Are you looking to make 2020 your most productive, most fulfilling year yet?
If your work output took a backseat in 2019, there is no better time than right now to improve it.
Learning how to optimize productivity can do wonders for us. It opens doors to higher salaries, it saves a HUGE amount of time, and the work becomes immensely satisfying.
Give your debugger a well-deserved break and start 2020 with a bang! Take a quick peek at these seven scientifically proven and effective strategies for becoming a highly productive programmer:
- Mindfulness Meditation
- HIIT Training
- Prioritizing Sleep
- Binaural Beats
- Pomodoro Timer
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is not just a New Age fad.
A simple google search will reveal a parade of articles and studies emphasizing the benefits.
Meditation is a discipline that involves focusing your attention on a particular object, such as the breath for a set time. By doing so, we are developing the capacity to notice when we are becoming distracted so that we can return our attention to a given task more often.
React less, do more
As software developers, we are likely to encounter many problems such as clients changing their minds about a particular project, vital systems breaking down and dealing with the ever-increasing workload.
Like most people, we naturally default to reacting with frustration which is counterproductive and has a negative impact on those around us. By engaging in short meditative practices, we cultivate the ability to shrug off the stress and bring our attention back to what’s essential – writing high-quality code.
Develop a sharp unwavering focus
Every experienced developer understands just how critical focused attention on a given task is. Meditation allows us to slip into a flow state more often and experience the “coding buzz” of writing solutions to complex problems.
If you are distracted by whats going on in the office or constantly worrying about your boss looking over your shoulders, You are not working at your full potential!
Access higher cognitive functions
It’s easy to get lost in the debugger rabbit hole and end up surfing Stackoverflow for hours trying to find a solution that is right under your nose. Meditation allows us to think more creatively and come up with unique solutions to these problems much more effectively, saving time and frustration.
To get started check out the ultimate guide to meditation for programmers.
Have you seen the Limitless film by Bradley Cooper? What if there is a magic pill you could pop and instantly solve all your problems?
Well, I won’t delude you into thinking Nootropics is a panacea.
There is a chance that they may not work at all!
I was skeptical just like you. I kept an open mind and tried them out anyway, I invested time and money. Eventually, I figured out my own unique stack. Now I am able to produce quality work 15-20% quicker and even after a long hard day I still have energy left in the tank.
Let’s face it, technology is evolving extremely fast. We use computers for virtually everything and they are becoming increasingly difficult to develop and maintain. Even a slight increase in mental cognition can give us the edge we need to keep up. The mind is powerful and you are using it every day. The question is, are you making the best use of it?
If you’re a regular coffee drinker then you know what I am talking about. That jolt of caffeine gets you going like a toddler on cocaine. Despite the benefits, caffeine carries many side effects, namely jitteriness and the inevitable energy crash. Luckily, I have discovered a way to circumvent this issue.
Consider L-theanine. A cheap but powerful non-protein amino acid which works to balance out the effects of caffeine and provides us with a calming effect. L-theanine is a natural nootropic.
Now you can enjoy a good cuppa without the super spikes and the sudden crashes which leave you feeling sluggish and tired. This is just one example of the many benefits you could get from nootropics.
Nootropics can provide us with the cognitive boost we need to write better code faster and produce higher quality work. These substances can enhance cognition, memory and boost creativity rather effectively, given that you find the right stack which is unique to every individual based on their genetics. It’s worth experimenting with.
You may choose to buy and test Nootropics individually or get pre-made stacks from reputable online vendors. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
3. HIIT Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has gained popularity over the years mainly due to its effectiveness for enhancing cognition and physical performance. It involves exercising at around 80-90% of your maximum heart rate for a given time followed by short periods of rest.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m tired of constantly hearing about the benefits of exercise.”
I’m with you. Exercise is demanding, especially after a long day of work, that’s the last thing you want to do. But if you’re going to become a successful programmer, this is an absolute must!
We have evolved to move our bodies, yet most people neglect this part of their lives, and especially programmers. It is easy to become comfortable and sit behind a desk all day. However, as the body becomes inactive, so does the mind, thus it will become increasingly difficult to concentrate and stay motivated on a given task.
All you need is 20 minutes!
