Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Time Management for Developing

Changing careers from hospitality and restaurant management allowed me to discover a lot of new things about myself and how I work best. The autonomy and ability to organize my time as I saw fit was something I didn’t have a lot of experience with while working in hospitality. Restaurants operate on a strict schedule, open at 5 pm, the first course served in seven minutes from the order being taken, tables of two should turn in 90 mins.

Web development brought more sentiments like finish this by Friday, let’s review this after that feature is developed. I quickly learned about developers who prefer the morning for deep work and those who liked late at night. Ads for Pomodoro timers started popping up in banners, and blog suggestions like “How to maximize your day as a developer” became my norm.

I read and digested a lot of this content, tried many different things, and found a solution that keeps me honest, allows me to see results quickly ( something I’m used to from restaurants ), and not be too granular that I’m not going to do it. Here are 5 things I do that help me organize my time.

Let me preface these 5 things by saying they work for me. I’m sure there are people who wouldn't like them at all, might like one or two, and certainly, people out there who would take an idea and make it ten times better. I’ll also say that I don’t stick to each of these things every day like some robot. There are times when I struggle and can’t seem to get things to come together.

Plan my day the night before (at least a LITTLE bit)

I find that I sleep better having some sort of plan for the next day. This takes many forms. It might be something as simple as the one thing I have to get done, or a more detailed list of tasks and sub-tasks along with what people, processes, or programs I might need to use to get them done best.

I always make sure this is done after finishing work for the day and it usually manifests on a post-it note stuck to my keyboard or jotted on a small whiteboard that hangs near my desk.

This planning helps me leave my work and disconnect for the evening knowing that I set myself up a bit for a good next day.

Time Block 50% of my workday

I spend 10 mins in the morning estimating how much time my various tasks are going to take and assigning them a chunk of time during the day. I schedule blocks around meetings when needed and make sure I’m clear about what I’m working on during that time.

This helps automate some of the day. At 1 pm if I’m working on that pesky front-end bug, I do my best to not let anything get in the way of spending the allocated time on that one task.

I know there are apps out there that can help you with this, but I use my calendar app, Fantastical. ( which I love and is amazing )

Take breaks at the same time every day

If you don’t make time for yourself your work is going to eat you up. Hospitality and restaurants are famous for this and I was definitely someone who could very easily clock 70 hours in a week and not realize it until I was exhausted, burnt out, and needed to take some time to myself to recharge.

Don’t be a hero.

Take time away from your work for lunch every day around the same time. Make sure you don’t talk work or bring any work with you to the lunch table. Do something you enjoy. Have a nice conversation with someone, do a crossword, watch a tv show, go for a nice walk around your neighborhood, or call someone on the phone you haven’t talked to in a while.

I’ve solved more complex problems immediately after finishing a break than I ever did staring at the same thing for too long.

Tackle the toughest task first thing in the morning

Have a task that you are dreading taking of? Ticket that you know is going to be a pain for one reason or another?

Jump on it first thing in the morning.

You are at your sharpest decision-making ability first thing in the morning when you haven’t had to make many decisions. This phenomenon is known as decision fatigue and it happens in all industries to some degree or another.

There is also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing the day is only going to get easier from there. If you are using the one big task from above you have now hit your MVP for the day.

End the day with an easy win

Along the same vein as above, make sure you tee up something to end your day with another win (even if it is a small one). Everyone loves ending the day on a victory.

I hope a few of these time management techniques work their way into your development process. The major shift from hospitality to development has brought a lot of change to my workflow and understanding of what really leads to productivity.

Happy Hacking!

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