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Cover image for What is the most challenging part of your daily work that doesn't involve coding?

What is the most challenging part of your daily work that doesn't involve coding?

practicingdev profile image Practicing Developer ・1 min read

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kylefilegriffin profile image
Kyle Griffin

Getting a proper night of sleep. One would say "But that's not work related", but my energy levels and productivity are severely affected if I tank at 2pm as opposed to 4-5pm.
So the most challenging part is maintaining a flow state and alertness to handle the many different tasks in the day.

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Stu Finn

I struggled with this as well for years. The biggest boost for me on this front was cutting caffeine out. No more midday energy drops and my sleep is higher quality over all.

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nombrekeff profile image
Manolo Edge

Good point, this is a big factor in getting a good night sleep, If I consume caffeine after 14:00 AM I can't fall asleep until 1:00-2:00 PM, in contrast, when I don't take caffeine I fall asleep around 11:30-12:00 PM

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Kyle Griffin

I find a coffee timed correctly in the morning perks you up so you're at a good and maintainable energy level sooner in the day. For me, that is about 9 or 10am. Any later and the code on the screen at 3pm starts looking like Russian!

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Sleep is super important, and so many healthy and unhealthy habits at home depend greatly on what the work day looks like.

For me, tracking my sleep actively and then working very carefully to improve my morning and evening routines helped a lot.

The better I slept, the less problems I had in my work which stressed me out. The less stressed out I was, the better I slept. It can be a virtuous or vicious cycle, depending on the choices you make!

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Ivan Almasi

Have you tried Polyphasic Sleep? When practised correctly, your body accommodates to certain sleeping times, making it easier to fall asleep, need less sleep while also getting higher quality sleep.

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Manolo Edge

Totally agree, this is something I tell my colleagues! Sleeping is really important. If you don't rest the brain at night, why would he help you in the daytime?

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Sumant H Natkar

I think the daily part of my life which is most challenging besides programming is keeping myself motivated to exercise everyday, be that walking for an hour or training with weights.

It's so much easy just to sit on couch, after coming from office, but I have to really push through this, to do my workout.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Ah, yeah!

For me, walking while listening to audio books or music is where I got started in building a healthy habit.

Then later on, I started adding in exercise-oriented video games (Just Dance, Fitness Boxing, Ring Fit Adventure), because those were things I could do even if the weather outside was bad, and I actually found it pretty fun to see progress over time on them.

Exercise is so helpful to all aspects of life, and I overlooked it for far too long.

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Manolo Edge

Definitely, this has been one of the most important things I've done as a developer, I've noticed a big difference regarding mental health when exercising regularly.

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Alex Gurr

I agree with Ivan below. You want to be at the point where exercise is a habit/routine, so much so that you actually 'enjoy' it. Soon as you enjoy it becomes much easier. I currently work 40 hour weeks and exercise 6 times a week for around an hour each day.

Maybe you just haven't found the right activity? Consider taking up a sport, such as tennis? Swimming? Running? I even found myself taking up ping pong lessons for while which was a surprising burn!

Exercising (especially in the morning) will make you feel more awake during the day, allow you to sleep more easily at night and give you a faaaaabulous bod 💪🤩

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Ted Ngeene

yeah, I cannot recommend exercising enough. I normally have a one and a half-hour workout schedule, at least 4 times a week. One hour for a run and a 30-minute cardio workout to relieve me from the hassle of staring at a computer screen most of the time. There's this notion that as software developers we have to conform to a certain isolated lifestyle in the basement or holed up somewhere writing code all day. But this shouldn't be the case. Exercising also helps as I get to introspect during that hour-long run and keep my feet on the ground(literally ;) )

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Ivan Almasi

Best way to keep exercising is to create a habit. You form a habit after three weeks of doing something, so then it should be easier to follow.
Also, it is much easier when you exercise with someone, so you might want to include a family member or friend.

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JD Gonzales

I'd say that organizing work for a team of 3+ is challenging. We have 2 week long sprints and so ensuring everyone has enough to work on in the next sprint is something that's a daily task. Also, breaking work down for a project for other developers is difficult as well and a skill in of itself you don't hear about much. Thinking in terms of work streams presents the biggest hurtle in that whole thing.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Ah yes, I've had to do my share of planning out work for others over the years.

What I've found to work is to start accepting the idea that planning needs to happen at various levels of granularity over longer time scales, because constantly trying to groom the backlog on a two week cadence just doesn't work. This is especially the case when you run into unknowns, whether it is something being much easier than expected, much harder than expected, or just blocking because of some external issue outside of the team.