After training for over a decade, I believe all you need is a daily 20 minutes to get the desired effects that exercise has to offer. No equipment or gym membership required. Just a decent space to pump out some burpee jumps and the willingness to push yourself.
There is one particular by-product from HIIT which is worth considering if you want to code effectively and become smarter in general.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): A protein that grows new brain cells and increases our capacity for learning. Exercise and especially HIIT, do a great job at manufacturing this beast. It will literally re-wire your brain and rocket boost your long and short term memory, as well as concentration.
Microdosing involves taking small amounts of psychedelic substances for a given schedule. A typical dose is usually below the threshold, meaning that your perception of reality remains intact.
The effects are very subtle, which means that you can function through daily routines and work, just like before. The only difference now is that you may begin to experience enhanced creativity, increased productivity, and higher levels of awareness.
While writing this post, I was intrigued to find great studies on psychedelics and their ability to increase communication within the brain’s neural network. They also promote neurogenesis which is essential for the growth and development of brain cells.
However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t carry any risk. Despite their enormously safe and predictable track record, proceed with caution and take everything you read with a pinch of salt.
You might be surprised to read that Silicon Valley has a long history of psychedelic drug use to enhance creativity. And tech experts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have been using them to facilitate their inventions.
If you are a beginner programmer, I wouldn’t recommend microdosing just yet because you are already surfing that steep curve of learning and development. Having said that, advanced software developers may find it especially useful to bust through any plateaus.
I highly recommend checking out The Third Wave because of the wealth of research and practical suggestions they provide.
5. Prioritizing sleep
A legendary basketball coach John Wooden did not start with layups or defense. That was too far advanced. He started training by teaching his team how to tie their shoelaces properly!
Wooden became a master of identifying the stupidly simple and overlooked things and working on them, instead of the flashy stuff. He ended up winning the most consecutive games in basketball history.
John Wooden’s approach to training is simple and straightforward; get the foundation right first; everything else is secondary.
Getting a good night’s sleep should be our foundation. Our ability to function correctly and work at our full capacity stems from this. Get this wrong, and all the previously mentioned productivity hacks are doomed to fail.
Here are the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Inability to stay concentrated for extended periods
- Easily distracted and more likely to procrastinate on a given task
If you are using your mind to make an income, getting the right amount of sleep should be your top priority. Period. I highly recommend a book called “Why We Sleep” by a leading researcher named Mathew Walker. He is at the forefront of scientific research regarding sleep and the effects it has on our lives.
6. Binaural beats
As you are probably aware by now, the state of our brains directly affects how well we can code effectively and how quickly we can come up with solutions to problematic programming issues.
Your brain is producing brainwaves right now. A particular frequency is being generated. Different frequencies correspond to different emotional states. By using binaural beats we can hack and manipulate these frequencies to our own advantage.
Binaural beats generate sound frequencies to help the brain naturally shift into desired brain states. They produce two different tones at two different pitches in each ear, creating an “illusion” of a beat oscillating back and forth between each side of your head.
I do not claim that this technology will work for everyone. The scientific research is also not 100 percent. However, they have worked well for many other folks out there, including myself. Have an open mind to experiment.
7. POMODORO TIMER
The Pomodoro Technique is a significant time management method like no other. It utilizes a timer to break down work into segments of 25-30 minutes, followed by short rest periods.
When using the timer, the work you produce will be of higher quality, guaranteed! It is much easier to stay focused for a set time, knowing there’s a short break just around the corner – you are more likely to keep your attention intact. I use this technique all the time, and it works wonders.
Chris Winfield reveals just how effective this simple technique can be. A successful entrepreneur, coach, and writer uses the productivity hack for helping complete 40 hours of work only in 16.7 hours.
The instructions are as follows:
- Choose a task that you want to finish
- Set the timer for 25-30 min
- Hammer on the project and have a strong determination NOT be distracted.
- Take a short break of 5-10 minutes
- Repeat three more times and then take a more extended break of 20-30 minutes.
So here you go — seven powerful tips to hack your productivity and advance your career as a programmer. Better productivity equates to higher profits, which equates to better salaries. Which of these could you see yourself applying right now? I challenge you to keep an open mind and give them all a fair trial. If you liked this post, please share it with a friend. If you know any other great productivity hacks, please share them in the comment section below.