Productivity tips busy developers need to know

Software development is a dynamic field. This has always meant that it’s essential for developers to take an active approach, and stay on top of changes. And that, in turn, means that the best developers tend to have reliable ways of keeping themselves productive.

In 2020, this trait — being able to stay productive — is arguably more important than ever. Numerous industries related to software development have taken hits, and many developers are working under different conditions than they’re used to. The ones who are best able to keep up their standard and complete their projects are the ones who are going to handle these challenges most effectively. And that leads us to our main focus: a few productivity tips busy developers need to keep in mind.

Eliminate Distractions

This is a general tip for anyone working from home, like so many developers are doing today. Basically, when you’re working from home, anything from family members and roommates, to television, to your own mobile devices can become a serious distraction, and detract from productivity. Fortunately, avoiding this issue is a simple matter of discipline. Creative Bloq posted tips on avoiding distractions that can help give you an idea of what to focus on. The best ideas they highlighted include getting comfortable physically, closing unnecessary apps, and shutting yourself into a home office all as ways to start walling yourself off from distractions.

Frankly, we see all of these as part of one bigger tip: establishing a home workspace. Particularly these days, with more people working from home, it’s important to have an area where you can be comfortable and able to focus on projects. For starters, we’d recommend an ergonomic desk and chair and a piece of lounge furniture (even a beanbag can be brilliant). Make sure temperature control and lighting are available to you. And if possible, bring in some natural light and plants. All of this will make the workspace cosy and liveable, allowing you to feel your best, focus, and stay put without feeling shut in. With a space like this, you’ll be certain to see a spike in productivity.

Schedule (Including Breaks)

In just about any situation — working from home or otherwise — a clear schedule can boost productivity in a few different ways. A Verizon Connect piece on how to work intelligently explored this idea, suggesting (rightly) that scheduling every task does two things. First, the article said, scheduling gives you a clear picture of what you have to do in a given day; second, it gives you a clear path toward a small sense of accomplishment when you complete outlined tasks. These benefits can absolutely lead to more productivity by software developers.

How you schedule will depend somewhat on your specific work and the projects you have on hand. But we recommend breaking things down (something we’ll speak on more below), and writing your schedule out in a format that allows you to cross off tasks. Even a simple Excel sheet or note-taking app (such as Evernote, OneNote, or even a simple but perfectly functional Apple Notes) can serve as a scheduling book, where you can lay out each day’s activity and cross items off as you fulfill them.

Break Down Projects

As you go about scheduling, and looking for that little sense of accomplishment you get by moving through tasks, it’s also a good idea to break down projects into parts. This might not always be doable, but in development there are often ways to segment jobs into different stages. This can first and foremost make a job seem less formidable, and make you more willing to dive in and start doing the work. But it also leads to more of that sense that you’re checking things off your list and progressing successfully through a day’s work.

These benefits are in fact what many developers get out of tools like Asana and Jira, which exist in part to help organize projects and segment tasks in an orderly fashion. While it’s easy to think of “project management” as something meant for entire teams, busy developers make excellent use out of the idea and the tools that help to make it easier.   

Automate Where You Can

“Automate stuff” was arguably the most interesting idea within Developer Circles Lagos’s developer productivity ideas posted on Medium. While that same post had some other interesting points, what showed through is the notion that people working in software development tend to have some idea of how to do a little bit of automation — say, by writing scripts that accomplish certain tasks on their own. And this sort of effort can help to simplify a job in a way that significantly improves productivity.

Automation may not help with every project, and naturally, some developers will be better able to take advantage of this idea than others. But generally, automating where you can is a sound strategy. Even using your development skills to automate a sort of record-keeping that logs your hour-to-hour activity can be extraordinarily helpful. This example would afford you a better picture of your own working habits, and enable you to adjust accordingly.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that you may not even have to do this sort of automation on your own, given the ready-made tools that exist within modern work programs. As an example, consider Slack’s “Standup Bot,” which is essentially a built-in project management assistant that can help to keep you on task.

Maintain Personal Health

Personal health doesn’t always come up with regard to on-the-job productivity, but it’s a mistake to assume it’s not a factor. As stated in our piece ‘5 Challenges for a Freelance Developer’ it’s important not to forget to “eat well, sleep and keep an eye on your health” in order to stay productive. Simply put, if your body and mind aren’t healthy, you’ll be less prepared to focus and have productive workdays. You’ll be a better and more prolific developer the healthier you are.

Written/Edited by: Amanda Fuller

Amanda Fuller is a freelance writer for over seven years. Since becoming freelance she has written extensively about work practices, both at home and in the office. She maintains that in order for a company to be successful they must pay as much attention to their employees as their profit margins. In her free time she practices yoga.


Emerging developer opportunities in Enterprise & Productivity apps

Andreas Pappas shares our latest findings, from our Business & Productivity Apps report which takes a look at developer opportunities created by emerging trends in enterprise mobility (such as bring-your-own policies and mobile SaaS) and professional and vertical app markets (e.g. healthcare apps). This market was worth $28 billion in 2013 and is set to grow to $58 billion by 2016.


