Finding Time to Code

Does this story sound familiar? You get to work, grab a coffee, and sit at your desk. You start looking through your uncommitted files to remember where you left off yesterday. You remember you have a project backlog grooming meeting with your team at 10 AM, and out of nowhere, a PM walks up to your desk to see if you can join another meeting to discuss the amount of effort it will take to complete a new project. It starts in ten minutes. Oh, and don’t forget you have yet another Scrum meeting at 9 AM to touch base and a client coming into the office at 3 PM to discuss revisions to the work you’ve been doing. Before you know it, you only have 30 minutes in your entire work day to write code.

A lot of us have multiple projects at work, including non-development responsibilities (e.g. scoping out projects, interviewing other developers, company meetings, etc.), and multiple projects we want to complete at home in our free time. This can make it difficult to effectively focus on a single development task. It likely comes at no surprise that meetings can be one of the biggest productivity killers for developers. Switching context between communicating with people and communicating with a machine can quickly eat up all of the time in a day, yet it is critical to your organizational success as a developer. Changing gears between working with people and writing code is always going to cause some amount of overhead time in order to prepare yourself for the situation.

You mumble and grumble about having meetings all day because you were hired to be a developer… you know, to develop things. Not to sit in meetings all day. Not to sit on calls with clients. Not to be interrupted every five minutes.

My word of advice here is: Stop grumbling. Start owning.

Stop Grumbling

We, as developers, have it easy. Aside from the very few meetings we have each day, we get to build stuff most of the time. Chances are there are other people at your company who are jealous of you being able to do just that. Building cool stuff. While they sit in meetings back-to-back-to-back all day, every day, five days a week, looking at the little pieces of “free time” you have each day with envy. So the next time you want to complain about the number of meetings you’re attending, take a look at your project manager’s or your QA lead’s work calendar.

Start Owning

Now that we have gotten the complainer-bashing out of the way, I want to share some tips I’ve learned. The hopes are that I help you hone in on your abilities to effectively manage your day so that you can find more time to develop.

The more you listen, focus, and respond with confident feedback during meetings, the quicker you may be able to get out of that meeting. Don’t go into a meeting and read email and other messages while others expect your attention. Don’t continue to write code that you were writing right before the meeting (I know how badly this one sucks. I’m the type of person who hates pausing on work until it’s completed). Go into the meeting ON TIME, listen to your colleagues, write as many notes as you can when it pertains to your actual work, and be prepared to respond to questions or concerns with precise answers and conclusions. If anyone has to repeat themselves, or if you have no helpful feedback to provide during the entire meeting, then the meeting has failed at its goal. And you get less time to code.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up that might help you get the most out of meetings.

Prepare for Meetings

Own the Meeting

Don’t Attend the Pointless Meetings

Further, sometimes it’s actually good to raise concerns about the number of meetings you’re having to attend. Can the meeting be resolved with a quick chat on Slack or Skype? If you’re attending a recurring meeting and you’re never asked to give input during the conversation, then maybe you shouldn’t be there. Tell your manager why you don’t think it’s beneficial to you and give them a cost-benefit analysis of why this time would be better spent with you sitting at your desk writing code. Tell them how the project can be improved by you having that extra hour to complete bug fixes. The PM on the project can instead send you a simple recap email afterward.

Final Word of Advice

Don’t use these tips to ask to be excluded from every meeting. We, as developers, have a responsibility to show up and help the rest of the team be the best they can be at what they do. If you want others to help you put your best efforts towards the product or service that you’re developing, then give your best efforts to helping the rest of the team.

What are some helpful tricks you use to find more development time during the day? Share yours in the comment section below.