Top 5 time wasters for developers

Top 5 time wasters for developers

on Dec 1, 10 • by Patti Murphy • with 6 Comments

Time’s a precious resource, so the saying goes. Don’t waste it. That’s particularly true for developers, who live in the critical path lane. And if there’s someone who knows a lot about time management, it’s Russ Sherk, an intermediate developer here at Klocwork, and the father of three...

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Time’s a precious resource, so the saying goes. Don’t waste it. That’s particularly true for developers, who live in the critical path lane.

And if there’s someone who knows a lot about time management, it’s Russ Sherk, an intermediate developer here at Klocwork, and the father of three young ‘uns. Russ works on our Klocwork Review and Klocwork Inspect products and handles licensing.

For Russ, these are lessons learned over his six-year tenure at Klocwork.

“These are things you need to think about or you won’t progress as a developer,” he says.

Here’s what to do if you want to waste time:

1. Code without a plan

It’s easy to get carried away with ideas about cool features, Russ says. This is how you burn through the days–by doing a lot of things that don’t need to be done.

The fix: Classic agile philosophy. “You have a story. Then break it up into a list of features that must be done. You take those features and you break them down into tasks taking less than a day, Russ explains. A task taking two to four hours is optimal. The team here uses XPlanner for project/story/task management. You can always augment with pieces of paper.”

2. Switch tasks constantly

Mental switching eats up a lot of time because you need to evaluate where you were before you switched gears, and then go through it again when you switch back.

The fix: Get to a completion point before switching (if you can).

3. Take the idealistic approach to bad or “delicate” code

Inheriting problem code makes debugging and feature work more difficult and error prone, Russ says.

“It’s tempting to want to fix it all–but that will always set you back.”

The fix: Fix what you touch to the best of your ability. Schedule larger-scale refactoring and reorganization work separately.

4. Build infrequently

This strategy goes beyond the individual developer.  There was a time here when there were only weekly builds (Egad! Say it ain’t so!). Even 15 minutes per build slows you down, Russ says. The push by development managers for frequent builds has paid dividends.

“Now, I can go through a build process in 2-4 minutes,” Russ says. That translates into 10 to 15 builds a day.

The fix: Frequent build cycles allow you to make your changes, verify them, and handle bugs quickly.

5. Optimize early and over-engineer

This is the dark side of planning. Over-planning and perfectionism can be paralyzing.

The better approach is to keep it simple, he says.

The fix: Plan the bare minimum to get your feature working. After the feature is in place, it’s time to optimize and refactor.

And there you have it. Surprisingly, World of Warcraft didn’t even make the list.

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6 Responses to Top 5 time wasters for developers

  1. Prof. Larry Bernstein says:

    One quarter to one half the time of my developers was devoted to non project tasks that were deemed essential to the company’s well-being. A lot of time was lost by people waiting to see their boss.

    Interviewing candidates for jobs, helping with new bids, presenting status to non-project management, participating in various campaigns for United Way, being a mentor, waiting for someone else to complete their work or just being idle. The hot shots would not share their workload, so 25% of the staff was overworked and 75% were bored. How do I know this, I did a study of a 200 person software shop after many complaints that the schedules were too tight. Yes, I used a time-study woman.

    Contractors could be pushed to soend 80% of their time on the projects.

    Everybody needs breaks and the coffee kitchen got quite busy at 3:00 PM.

    Most estimation tools do not account for such downtime.

  2. Amit Bhatia says:

    Nice article. I never knew that these are the areas in which time could be wasted. Thanks.

  3. Pichat says:

    Thanks for the article, great tips for developers to break out of bad habits.
    Perhaps there is room for part 2 with more anti patterns and fixes. :)

  4. Great post, thank you very much! :)

  5. Agile Scout says:

    Great article here. We’ll be featuring this on agilescout.com. Great pointers!

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