Managing time correctly is key to any profession, especially software development, where you need to complete several different tasks throughout the day. However, this can be challenging. If you struggle to organize and keep tabs on how you spend your time, several effective time management strategies can help.
Why Are Time Management Strategies Important
Every software developer wants to be great at what they do. However, not all understand the importance of time management and its impact on your day-to-day activities and performance.
There are several benefits of time management. Planning your everyday activities is key to improving your overall performance, boosting productivity, and achieving a better work-life balance. Additionally, by organizing your day, you can meet your deadlines and accomplish goals more efficiently, set priorities, get rid of bad habits, reduce your stress levels, and ultimately, produce more high-quality work.
According to a recent study by Development Academy, only 1 out of 5 people have a proper time management system. If you want to learn how to manage your time, consider these 10 proven time management strategies below.
1. Set SMART Goals
To achieve anything, you need to set goals. By doing this, you know exactly where you are standing, what you need to do to get there successfully, and how you can measure your progress. When setting goals, consider building SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed goals.
When setting goals, make sure they are under your control and don’t depend on others since you can be seriously disappointed and discouraged if something doesn’t turn out your way.
If you are interested in keeping close tabs on your goals, several apps can help, such as Strides, Way of LIfe, Goals on Track, Habitica, or Coach.me.
2. Keep Track of Your Time
Losing track of your time can happen all too frequently. A big part of changing your habits and becoming more productive is understanding how you manage your time. You need to know how long each task takes to plan accordingly and make better use of your day.
Consider these time management strategies:
- Focus on the task at hand. That way, you can get more done in less time.
- Improve any processes you find inefficient.
- Understand which are your more productive hours and organize your work accordingly.
- Take advantage of time-tracking apps, such as 7pace Timetracker, which is designed by developers for developers and can help you get valuable insights, or Todoist, TickTick, Microsoft To Do, OmniFocus or Any.do.
3. Plan Your Day & Put Together a To-Do List
Now that you have established which goals you want to accomplish, you need to figure out the best way to achieve them. This is where planning your day comes in.
Time planning the night before for the day ahead can help establish clear priorities and leave the less urgent tasks at the bottom of your list. You can organize tasks by important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, neither urgent nor important. Take the time to carefully consider each task and understand how they affect and bring you closer to your main goal.
Address the main tasks in the morning (or whenever you are most productive) instead of focusing on the more fun or easier ones. Following a schedule, you will feel much more productive.
One of the best ways to start managing time is to build a to-do list with your day-to-day activities, first placing the ones with a higher priority. However, be mindful of the tasks you include: if you take on more than you can handle, you can quickly feel overwhelmed and stressed and lose focus of what’s essential.
4. Reduce Distractions and Avoid Procrastination
Distractions that generally feel small can have a more significant impact than you think. A study by the University of California, Irving revealed that an interruption could take your attention away from your tasks for more than 20 minutes!
A big part of becoming more productive and planning time is identifying your biggest sources of distractions and your procrastination triggers to avoid them as much as possible. If notifications are a source of distraction, make sure to turn them off and set a specific time a day to review them.
Social media, in general, is hard to avoid as a developer because you work on the internet, and using your devices is essential. Still, you can always resort to apps that block access for a few hours to help you concentrate.
Try to choose an office space in your home that is not noisy and can help you stay focused on your work instead of your environment.
Addressing big tasks that seem impossible can often lead to procrastination. Breaking down large tasks into smaller, more achievable ones can help you fight off stalling.
Time management tools can help with distractions and procrastination. Some of the best are Freedom, Trello, Dart, Write or Die, and Rescuetime.
5. Focus on One Thing at a Time
When it comes to time organization and productivity, multitasking is not your friend. If you are taking on several tasks at a time, you won’t be able to produce quality work for each task. Most likely, you will produce medium to low quality work because you can’t possibly consider each detail for every task while working on them simultaneously.
Separate specific blocks of time for each task so you can stay focused on each one and not feel pressure to handle everything at once.
6. Carefully Consider Your Day
Review your day-to-day tasks, the time you spend on each one, their importance, and any roadblocks you may have run into. Consider where you may have fallen short and what you can do to remedy this in the future to make better progress. Afterward, map out the following day considering the tips mentioned above.
7. Take Breaks Regularly
Breaks are an essential item when it comes to productivity. It’s not healthy to work too many hours straight, especially since the brain seems to stray after focusing for too long. By taking breaks regularly, you can improve concentration. You can always schedule your breaks in your calendar to make sure you get notifications.
Several time management strategies and techniques can come in handy, such as the Pomodoro technique, where you work on a task for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. Once you’ve done this four times, you can take a 15 to 30-minute break and disconnect.
8. Make Time for Yourself
Stress is highly prejudicial to your health. If you don’t take care of yourself and invest time in yourself, you’ll experience burnout. Software developers work on computers all day, and taking some time to unplug, unwind and relax is necessary to get rid of accumulated tension.
There are many ways to do this: reading a book, listening to music, meditating, exercising, and having a delicious meal. Completing small tasks and celebrating them is a great motivator to keep going.
9. Learn When to Say NO
Taking everything on might be tempting, and you might even feel it’s necessary, but it’s not practical or even possible to accept and work on every task. If you want to maintain a healthy work-life balance and build quality products without sacrificing productivity, you need to say no when necessary.
Another big part of learning how to manage your time is learning to delegate to others. Taking on too much work means you’ll fall behind on the most critical and urgent tasks and won’t be able to meet your deadlines or achieve your goals. However, this is easier said than done. Recognize your strengths, what you are good at, and the strengths of your team members, and delegate accordingly.
10. Know When to Ask for Help
In the same way that you need to prioritize and delegate to others, one of the most effective time management strategies is to ask for help whenever you need it. Whether you are stuck trying to fix a broken code or cannot understand your system’s current behavior, instead of wasting time trying to find the answer by yourself, reach out to someone who might know and has the expertise to help.
Don’t let your ego get in the way. There is no way you know everything and can do everything. Asking for help and collaborating with others is a major part of being a good software developer.
Become the Best Version of Yourself Today!
Learning how to manage time is an essential part of becoming a great software developer, but so is finding the right professional opportunities to hone your skills.
At Nearsure, we work with a wide variety of clients and projects, so you will get the chance to learn new tools and collaborate with individuals from Latin America and the United States from the comfort of your own home.
To learn more about our current job opportunities, visit our Career section.