Have you seen the Shape Up process from Basecamp? It's something you'd probably need to adjust a bit to fit your situation, but it's full of interesting ideas that may help.

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JD Gonzales

Thanks for the suggestion about Shape Up, I'll definitely check it out.

Yeah moving planning to a more macro structure is definitely something I'm learning to do.

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Mark Williamson 🇨🇦

For me it's definitely the people aspect of the job that's the most challenging. I can zone in and program for hours and days on end but dealing with people takes away all my energy.

I often find myself having to work really hard to "sell" my ideas when, in my head, I don't think I should have to work so hard at that. I try to pick the ideas that will benefit the corporation as a whole but yet I still have to convince people. The amount of resistance I'm met with baffles my brain. A lot of "old-timers" at my corporation that are very scared of shifting the way we do business.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

The book To Sell Is Human is really good on this topic.

Another good one is Switch.

But if you're trying as best as you can and still can't change things for the better, thinking about whether or not the environment you're in is right for you long term would be a good idea.

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Mark Williamson 🇨🇦

Good advice, I will check out those reads.
The place I'm at is good for now but I have definitely asked myself the question many times whether or not I can make change in the long term. The jury is still out on that but I will keep trying.

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Practicing Developer Author

I run a tiny web development shop that I occasionally work alongside subcontractors at, but it mostly depends on me to keep things moving.

In this setting, the most challenging thing has been sequencing and selecting work across multiple unrelated clients/projects, while also leaving time in the schedule for personal and business development.

Within the scope of a single client's work (and especially within a single project), it's pretty easy to draw a circle around a bunch of related items so that progress on one thing benefits several other things. When it comes to cutting across project/client boundaries, it becomes a lot more complicated. It's also hard to have the self-control to find a stopping point when you're down in the weeds on something even though it is important to do so in order to stay responsive to everyone else's needs.

I have gotten a lot better at this over the years, but it seems like it's still the biggest bottleneck for me in terms of daily work challenges.

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Najeeb Rifaat

Big thank you, very honest and i do feel the crunch, it is very much about pacing yourself but not feeling left-out

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Absolutely.

Usually I like to flip this question around and get a measure of importance and urgency before trying to discuss how long something might take, and even then I tend to favor not giving time estimates but instead focusing on prioritization.

Because in truth, for anything we're asked to do, there can be a 1000x difference in the total time cost (and more importantly, the time-to-ship) depending on scope, access to the supporting people + resources we need, budget, and "All the other work-in-progress / planning work."

There's a good two minute video about cost of delay that may be helpful in thinking about and communicating about these issues, may be worth checking out:

vimeo.com/101506552

If you tell me more specific details about your situation, I may be able to offer some other ideas as well.

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Sloan, the sloth mascot
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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Carving out slack time in the schedule is the most helpful tool in avoiding the feeling of being excessively rigid about prioritization.

This isn't intuitive so it's easy to get wrong, and what is particularly unintuitive is to what extend on-demand planning and analysis actually eats away at the available time to get stuff done.

(This is by contrast to prescheduled and explicitly accounted for planning time, which is a generally a good thing)

A while back I wrote an article on overproduction which aims to help make this issue more understandable... but when in a crunch, it's hard to change minds for sure.

Looking out on longer and longer time scales seems to help. It can be easier to free up slack with decisions that will kick in beyond the current overcommitted cycle than it is to convince people to take immediate action on the spot.

But it's indeed an infinite game, not something that can be solved once and then promptly forgotten about. 😀

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Corey McCarty

Dealing with people that after many years on the project still don't understand how things work.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

How good is your documentation? Are there well-structured training programs set up in your work?

(These are the first two questions I'd dig into, and for the first one, I wrote an article on a process for improving documentation that works pretty well without requiring a huge up-front time investment)

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Corey McCarty

I'll take a look thanks

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Alex Gurr

For me it's managing 'up'. It's overcoming ridiculous business expectations and deadlines. It's trying to work in an agile team within a waterfall business. It's the frustration when the business doesn't allow me and my team to do things 'the right way'.

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Kim Sean Pusod

fighting procastination

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

I still struggle with this at times, but realized a good amount of this was due to anxiety/depression issues for me and working on treating those issues improved my ability to focus and get things done quite a bit.

(It can always be improved and there are good days and bad days, but I wish I had recognized it was related to some underlying problems sooner in life and worked on those issues sooner)

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imrj

eating garbage, not preparing meals, eating the easiest junk to grab.....

