Note: A first part of this post is available here: Time management tips for a happy developer - part 1
In the first post, I have written few tips that help me organize my time better. It took me a while to finalize a second post, still here are my few tips and tricks!
Consider declining some meetings and do not work in a background
Nothing is worse than waisting a time in a meeting we do not need to attend. It is pretty difficult to stay focused in such a meeting therefore it is tempting to do things in the background. Yet, this is not productive as our brains operate on a single core, and frankly speaking, we do not attend the call nor can accomplish anything significant in the background. It is just better to decline such meetings. Sometimes it is not possible or can be considered rude but we can always start small and probe the corporate environment.
Leave a buffer between meetings
If you have power over scheduling meetings, always leave a buffer between them. Running from one meeting to another can be stressful, same as the drastic context switching. If it is not possible, sometimes it is just better to be late.
Have a meeting agenda and desired results upfront
If you organize a meeting, always send the agenda. Demand it also from people who invite you. It is pretty easy for a meeting to get off track and the agenda helps to maintain its purpose. Most of the meetings should also end with a conclusion. Also, it is good to take notes in the meeting - why remember something if we can just note it?
Have an “uber” tool for the work and personal life - and put all “garbage” there
Having a tool that allows us to note and search quickly is a life-saver. I think the most important aspects are:
- The speed of taking notes - we shall be able to put anything in a matter of seconds
- Search - we shall be able to search all our notes in milliseconds
It is good to put all useful information both in our work and personal life to such tool. Even something that we do not consider that important at the time, like cool ideas, thoughts, etc. Later on, with a fast search, we can recall anything without any effort. A phone to a restaurant? URL? Whatever? You get it back immediately and effortlessly. It is maybe even more important to keep all work-related items in a corporate notes tool. It can get handy in those “hot moments” when you have to get the URL, a name, a procedure right now. Personally, I love Google Keep for my private notes (fast, free, good search) and MS OneNote for work notes. Notion is also extremely powerful but I think it is better to build detailed KBs than putting all garbage there.
Declutter your mailbox with rules. Depending on the company and the position, the number of emails can significantly differ, still, lots of them can be filtered out and placed in dedicated folders. Few rules can save several minutes every day to get through all emails. The only thing to keep in mind is to be aware of them even after a long time. Just to not miss “this time” important emails placed in a folder somewhere in oblivion.
Learn a scripting language to automate mundane tasks. It can be Bash, Python, or whatever else that does the job. One simple script after some time will save us from hundreds or thousands of repeatable tasks. One additional benefit - we get better in the language when we write these scripts!
Automate your backups
Automating backups is yet another idea that can save some time and make our life easier. There are dedicated tools to do backups in every platform (I like i.e. FolderSync for Android) but sometimes even a simple cron entry can be sufficient. There are two dangers of this approach we have to be aware of:
- A manual process is still more reliable if done properly. We have to monitor our automation scripts if they still work after some time
- If the script misbehaves, it can damage our backup. We need to test scripts thoroughly first. Still, if scripts are done right, we have yet another thing to do less.
Documentation - automate your answers
Writing good documentation can save us from lots of questions and explanations. We can just point to a proper knowledge base page and voila!
Transfer your configuration
Maintain your IDE configuration in a version control system. This applies to every app that it takes some effort to configure. If the app can export the configuration or sync it with the cloud, go with that approach. It’s better to do things once than from time to time:)
Templating (words and whole messages)
Sometimes we need to use long phrases or whole sentences over and over. Just to use a tool like AutoKey that will type the whole sentence for us after pressing a few “fire” keys (i.e. tfyr -> Thank you for the response, etc.). Automating few sentences like that can spare some time while replying to emails. Small benefit, but still. Apart from that, mastering a keyboard is just awesome. I described that in this post: Dev tips no. 2 - type faster!
Be imperfect (make things better over time)
Doing things as well as possible is generally a wrong approach. Usually, “good enough” is enough. It is sometimes tempting to improve things over and over, especially if the results can be a subject of criticism. I am personally pretty fragile in terms of criticism but I know I have to live with that somehow. It is far easier with this in mind to do things just good enough and use the remaining time to accomplish something different. Or just relax.
Asking questions is an incredible time-saver. Why spend time investigating things alone if we can just ask smarter people around? It requires humility but overall pays off significantly. A socializing aspect is just yet another by-product of asking questions.
Audiobooks and a faster playback speed
I love reading books but doing so requires having a dedicated amount of time every day. Audiobooks solve this issue perfectly. I can listen to a book while doing anything else that does not require mental work. Setting a faster playback (like 1.3, 1.5, or even more in some cases) allows finishing a book much faster. A double gain.
Read/listen multiple books
I think it is also a good idea to start a couple of books at the same time. One that requires a mental effort and the “easier” one. We can switch between those books depending on our mood and available brain horse-power. Sometimes reading a difficult book can be discouraging when we are tired but a more relaxing one will just fit in.
Turning things into habits
When we repeat things, sooner or later they will become our habits. We can apply this law to anything beneficial for us. By starting small with little repeatable steps, we can turn actions into habits - and automate the automation :)
Do nothing and stop thinking
Doing nothing from time to time is a great booster of our productivity. The challenge is to remain calm in that time and stop thinking. The good news is with a small practice it becomes easier.
… and just not get crazy :)
There are thousands of books and even more similar posts with more tips and tricks on how to save time. The above tips work for me. Still, there is a danger in using these pieces of advice like these. Once we squeeze the time and gain a bit more, we often put other activities there. We should not if we do not want to become crazy in the long run. Constantly searching for an improvement, controlling a calendar, habits, automation, organizing our life is a highway to hell. If we try to find a way to manage our time better, it should just pay off with more time for us, our families, and our hobbies.
Thanks! If you have any good advice that helped you, please share it with me!