal is a simple, easily accessible document containing all those little bits of gold – commands, shortcuts, extensions, software, and other daily essentials. Here’s why you need one and how to make the most of it:

Ease of Access: Let’s be real: nobody can remember all the commands and shortcuts. Having them jotted down saves those precious moments (and your sanity) when you’re in the middle of a coding frenzy.

Cloud Platforms: Store your document on platforms like Google Drive, Confluence, or OneNote. This means you can pull up your cheat sheet whether you’re working from the office, home, or a café in Bali! Warning though, if you are using your employer’s Google Drive or software, you may find yourself locked out of your cheat sheet if you are ever laid off. Make sure you save a backup of your cheat sheet periodically to your personal device or emailing it to your personal email.

Categorize Wisely: Group items in your document for faster access. Have a section for commands, another for extensions, one for software, and so on.

Add Descriptions: A command is only as good as your memory of what it does. A brief description next to each entry ensures you won’t be scratching your head in confusion later.

Regular Updates: This document should be a living entity. As you discover new tools, shortcuts, or commands, add them in. If you find that you’re no longer using a particular tool, take it out.

Having this treasure trove is not just about convenience. It’s about ensuring consistency in your work, speeding up your tasks, and making the development process smoother. Plus, if you ever need to onboard a colleague or assist a fellow developer, sharing your cheat sheet can be a fantastic ice-breaker!

Goal-Setting for Success

While we often get caught up in the daily grind of coding, debugging, and deploying, it’s crucial to occasionally take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Where do you want to be in a year, or even five? Setting thoughtful, strategic goals can be a game-changer for your career trajectory.

Why Set Goals?: They give you direction, keep you motivated on tough days, and give you a sense of accomplishment when met. Plus, having clear objectives can set you apart during performance reviews and advancement opportunities.

The SMART Way: Use the SMART method when crafting your goals – they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This ensures your objectives are clear and attainable.

Quality Over Quantity: Instead of overwhelming yourself with a laundry list of objectives, focus on 3-4 substantial goals for each quarter or half-year. This ensures each goal gets the attention it deserves.

Regular Check-ins: Every few months, take some time to evaluate your progress. Celebrate the goals you’ve achieved, and analyze the ones you haven’t. As the tech world evolves and your personal circumstances change, it’s perfectly okay to adjust or even scrap certain goals. Flexibility is key.

Sharing is Caring: If any of your goals align with your team’s or company’s objectives, share them with your supervisor. Not only does this show initiative and alignment with larger organizational objectives, but it also provides an extra layer of accountability. Plus, your supervisor may offer resources or mentorship to help you achieve them.

Remember, goal-setting isn’t just about professional growth; it’s about personal growth too. As you reflect on and set these objectives, consider what they mean for your work-life balance, continuous learning, and overall well-being. After all, the journey of a developer is a marathon, not a sprint. Planning the route wisely can make all the difference.

Cultivating Gratitude: The “Thanks List”

In the hustle and bustle of everyday work, it’s easy to forget the moments when someone lends you a helping hand. Yet, it’s these small gestures of support, guidance, and camaraderie that make the workplace not just bearable, but enjoyable.

The Power of Acknowledgement: Start by keeping a “Thanks List”. This isn’t just any list—it’s your personal record of every time a colleague or team member assists, supports, or mentors you. Maybe they helped debug a tricky piece of code, offered insight on a project, or just listened when you needed to vent about a particularly frustrating task.

Why Maintain One? Beyond just being a record, the act of jotting down these moments has a two-fold effect. First, it serves as a reminder of the positive interactions amidst challenging days. Second, it provides an opportunity for you to express gratitude. Recognizing and appreciating the efforts of others fosters a positive work environment and strengthens team bonds.

Give Those Shoutouts: If your company has a platform or a system for sharing accolades or shoutouts, don’t hesitate to use it. Taking a few minutes to publicly thank someone can make a huge difference in their day and reinforces a culture of recognition and positivity.

In the world of web development (or any field, really), collaboration is key. It’s rarely a solo journey. By maintaining a “Thanks List” and making it a habit to express gratitude, you’re not just acknowledging the value of teamwork; you’re actively contributing to a warmer, more cohesive, and more productive workplace. It’s a small step with profound ripple effects. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”

Embracing Flexibility: It’s Okay to Pivot!

In the rapidly evolving tech landscape, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. While the tools and techniques we’ve discussed are tried and tested, it’s essential to understand that what works wonders for one developer might not be the magic solution for another. Your work style, your team dynamics, the nature of your projects, and even the industry you’re in can all influence the optimal blend of tools and methodologies.

Explore and Experiment: Don’t shy away from trying out different software, tools, or methods. You might stumble upon a hidden gem that boosts your productivity or simplifies a complex process. Remember, there’s no harm in exploring, especially when the tech world brims with innovative solutions every day.

Adaptability is Key: Your role and environment will inevitably change over time. The tools and techniques that once seemed perfect might become obsolete or less relevant. Being adaptable means continuously updating your toolkit and staying at the forefront of industry advancements.

Feedback Loop: Regularly seek feedback from colleagues and peers. They might introduce you to a tool they swear by or share a technique they’ve found invaluable. This mutual learning not only strengthens team cohesion but also broadens your perspective.

Trust Your Instincts: At the end of the day, you know your workflow best. If a particular tool or method feels cumbersome or isn’t yielding the desired results, it might be time to switch things up. Trust your judgment and make adjustments as needed.

In conclusion 

Being a stellar developer isn’t just about writing excellent code. It’s also about creating a workflow that’s efficient, manageable, and collaborative. Adopting these practices can transform your daily grind into a smooth, well-oiled machine. And always remember: while tools and techniques are crucial, it’s the habits we form that truly make the difference.  Until next time, let your code shine! ✨

If you enjoyed this guide to better work habits, check out Task Management: A Guide to Effective Prioritizing.


Featured image: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

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