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Doing meal prep in batches on days where you are less busy, and finding a handful of dishes that you can easily assemble from a handful of base ingredients you keep stocked goes a long way.

It is hard to build the habit, but pays off greatly when you can stick to it, and is easy to follow once you find a repeatable menu that works for you.

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imrj

I know man, at the root of it is stress and lazyness....i can feel when am more distressed doing something simple feels like moving a mountain... Stress is our biggest enemy on this field

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

These books might help:

(They are all available as audio books if you don't have time or energy to sit and read, and they're all helpful)

But based on their ideas, and as a suggestion for one tiny step you could take on this, think of one very simple healthy snack you could pack that'd take almost no effort to prep. Could be an apple or a banana. Or a small thing of veggie sticks or whole wheat crackers and some hummus.

Start having that as a snack whenever you're hungry first, before going to grab junk. See if that helps get you started, and build from there.

The better you eat (and the easier you make it), the less stressed you'll be.

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Jan Küster

The way from home to the bus from bus to train from train to tram from tram to office and the same reversed after work.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Any luck asking for 1-2 work from home days per week?

Beyond that... I guess that gives you some time to try to enjoy the commute as best as you can, whether that is listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc... or doing something else that's interesting in the downtime as best as you can.

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Jan Küster

Yeah I have 2 days home office, which is really awesome. The challenging in my case is, that the time within each part of this chain is too short to really settle for the moment and to long to just wait and do nothing.

However, as you already pointed out, podcasts are really great and articles of 10min are a good fit there. Beyond that it is really hard to work on something, which is why I added it to "not involves code" ;-)

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Anzelika

As someone 3 months in their first web dev internship, it's still very challenging to relearn everything I know about work productivity. I have a call centre background, so my worth as an employee was very clearly calculated in the amount of calls/e-mails I handle per hour. Now, as a developer, it's actually hard to consider myself working if I watch a tutorial or only write a few lines of code by the end of the day, after spending hours just researching the concept. I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night thinking "Oh, tomorrow I'll do more lines, or what if they think I'm just wasting time" etc etc. It's hard to just "chill" and accept that my work style is just as valid, and developer work value!= lines of code.

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derek

emails 👎🏽

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Since the start of this year, I've been taking the approach of "No replies to non-urgent emails before 3pm" and it has been a huge win for me.

I also got back in the habit of aiming for Inbox Zero twice a day, not at all with the goal of replying to all emails or acting on them, but getting anything to be done recorded elsewhere so that I wouldn't keep going back into my email and using it as a TODO list.

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John Pham

Finding the right people for answers

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

This is a very real and often underestimated challenge!

One thing I'm working on for a client is meant to solve this in large orgs by building a relationship map that ties together people, work, and goals and lets you see what is connected to what.

But even in tiny companies, this is always a challenge. At the smaller scale, some checklist type documentation that helps people figure out "Who to go to talk to about what" which then gets refined over time to fill in the various gaps can help somewhat.

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John Pham

I'd be interested in hearing how you're tackling this.

At my current company, our org tree has a field where the employee can enter what they work on but most people don't do it or the data there is stale.

It always ends up being a game of human routers.

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

That is exactly the problem this particular client is working on.

Unfortunately this stuff is all currently in active development and hasn't been publicly released yet, so I'm limited in what I can share at the moment. ☹️

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Dave Horan

Prioritize

Working at a startup, you wear a lot of hats. Because of this, trying to focus on one thing at a time becomes more and more difficult. To combat this, prioritization is essential. However, because individual tasks can be very interrelated or interdependent, prioritizing can be one of the most difficult things to tackle, IMHO.

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Django Janny

Understanding and being understood. AKA communication :)

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practicingdev profile image
Practicing Developer Author

Absolutely. There's no limit to how much investment is worth putting in here, as our work is to a large extent applied communication in the domain of human problem solving.

A big list of books that help with that:

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Carl-W

Communication between the teams.

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SHJordanSLIM

Getting there... i have to drive 15km to my work daily. I work at home thurdays and fridays. Other than that... the daily coffee break.

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Will Velida

Doing things that keep my fresh and happy. I manage to get to the gym at least 5 times a week, but I do struggle with the sleep as a consequence.

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mrCount

how to explain people to connect their hips into punches. ohh and cleaning the apartment.

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Rogue Halo

Getting out of Bed. Cause it leads to turning up late lol.