Sean's Dev Blog

5 Ways to Be More Productive as a Software Engineer

November 24, 2020

1. Set goals daily.

This is the most important part of being productive. I find that on days in which I don’t write down any goals, I am usually far less effective. When I do write them down, I often achieve them very quickly and wish I had written down more. Having a list to execute and check off helps to build up a sense of achievement throughout the day, and fuels enthusiasm for the work you are doing. Whether you write it down in a special notebook or a plain text file, don’t skip this step.

2. Document everything.

Get in the habit of creating documentation for every project you work on. I like to keep three parts to my documentation: an initial design section, a general implementation section, and an errors section. This will help immensely if you come back to an old project at a later time. It also helps you organize and communicate your thoughts.

3. Build maps

Build maps of everything. Build maps of how functions should interact. Build maps of the lifecycles of objects. Build maps of backend architectures and microservices. Build maps of prototypes and thought experiments. The more you understand your project in a very general and modular way, the easier it will be to zoom in on a particular part of the system that you need to build or modify.

4. Keep pushing yourself

Keep bringing up the level of technical complexity on your goals. While executing on your mission, try to read a white paper, an advanced technical blog, or a textbook related to what you are doing. Most of it might go over your head, but you should still try to slog through it. Think, and think again. Then do. The faster you can repeat this process, the better. The hard work is rarely fun, but it’s the only thing that gets us to the next level.

5. Keep iterating on the fundamentals

While you stretch yourself and your capabilities, it’s important to also continue fortifying your foundations. No effort ever goes to waste. Invest some time in getting really good. Every once in a while, go through the fundamentals and try to understand them on a deeper level. You might be pleasantly surprised that with experience you will come to understand even the basics in entirely new ways.

These are not the only five things that can help you be productive, but we humans on the internet love lists. Some other things you can do to boost productivity is to get good rest, eat highly nutritious food, read things outside of your field, practice some type of craft or hobby other than programming, and exercise regularly. But you already know all that.

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© 2020 Sean Boisselle