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Pavel Polívka
Pavel Polívka

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The best developer productivity hacks to master

In general, I consider myself a productive person. I usually manage to complete a lot of things per day. I read a lot of articles and books about how to increase your productivity and adopted few techniques that help me a lot. In this article, I will go over them, describe the technique, how it helps me and what I use to implement it.

This is not an orderer list.

Single goal

Every day I will set up a single goal for that day. The one thing I want complete. It does not have to necessarily be work-related, it should be the thing you spent most of your day doing.

For me, it usually is something like: "Finish this JIRA ticket." But it can be stuff like clean your house, etc...

If this is a work task I usually try to spend about 80% of my work time on this goal. Rest is spent on meetings, email, and other ad-hoc tasks.

Short bursts

This is also called the Pomodoro technique. The principle behind this is very simple. You set some time (20 minutes), start a timer, and focus on a single unit of work during that time. You will not answer email, chat, phone, etc.. you work on a task that you want to advance. I try to fit as many of these as possible into my day. Not just into my workday.

Every time I complete an interval I follow it with a short break.

There is a lot of timer apps that can be used. I mostly use Forest but you can use anything you like.

Conquer email and chat

The biggest problem for my at the beginning was not to answer to email and or chat message right away. You see those notifications during your work session and it's super easy to just open Outlook and reply. The first step for me was to considerably disable notifications. I regularly open Outlook and Slack to skim through messages if there is something important that needs my immediate attention. I usually do it after every work session, not a lot of things are that important that it cannot wait 20 minutes.

Twice a day I dedicate more time to deal with the rest of it.

Say NO

This was big to me as well. I tend to please everyone so I was naturally saying yes to most of the requests that came my way. This way you get a lot of things to do and it will distract you from the main goal of the day.

Normalize saying NO. Do not be mean about tho. If you do not have time right now, just say NO. Most people will not be mad at you, they are the ones asking. It's perfectly ok to say no to your manager as well, maybe explain that you have a lot on your plate right now. They may ask somebody else or reassign some of your other work if the new one is really important. Everything is always possible to discuss.

Quick tasks

When going through email or chat I have a rule if the required task to complete the action on the mail (can be a reply) takes less than 2 minutes I do it right now and then. This way you do not have a long TODO list filled with quick-to-complete tasks. This is one of those things that seem minor but increase your productivity a lot.

TODO list

TODO list is essential to me. I am not using any apps or other technology I am a pen and paper guy. I have a list of things to do, every day I circle my main goal of the day. When the task is done I cross it. When my paper is full I copy incomplete items to a new sheet.

I am adding stuff throughout the day, mainly after email/chat sessions.

You can use any app or whatever technique works for you, but keeping a list of stuff that needs to be done is essential.

No multitasking

Multitasking kills productivity. When you are trying to do multiple things at once you usually do all of them halfway only. When you are working with the Pomodoro technique do always just one thing in your interval. If you need multiple intervals to finish your task try to limit the intervals with other work to as few as possible.

Done is better than perfect

The "done is better than perfect" sentence was something that made me mad the first time one of our managers wrote it on our whiteboard with big letters. I want my work to be perfect, with no compromising. Over time I figure out that this is good for us. Let's finish our work and worry about theoretical edge cases when they become a thing. Do not spend weeks finishing that one feature that almost nobody will use just because you think it's super cool to do.

For more awesome tips like this please follow me on Twitter.

Top comments (2)

jschleigher profile image
James Schleigher

Great tips, Pavel!
I think it is also essential to take breaks between tasks to avoid burnout. I use Quire to keep track of my tasks and set reminders to remind me to take a break.

pavel_polivka profile image
Pavel Polívka


Yes breaks are very important.

I will definitely take a look at Quire. Thanks.