7 Essential Time Management Strategies For Developers - 7pace
Published:Feb 08, 2022

7 Essential Time Management Strategies For Developers

Time is a limited resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We can’t turn back time or make more time. To make the most of the time we have, we need to manage it effectively so we can do more of what matters in our personal and professional life.

But how? 

With so many different methods but no one-size-fits-all answer, effective time management is easier said than done.

Don’t worry, we have done the legwork for you. 

Let’s look at 7 time management essentials to help you become a more productive developer.

Why Should Software Developers Care About Time Management?

Why should you invest the effort into cultivating habits and setting up systems to manage your time? 

Improve Your Performance

Time management helps you allocate time for your most important tasks. When you follow a schedule, you don’t have to spend time and energy deciding what to do. Instead, you can focus on what matters and do it well.

Produce High-quality Work

The quality of your work will suffer if you’re constantly racing to meet deadlines. Time management helps you prioritize your tasks, so you can have enough time for each project to put in the effort and produce high-quality outcomes.

Meet Your Deadlines

Many software development teams have to work against tight timelines. Proper time management allows you to allocate enough time to meet each deadline. Planning ahead also helps you flag issues and mitigate risks early on.

Improve Team Collaboration

Meeting deadlines can help you collaborate effectively with others, especially if they have to wait for your output to start their tasks. Good time management helps you accurately estimate your time and communicate dependencies to your team.

Lower Your Stress

It’s easy to become anxious when you have a laundry of tasks without a plan of attack. Effective time management techniques can help you gain a bird’s-eye view of your to-do list, gain control, prioritize your tasks, and make a plan to complete what’s most important. 

Boost Your Reputation

When you produce high-quality work and meet your deadlines reliably, you become more valuable to your company and more respected by your peers. This can build your professional reputation and open up opportunities to grow your career.

Build Your Confidence

When you meet deadlines with high-quality output, you create a positive feedback loop that reinforces your sense of accomplishment and confidence. When you feel in control, you’ll be motivated to step up your game and take on new challenges.

Time Management Essentials For Software Developers

Follow these foundational time management strategies to gain control of your day and focus on tasks that move the needle:

1. Be Intentional About Your To-do List

Creating a to-do list is the foundation of many time management strategies. But just throwing anything but the kitchen sink onto your list may do more harm than good because it can make you feel overwhelmed and become distracted by unimportant tasks.

Be discerning and intentional when you make your to-do list. Don’t put easy but unimportant items on it just so you can cross them out (even if that feels good!) Make sure every task that makes it to your list will help you get closer to your goal. (Read on to see how to get the most of this list.)

2. Prioritize High-Value Activities

To start your day with a clear focus, you need to know what you need to accomplish. Figure out which tasks are of the highest value on your to-do list—they should have the most positive impact on you, your work, and your team—and make them your priority.

You can categorize your to-do list using the Covey time management matrix. Prioritize the urgent and important ones and delegate the urgent but unimportant ones. Make time for the important but not urgent activities—they are essential for accomplishing your long-term goals.

Covey time management matrix.

3. Minimize Distractions

Did you know that it takes 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption? Seemingly inconsequential short diversions, such as social notifications and colleagues popping in for a “quick chat,” can add up to a lot of lost productivity. 

Identify sources of distractions and put controls in place to eliminate them. For example, turn off notifications and allot an hour a day to tackle emails and social messages all at once. You can also block out time (e.g., 30 minutes twice a day) to handle quick conversations.

4. Do One Thing At a Time

Multitasking is the killer of productivity. Our brain can only focus on one activity at a time. When you think you’re doing different tasks simultaneously, you’re just switching between them very quickly — which means you aren’t concentrating on any one of them at all.

When you block out time on your calendar, dedicate each slot to a single task so you can stay focused. Allocating a specific amount of time to one task can give you some healthy pressure to get it done.

Budget time to do the tasks high on your priority list. Block out large chunks of time for important tasks (both urgent and not urgent) that require deep work. Then, fill the gaps with admin items such as emails, scheduling, and phone calls.

5. Battle Procrastination

Sometimes we need some external pressure to give us a kick in the behind. You can break up big hairy projects into smaller milestones to give yourself targets to hit. For example, schedule a check-in or presentation with your colleagues.

You can also “eat the frog” by tackling the hardest task (or the one you have been putting off) first thing in your day. Supercharge this technique by identifying the consequences of not completing these critical tasks on time.

eat the frog

6. Review Your Day

Spend five to ten minutes reviewing your task list at the end of each workday. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, and consider where your effort has fallen short. Reflect on what you need to do to make meaningful progress.

Then, take a few minutes to map out the next day. What are the most important tasks you’ll tackle first? What “urgent but unimportant” items on your to-do list can you delegate? How can you batch tedious items so you can minimize distraction? 

7. Schedule Time For Self Care

You can’t be productive if you’re sick. Investing the time to stay healthy is beneficial for your personal and professional life. When you feel rejuvenated physically and mentally, you can focus on your tasks, think clearly, and produce high-quality work.

As software developers, we work on computers all day. Improve your digital wellbeing by limiting your screen time, especially in the evening, and make sure you take time to wind down and relax to improve your sleep quality.

The Foundation To Successful Time Management: Track Your Time

What gets measured gets managed. If you want to manage your time more effectively, you must understand how you use your time. You must also know how long each task requires. Otherwise, you can plan all you want but still miss the mark.

Tracking your time and analyzing the data can give you insights to improve your time management strategies:

  • Stay on track and keep focused, so you can get more done in less time.
  • Identify time wasters and evaluate the most time-consuming tasks to see how you can spend your time more strategically.
  • Highlight inefficient processes and make targeted improvements.
  • Understand your productive patterns so you can schedule important tasks during the hours when you’re at your best.
  • Evaluate if you’re blocking out the right amount of time for each task.
  • Estimate your work accurately, so you can get better at planning your day and structuring your projects.

The good news is that time tracking doesn’t have to be tedious.

There are many time-tracking apps, but they aren’t created equal.

Use an app that can collect accurate and granular data by automatically associating the time you spend on each task with a work item. 

It should track your activities directly where you work (e.g., GitHub, Azure DevOps) so you don’t have to spend more time entering the information into another software.

7pace Timetracker is designed for developers by developers. You can measure work and track progress without jumping through the hoops. Also, you own your data. You can track all your projects in one place and gain insights into how you progress as a developer. 

Try 7pace today to get the insights you need to supercharge your time management techniques.

Free eBook

Rethinking Timekeeping for Developers:

Turning a Timesuck Into Time Well Spent

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