Guest Column | December 7, 2015

Do Less, Work Better: 3 Efficiency Tips For Developers

By Howard Diamond, CEO, MobileDay

Skills Mobile Developers Need To Succeed

Mobile devices, cloud computing, analytics: These are the trends that are radically changing the way the business world operates, giving them new opportunities to enhance performance and function more efficiently. At the same time, they’re putting strain on the developers who make innovation possible through increased pressure to constantly create new, innovative tools that will help customers keep pace.

It’s important to think about how to please end users, since after all, they’re the ones who keep the lights on at the end of the day. But when there are a variety of factors making life difficult for developers — compounded by the image put out by high profile Silicon Valley developers who wear their obscenely long hours as a badge of honor — it’s worth putting some real thought into tactics to improve the situation.

Ultimately you want to do less while working better. Here are three steps to make that possible:

  1. Implement DevOps Practices. The DevOps methodology is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. By automating standard business operations, developers can remove a great deal of administrative tedium. For example, application developers can experience significant benefits from automating crash reporting, which identifies technical problems that must be addressed. So instead of recognizing both problems and solutions, they only have to focus on the latter once the complications have been brought to their attention.

There are many automation tools on the market such as Puppet and Chef, two popular configuration management platforms that maintain all the critical information related to a computer network, which can contribute to streamlining workflows and keeping developers organized. Ultimately, it’s about reserving your talent for the situations that truly require expertise. JumpCloud has started a revolution with their hosted directory offer which totally changes the authentication game.

  1. Avoid Decision Fatigue. Creating a software or application from scratch requires constant decision-making about everything from security protocols to the aesthetics of the user interface. This perpetual scrutiny may not seem like a problem, but it is. “Decision fatigue” burns out employees, leaving them unable to focus on putting plans into action due to the amount of time spent evaluating results and determining next steps. And what’s the point of making all those decisions if you ultimately can’t do anything productive with them?

One measure developers can take to overcome the challenge of decision fatigue is delegating to colleagues when appropriate. The types of tasks that a senior engineering lead might delegate include design decisions in code writing or monitoring the analytics associated with the application’s function.

But in order to do this, it is crucial to feel confident in your team so when you allow someone else to take the reins on any given project, you can devote your full attention to bigger decisions that require your energy and expertise.

  1. Practice Mindfulness: An abstract concept? Maybe. But effective, nonetheless. Because of the nature of their work, developers frequently suffer from “device-dependency”— the overwhelming compulsion to stay connected — constantly checking their phones, tablets or computers for new emails, updates, and alerts. Even if you’re out of the office, being online can create more anxiety.

For those statistically-minded folks, there’s plenty of data to back this up. Studies about the correlation between being overworked and sacrificing work-life balance show that while the average attention span was 12 seconds in 2000, it has decreased by over 30 percent to 8 seconds in 2014. Workers are attempting to compensate for that loss of focus by working upwards of 30 extra hours a month, resulting in even more burnout. This is obviously a flawed strategy as the US currently spends $300 billion annually to combat workplace stress.

This is where practicing mindfulness come into play. Whether it’s through refraining from checking email outside of standard work hours, silencing phones when possible to eliminate anxiety-inducing notifications, or fully embracing holidays and vacations to take time to recharge, these seemingly simple changes can help developers put a dent in combatting stress and create an accelerated workplace in the long-term.

Make The Investment, See The Results

Ultimately, technology is only as successful as the developers behind it, so doing everything possible to ensure an organization’s staff is able to work as efficiently and confidently as possible is the best way to guarantee results. Considering the positive impact this has both on employee morale and customer relations, professionals should make it a priority to reflect upon their day-to-day operations and determine how they can reduce “busyness” to ultimately increase effectiveness. While implementing DevOps practices, taking steps to avoid decision fatigue and embracing mindfulness may seem like a lot of effort upfront, it’s difficult to argue their effectiveness in the end. Even so, not everyone will take the time to break out of the busyness mold, but doing so will put you a step ahead.