What are some productivity hacks for developers?

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Sébastien Portebois's photo

There are already a lot of great answers (all the points from Marius van Zundert are straight to the point), but there's one thing I'm surprised I haven't read: distractions. When you want/need to be productive, you need to be able to focus. Ambient noise is part of the problem (especially in open-space offices -_- ), but over the last years, I noticed many developers don't help themselves. Your phone is one of our worst enemies when it comes to being able to focus. Try some of these (depending on your own discipline and habits):

  • block (almost all?) notifications when the phone is locked. My phone only vibrates (it's always in silent mode) for emergency-like calls. All the noisy notifications are only displayed when I manually unlock the phone (emails, twitters, slacks, ...) If you are on-call, Pagerduty is an obvious exception, but you get my point
  • try to put your phone far from you (not in your pocket, not on your desk) and in silent mode. That'S another way to avoid the notification to break your focus

Try one of these simple rules and you should see a dramatic boost on your productivity, if you were guilty - like so many of us - of being distracted by notifications.

(on a similar note, I turn desktop notifications for emails or Slack only for important channels. Then I check the unread stuff from time to time, multiple times a day, so that I am not interrupted, but people don't have to wait for too long to get an answer)

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Sébastien Portebois's photo

Trying to learn something new everyday

Well Anayo, I believe music is in a category of its own. It's very related to ambient noise, but will vary a lot depending on the kind of music and your own personality. When I work in open-spaces, I find myself barely able to focus without music, because it's a good way to cut that ambient noise. But I am very picky about which music I listen to when I'm in work/focus timespans. And I am very easily distracted by humans voices. People talking in other rooms can get me out of focus (you can imagine how much I think open space offices are an aberration). So I need some music to be able to focus, but I do take great care: no lyrics ever, not too quiet nor not too energic to just be good at that ambient-noise-shutter role. People which are distracted by music could use noise/drone sound generators though, to achieve the same effect (but I find it very boring and even tiring after a few hours... but that's just personal taste) This has already been shared in other thread, but over the time I gathered a few playlists, 2 of them are public, whenever I need to focus at work. Obviously, everyone's experience is different, but it could help getting started. (And I like to have those playlist, so that as soon as some noise/distraction shows up in the office, I can just it play and not have to think or search for something to listen.... which would be switching from one distraction to another) Here's the 'quiet' playlist (soundtracks, cello, compositional ambient, drone, minimal music...) more than 68 hours as of today with more than 900 titles, playing it random should do the job) open.spotify.com/user/sebportebois/playlist.. And here's my jazz-at-work one, more energic, obviously more subject to personal taste (but when there's more ambient noise, it does a better job at shutting down these external distractions) open.spotify.com/user/sebportebois/playlist..

And when there's really too much noise, I sometimes switch to Meshuggah (yes, I'm able to work with this, and it even sometimes help me focus and remove all the anger after hearing too much stupid things from CEOs ;D ... but it's exhausting music and I'm not able to listen to that for too long =)

Marius van Zundert's photo

Developer, Writer, Gamer, Martial Artist, Daddy

Sébastien Portebois Has explained it about as well as I could have, when I said "music" I didn't mean any kind of music (although that's certainly it's own thing) But mostly when coding I tend to listen to either Music without Lyrics (soundtracks, cello, compositional ambient, drone, minimal music... etc indeed) or in a language I don't understand.

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