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Time Management for software developers

There are many talented people in the software development industry. However, the developers who really shine are the ones who, among other characteristics, are great at managing their time. Companies know that having technical skills is important, but it's not enough. A programmer also needs to be a good time manager. 

As you move forward in your career, you'll have bigger and more challenging tasks. Having good time management skills will let you always finish your work on time, especially when you will have to handle many tasks at once. This article will give you some important tips, techniques and tools to develop your time management skills as a software developer. 

Time management tips 

Time management skills are essential for effective work and productivity. These skills regroup various abilities that, when combined, allow you to make the most of your time. They involve planning and organizational skills, prioritization, maintaining focus and attention, effective communication, and knowing when and how to delegate tasks. 

Avoid Distractions

Distractions can really eat up your time. A study by the University of California found that when people get distracted, it takes them around 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to focus again.

Now, think about how much time you would waste if you got distracted a few times a day. It's even tougher for software developers because they use Internet connected devices. If you're into social media, you probably get notifications all day, pulling you away from your work.

The good news is, you can easily deal with distractions. Just turn off notifications for most of your social media accounts, except the ones you really need for work. And since you're working from home, create a dedicated office space to minimize everyday distractions. This will boost your productivity and the quality of your work for sure.

Avoid switching between tasks 

Even if you think you're good at doing many things at once, we just saw that you need 23 minutes to fully concentrate on a task again after being interrupted. Multitasking means shifting your attention from one job to another, and this can really harm how much you get done.

To stay focused, set aside two to three hours for work without interruptions. So you will have to turn off your emails and notifications. If you have to check emails and messages, plan a short 10 minute break” every few hours to do that. This way, you can concentrate better and get more of your job done.

Divide large tasks into smaller ones

When faced with a significant 80-hour task, it might seem overwhelming. But if you break it into smaller pieces, it becomes more manageable. These smaller parts are easier to estimate, and as you finish each one, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment. Plus, breaking tasks down makes it simpler to see your progress and notice problems early.

Use training to improve your time management

A study called “It’s About Time: New Perspectives and Insights on Time Management” found that some people are naturally good at managing their time, but anyone can get better with practice. The study showed that people who learned time management felt less stressed when they had a lot to do and had more control over their time.

But what kind of training will help you learn time management? Well, experts in the field claim that the old-fashioned time management courses don't work for today's workers. For software developers, they suggest a time management training that includes:

  1. Focusing on what's most important for your role instead of specific tasks.

  2. Learning how to manage your attention, not just your time.

  3. Using a good system for managing your work.

Time management techniques

Understand the Eisenhower matrix

The Eisenhower matrix is a decision-making tool that helps you sort your tasks into four groups:

“Important and urgent”: These are important tasks that suddenly pop up or are left until the last minute. Try to plan ahead to avoid last-minute rushes and make room in your schedule for unexpected tasks.

“Important but not urgent”: These tasks are important but not urgent. Set aside specific times in your calendar to work on them so they don't become urgent later on.

“Not important but urgent”: These are tasks that are urgent but not really important for your goals. You can either pass them on to someone else or politely say no if they're not crucial to your work.

“Not important and not urgent”: These tasks are neither important nor urgent. You can get rid of them by simply not doing them. If others ask you to do them, it's okay to decline. Eventually, they will stop asking.

Always keep in mind that the level of importance and urgency should be evaluated based on your own work goals. If you have a doubt about the level (of urgency or importance) you should attribute to a given task or request, it is recommended to ask your manager for clarification. This will only be the wisest move and will avoid wasting your time on a low-priority matter.

Take regular breaks: try the Pomodoro technique

People have a limited ability to stay focused all day long. Breaks are important to stay productive. If you're a software developer, taking regular breaks can help you refresh your creativity and concentrate better on your work. The Pomodoro Technique is a popular method to increase software developer productivity with regular breaks.

It's a five-step process designed to keep you relaxed and mentally sharp. Here's how it works:

Although it's a simple technique, it can help you stay fresh for a longer time and prevent mental exhaustion.

Time management tools

Google Agenda: Using your calendar will effectively help you save time. With Google Agenda, for instance, you can schedule meetings without sending emails or recurring invitations. You can also find the option to block specific time slots in your calendar where you only focus on your work and accept no meetings. This tool will also allow you to create shared calendars, providing visibility into common commitments to avoid unnecessary exchanges.

Trello: Trello is a collaborative project management tool. It's like a virtual to-do list that enables team collaboration. You can assign tasks, set deadlines, use labels, add comments, and share files. It's presented as a customizable dashboard and is commonly used to track the progress of a project.

Trello is also an Agile tool, following the principles of Agile project management methodology. Even if your organization is not currently Agile, proposing Trello as a tool can significantly enhance time management and project efficiency. Its user-friendly interface and adaptability make it a valuable asset for teams aiming to streamline their workflows and boost productivity.

For more information about Agile Methodology check-out our article on the topic.

Toggl : is a powerful time tracking tool that operates by allowing developers to create tasks and projects, and then track the time spent on each task with precision. 

By starting and stopping timers as they work, developers can accurately measure the duration of different activities. This functionality is important in a developer's daily routine as it provides a structured approach to time management. Developers can analyze these tracked times through Toggl reports, helping them understand how they allocate their efforts. This can help in identifying time-intensive tasks, enabling developers to optimize their workflow. 

Whether it's coding, debugging, or attending meetings, Toggl ensures that every moment is accounted for, facilitating efficient task management, enhanced productivity, and better project planning in their day-to-day work.

At the end of the day, time management is a vital skill for remote developers, because it ensures productivity and success when working in the software industry. Prioritizing tasks using tools shown in this article like the Eisenhower matrix, combating distractions, and embracing techniques like the Pomodoro method are key strategies. Breaking tasks into smaller parts, leveraging time management tools and investing in time management training will undoubtedly enhance your efficiency and innovation. Mastering these techniques will equip you as a developer to meet deadlines and navigate the complexities of remote work successfully.

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JobBee connects tech companies with vetted remote software developers.