Top 5 productivity tips for development teams

Taking regular breaks, making lists, good communication with colleagues – it’s all good advice, but how about some advice focussed on development?

Here are five productivity tips that will make a difference to you.

1. Automation

Automate everything you can. Doing the same task again and again is wasteful and boring. The DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principal teaches us that duplication is something to avoid, but is often talked about in terms of code. It equally applies to the tasks and processes that we follow during development (and beyond). This is something you need to be constantly aware of, as you may not immediately recognise something that needs automation.

Doing this will not only free up time for your more important work, but also cut down on the chance of something going wrong, make the system easier to support, and make things much easier for other developers to join or take over the project.

2. Start a side project

Great developers build on their existing skillset, and sometimes that means learning out-of-hours. Having a side project can often boost your productivity – it stops you taking work home, helps you learn new skills (which you can then apply at work) and explore new areas of development. If you can’t come up with any ideas for a project why not start contributing to an open source project instead?

You’d be surprised how doing something different can help your creativity; if you’re stuck on a problem at work, having something else to focus on could help you find a solution.

3. Logging and debuggability

A project with good logging is a lot easier to support. Problems can be diagnosed far quicker and easier. During development, you can attach a debugger to step through the code to investigate issues, but this is usually a last resort in a live system. Thinking about logging, and how it can help you diagnose issues during development, is important. You may find that you structure your code differently to achieve this.

Keep in mind that logging for different web requests or threads may be interleaved in the log file though, so you may also need to think about how to link different log lines together if you’re trying to follow the flow through a system. For example, an ID associated with a specific web request can be included in each log entry to make it easier to follow the flow through the system.

Don’t confuse good logging with logging everything though – that will only clutter your log file and make it more difficult to find what you want.

4. Know your tools

Understanding how to use and get the most out of your tools can dramatically boost productivity.

IDEs and text editors have more features to help you than ever before. Learn the shortcuts, look at what extensions and plugins are available, and don’t be afraid to try something new. This does take some effort and may initially slow you down, but it’s worth it.

5. Learn to say ‘no’

This might take some time, but your life will be so much easier if you can master “no”. People will always drop things on you, ask for things unexpectedly, but you need to manage people’s expectations and say “no” more often.

Taking on too many tasks at once is a productivity killer. Context switching has a cost and will slow down even small tasks. Rushing to finish can lead to carelessness and end up causing more work further down the line. You may end up with so much work that you spend more time stressing about it than actually getting things done.

“No” doesn’t mean you’ll make enemies either – they’ll respect you far more for giving realistic deadlines and sticking to them.