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Lessons In Productivity From Radoslav Stankov (Product Hunt)

As developers, we deal with a myriad of problems every day. From debugging to deploying, there is a lot that goes on in our workplaces – some of it really exciting, but most of it mundane, grunt work. Productivity in such instances can always take a hit.

Some days ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Radoslav Stankov, Engineering Head, Product Hunt, on the latest episode of Codecast (go check it out already if you haven’t). Rado leads one of the best Engineering teams at Product Hunt and I thought who better to chat about productivity than someone who has been doing this for 18+ years. Much to my pleasure, Rado was kind enough to share some habits he has developed over the years to maximize his productivity on the podcast.

While there’s a lot that we spoke about during our hour-long conversation, I am distilling the essence of his ‘tips’ for maximizing productivity below. To all the developers grappling with this problem – I hope this helps!

Radoslav’s four-point path to maximize productivity

Lesson 1: Deplete your EGO

Everybody has limited mental resources and this stands true for developers as well. Every decision from your morning coffee, to the infinite lunch plans, consumes your mental resource. Rado states that if a certain problem takes longer than usual for him to solve, he revisits it the next day when productivity is usually on his side. This usually happens when people use up their available willpower on one task. To put it in simple terms willpower is to developers what RAM is to computers, the better it is managed, the higher will the productivity be. So before you start your day, make sure you don’t have a million lunch plans to go through.

Lesson 2: Know your tools

Hitting CTRL+S 381414234 times before compiling will not help you run the program better, but on a serious note, you need to know your way in and out of the tools you use. Reducing the time taken for monotonous tasks often results in a lot of leftover time which can be directed towards other tasks. A lot of developers often waste a lot of time navigating their way through tools and the best way to get over this is to just pick a tool you use and start understanding how it can be used to make your work easier. Ensuring uniformity across the org when it comes to tools often becomes the most important factor while introducing developers to new tools.

Lesson 3: Reiterate the impact you make

Developers often don’t acknowledge the importance of the impact they make and this is subjective to different organizations. A lot of developers in MNCs often don’t feel like they make an impact because of the size of the organization which ultimately affects their productivity. This isn’t usually the case with startups where developers are given more responsibility and can directly see the impact of the code they ship.

Lesson 4: Journal your progress (even if it’s not on paper)

Journaling is the most underrated hack to productivity. Period.

Developer journals could be a mix of quick links, tips, notes, doodles, and anything that you wish to come back to (or not) in the future. It is an excellent way to not just keep track of the things you need to address in the future, but also to reflect on the mistakes you’ve made in the past.
Some of the best developers fail to document the progress they have made and often find it difficult to see how far they have come from when they started. This majorly hampers their productivity and is one of the biggest mistakes that developers can make early on in their careers. Rado states that journaling is what really helps him during the lows of his career and going through his previous entries often gives him a morale boost. There’s a bunch of free resources out there that’ll help you do this and the only thing stopping you from writing is well…YOU!

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Go big, or go home, right?

As Ernest Hemmingway said, one should not mistake motion for action. Action has a discernable impact; motion just is. Each of us in the developer community wants to make an impact with the code we write. Real change is but seeing something you worked hard at, make life simpler for someone else. For us to achieve that, it is important that we focus on our mental resources, and make the best of the time we had. Remember when Steve Jobs wore the same black turtleneck every day – one less decision to make, one more ounce of mental strength preserved.

I hope you learned as much from Rado as I did. I have learned a lot from my conversations with the stalwarts of the coding world on Codecast, and I hope you will find some inspiration from these greats. Do listen, and if there are other ways that you use to maximize your productivity please do let me know!

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