Save Time and Accomplish More By Thinking Like a Software Developer

There’s always a ton I want to learn and create, but I often feel like there’s not enough time to get everything done.

I began looking for ways to complete more of what I start and came across a productivity course where I heard this quote:

“Elon Musk has the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else.”

It was one of those moments where something glaringly obvious clicks, and your whole perspective shifts. Realizing entrepreneurs like Elon Musk were allocating their time in a more efficient way than I was, propelled my search even more.

I was looking for a specific tool or system to organize my activities and ultimately get more done, quicker.

That’s when I came across something called Agile.

A group of developers met in the Wasatch Mountains about 20 years ago and left with a 68-word Manifesto and 12 principles known as Agile.

Agile is designed to help software developers deliver results quickly and reliably — but the principles apply to more than code.

My take on the principles:

I have these posted on the wall behind my desk. Visuals reminders are key in Agile methodologies, and when I don’t feel like doing work, they provide a good reminder.

If you’re struggling with procrastination and task management, use these or make your own set of principles by which you can agree to work. Try to follow them for a day. See how it goes.

Around the same time I started researching, I was watching Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is a comedy about a coder and his startup’s many ups and downs.

During one of those downs, the team was getting distracted with a deadline looming. The organizer of the bunch presents them with an Agile methodology called Scrum.

You can check out the clip here — but Scrum is a system used to prioritize and complete tasks in short cycles.

Scrum’s basis came when its founder, John Sutherland, noticed an increase in productivity after creating a bulletin board signaling the tasks to be completed for his underperforming team. The visual aspect allowed teams to see what was holding them back.

The theory that makes scrum work falls on three pillars:

  • Transparency: You can visibly see each task.
  • Inspection: You monitor progress every day.
  • Adaptation: You accept that things don’t always go as planned and change course.

The main event of Scrum is the sprint. A sprint is a timeframe, usually not longer than a month, where agreed upon tasks are completed. When planning the sprint, tasks are put up on a board for everyone to see. During the sprint, completed tasks are placed in the done column.

At the start of every day, there is a Daily Scrum meeting.

Everyone must answer these three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments in your way?

Ask yourself these questions at the start of each day.

The intention is to monitor your progress and provide accountability to complete the tasks you have committed to in the time frame.

My next discovery was something called Kanban.

It’s an Agile methodology that emphasizes constant workflow rather than the fixed timeframes of Scrum.

The primary tool is called a Kanban board, which allows you to track a task to completion visually. Kanban boards are often used alongside Scrum.

Kanban places a high focus on getting tasks out of your head and onto paper. This process allows you to visualize the next steps, focus on the task at hand, and work in a flow state.

Seeing everything in front of me motivates me to drop each task into completed. I feel less stressed as the tasks fade. I can see the steps ahead without feeling pressured to complete everything at once.

If you have an ever-evolving to-do list, try putting it down in one of these digital tools: Notion.so or Trello.

The last step in my journey was learning how to deal with distractions.

There are a ton of distractions.

Everywhere.

This next technique was born during its creator Francesco Cirillo’s first college exams. He was getting distracted and needed a way out.

What started as a self-imposed 10-minute challenge to see if he could study without distraction turned into The Pomodoro Technique®, a worldwide productivity method.

This technique consists of setting a timer and working for a distraction-free period of 25 minutes, known as a Pomodoro. Cirillo initially used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, but you can use your phone timer. It fits perfectly alongside many different methods, including Agile.

Towards the end of my research, I found another Elon Musk quote that brought everything full circle.

“I’ve actually not read any books on time management.”

It was a friendly reminder that you don’t have to understand why things work. You have to start testing.

The system I created is a mixture of different principles and methods:

Step 1: Create Activity Backlog

Step 2: Reflect on yesterday and plan today.

Step 3: Do the work.

Step 4: Monitor your progress

I’ve found recording and analyzing my data to be helpful in my productivity.

I’m able to see when specific projects, like writing, are taking me longer than expected. Reviewing tells me where I’m slowing down.

If you want to find fit more into your schedule, tracking how much time something takes is a great place to start.

How to make (and stick to) your system:

Practice like you would anything else. From experience, I know it’s easy to fall short with tasks by implementing too many fancy systems.

Start with a barebones design.

Write down everything you need to do this week. Figure out how you want to display the tasks.

If something doesn’t work, figure out why. Plan it differently the next day.

Don’t worry about following guidelines.

Pomodoro’s creator suggests completing activities in four 25 minute periods, with a 5-minute break in between each. I don’t find a set of four to increase my productivity, so I don’t do that.

You don’t have to be developing software to use Agile, put these systems in action by starting.

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Benjamin Etzold

Benjamin Etzold

I’m learning how to write meaningful content, this will be a process.