Projects execution in the software developer world is not to be neglected. Especially considering the fast-pace demand the industry has. Moreover, the search for a way to make the most of the available time is never-ending.
From my experience working in a java development company using the right tools to manage your time can make or break your success rate. There are many tips for productivity that can make your life easier from note-keeping and using to-dos and calendars. One thing is left to be discussed: how to manage your time in terms of working sessions and to find a balance between focused work and taking a much-needed rest.
"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion".
What this means is that the human brain adjusts the task's work process by filling all of the time dedicated to it.
Hypothetically, If you have one week to finish an assignment that requires 5 hours of focused work, most people approach it one of two ways. The first type may easily end up working only one hour a day to pace out the work evenly. The second may be tempted to pump out five hours of work right before the deadline. Perhaps a habit slowly cultivated in college, where between 80 and 90 percent of students regularly procrastinate on assignments.
The foundation between Parkinson's law and its' perceived application requires you to be honest with how much time your assignments require and to dedicate focused work on your tasks. Before you know it, in that same workweek of five days, you may end up finishing double the amount of work without feeling the strain of burnout.
Understanding how your brain prioritizes and distributes work helps you get one step closer to making the most of your time at work. By setting up systems to make the most of a structure that allows you to prioritize and focus on tasks, you will be set up to reap the results of your work.
There are many methods to manage task distribution. One of them has been proven to extract results, and it is called the Pomodoro Method.
At its core, it targets the inherent ability for humans to be prone to distractions. By dedicating small sessions that require complete focus, the method allows for building a habit of productive work one step at a time.
One Pomodoro cycle would typically look similar to the image below:
The most significant benefit of this method is that it allows for your ability to focus on growing steadily over time. The more you use it, the more comfortable you become with productive work sessions. Over time you will find that it is easy to go through the entire session, and also, it becomes easy to increase the intervals to suit your work better.
You have the option to increase the increments by creating more extended focus periods. Some options you have are 25:5 (the original), 45:15, 50:10, and so on.
One more thing we need to mention, it is recommended to string up no more than four Pomodoro cycles at once. Moreover, they should be followed by a longer break, that allows you to reset your focus and avoid burnout.
Naturally, programming may require more flexibility in terms of time management. While for the most part, you cannot manage your time fully as you wish, you still have time dedicated to coding and work on your own. This is where you can fit the cycles. You can go through three or four cycles while you code, and then move on to the other activities you are required to perform.
They may include attending meetings, collaborative tasks, brainstorming, research and more. Try to find how many cycles you can add to your day, specifically for your solo work. The goal is to balance the productivity you experience from the method, with the particular job's requirements.
The method has two goals. To increase productivity in focused work, by dividing it into small working sessions. To avoid long and impractical sessions, that are not productive, by breaking them down and adding breaks. While sometimes neglected, breaks are a vital part of any programmer's life. Reaching burnout will not help your work, nor your health.
The most significant benefit of breaks is undeniably the fact that it creates a healthy habit to get off your PC, look around (which can help prevent eyesight damage), and maybe stretch out.
Focus only on one task within each cycle. The purpose is to increase the quality of work and productivity by dedicating each task with its' needed time.
You have multiple sessions, so the best thing to do is to set apart your tasks and assign a Pomodoro cycle to each. This includes cutting out both multitasking and adding on multiple microtasks under the umbrella of the big tasks. Having clear divisions in your tasks allows you to interrupt it, but be able to go back to it smoothly and pick up where you left off.
If you want to know more about how you can polish the method to your developer's needs, first hand from a programmer, who made an effort to debug the issues he experienced, you can go on here.
The method is not supposed to be focused on obsessing over the minutes you work and what you do with them. The goal is to improve your focus over time, and its implementation should be carried out with the specific requirements of your work in mind. Set up the cycles in a way that compliments your work. That includes the work timer, the break timer, how many cycles you do in a day and between how many intervals you insert a long break.
Tweak it in a way that makes sense with your responsibilities and use it to help you keep a clear picture of your assignments and the tasks you perform to complete them.
I hope the method will help your work greatly, and feel free to add to the discussion with your experience using this or any other time management tips!