Developer Productivity: The Art of Saying No

Staying productive is hard. Especially as a developer.

It takes time to get in the zone, and once you’re there, it’s easy to get pulled out. You have…

  • Meetings
  • Email
  • Features to build, bugs to fix

These are all things competing for your attention. Left unchecked you’re left with no time to get anything done.

The secret: Say “no” to all the things.

Here’s how we do it.

Meetings: Only on Thursday

Meetings kill productivity. Over time we’ve noticed there’s an invisible 45 minute padding around every meeting. Even innocent 15 minute Skype calls.

When you know you have a meeting in 45 minutes, it’s hard to start anything significant. And it’s equally hard to immediately jump into a big problem right after getting off a call or out of a meeting. It takes time to ramp up to a state of flow.

Paul Graham has a great post introducing the concept of a “Maker’s schedule” vs. “Manager’s schedule”.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.

Managers view their schedule as small chunks of time and schedule meetings throughout the day. This is incompatible with how developers (makers) operate. Makers need long periods of uninterrupted time to get things done.

Here’s what we do to stay on the maker’s schedule as much as possible:

  • Morning stand-ups. Less than 15 min.
  • Weekly sprint planning. 60 min over Monday lunch.
  • All other meetings on Thursdays, only.
Developer Productivity: The Art of Saying No 1

We decided that our #1 priority is to focus on our product and customers.

Email: Only after 5:20pm

Inbox zero is something I love. There’s nothing more satisfying than having no more todos for the day (and let’s face it, your inbox is a giant todo list).

The problem with inbox zero is it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it.

To solve this I use a combination of tools:

Coding: Do one thing per day

As a startup there are about 20 things you can do in a day, and all of them feel like productive work and could mean a huge step forward for the product and the company.

But if none of them get done, you have failed.

So instead of having a list of 20 todos every day that will most likely never get done, we have just 1. We call our single task for the day our P1 of the day.

This is what hyper-focus looks like. You have one goal for the day, that’s it. It’s extremely liberating.

Come join us at Localize. We’re hiring!

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