[Want to help us with data for our reports? We’ve just launched our latest Developer Economic survey – take the survey and have your say on the latest trends]

[tweetable]Apps are changing the way people communicate, work and play[/tweetable]. App development has grown into a huge industry, that we estimate to be worth $67 billion in 2013. We expect the app economy to more than double in size by 2016.

Most of the publicity and media spotlights currently fall on superstar consumer apps like Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga and communication apps like WhatsApp. These success stories have certainly highlighted the massive scale and revenue potential of mobile apps, reaching from zero to tens of millions of users in record-breaking time.

At the same time, a growing audience of prosumer and business users depend on Box, Evernote and Trello to help them be more productive in their work. Enterprises are now allowing employees to use the apps they love at work, inside the corporate Intranet. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are integrating mobile apps within their business processes. This mobilisation creates a demand for off-the-shelf or custom mobile apps and services, translating into new and bigger opportunities for mobile app developers.

Most app developers currently target consumer app markets (think games and lifestyle apps) but they could be missing out on opportunities in the enterprise (aka business & productivity) market. Our research indicates that the business & productivity app market, is not only growing at approximately the same rate as the consumer app market but is also less congested, and offers better revenue potential, for more developers. Read the report to find out more.


Consumer vs. Enterprise & Productivity apps: how do revenues compare

App publishers that target business and productivity markets have a much better chance of generating sustainable revenue than those targeting consumer markets, with just 32% of them below the “app poverty line” ($500 per app per month) compared to just under half of consumer-focused publishers (48%). At the same time, [tweetable]publishers that target businesses or professional users have a much higher chance to generate very high-revenues[/tweetable]: 16% of those targeting the business & productivity market generate revenues exceeding $500,000 per app per month, compared to just 6% among consumer-focused publishers.


While consumer apps and particularly games (e.g. Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga) can generate extraordinary revenues, it is quite clear that this is not the case for the vast majority of developers that target consumer markets. Business & Productivity apps allow developers to build a sustainable business around more solid business models with recurring revenues from a loyal customer base.

As bring-your-own policies and enterprise app stores become increasingly popular among businesses, the market and the opportunity for developers is likely is set to expand in the next three years.

Which platform should you prioritise if you build business and productivity apps?

While Android is dominating the consumer market in terms of market share, iOS maintains a healthy lead among professional and business users. Data provided by enterprise cloud content platform Box, indicates that 94% of their tablet users are on iPads, while enterprise mobility management services provider Good Technology indicates that 54% of enterprise smartphone activations came through iPhone devices in Q4 2013. It is clear that Apple has an edge in the business device market and this is also reflected in revenues generated via iDevices: VisionMobile estimates that revenue generated via iOS devices accounts for at least 60% of the total revenue in the business and productivity market.


For developers that target the business & productivity sector it makes sense to prioritise iOS for development over the other platforms they develop for. However, there are several considerations to take into account such as integration with existing enterprise services, which may call for an HTML approach or the specific market that you target.

Where are the opportunities in the enterprise app market?

There is an inherent unpredictability associated with the future use of apps and it is exactly this unpredictability that empowers developers to create innovative apps that continue to redefine whole markets and industries. Nevertheless, we can still identify a number of areas that currently attract considerable attention among businesses and where we see future value being unleashed in the business & productivity market:

Vertical apps
Specialised industry apps such as healthcare, real estate, finance or automotive. Vertical specialisation provides a great opportunity for differentiation and for building strong brands as the app economy diffuses into every single industry. Existing industry stakeholders can leverage apps as a differentiation strategy against “un-apped” competitors, integrating apps and exposing APIs across their product offerings. For independent developers, specialisation is a means to capture a niche and survive the discoverability labyrinth.

Apps that cross the boundaries between private-use and work-use, such as storage, lists, calendars, office-type apps are key drivers behind the consumerisation of enterprise IT. Once into an organisation or an enterprise app store, such apps can spread rapidly within organisations.

Mobile SaaS
Software-as-a-Service, delivering CRM, HR, ERP, BI services to small businesses and large enterprises is a booming sector. Mobile apps extend these capabilities much further by allowing anytime/anyplace access to these core business services.

Custom apps/services
Bespoke mobile solutions delivered outside of app stores will continue to take the lion’s share of revenues within the business and productivity app market. As we discussed, the dominance of this model will erode during the next few years as app store purchases increase among enterprises.

Apps and services that tackle security and complexity of the decentralised IT department are already essential for any enterprise that adopts BYO policies. More sophisticated app & device management models, that tackle some of the key issues associated with this trend (e.g. managing private/work services, remote deletion of work content) will continue to be hot areas in the next few years, catering to an increasing number of use cases.

Download our free “Business and Productivity Apps” report to find out more about the developer opportunity in this market and the reason you should be developing business and productivity apps.

Have your say in Developer Economics research
Help us continue bringing you great insights about the app economy and app development. Take part in our 7th Developer Economics survey that is launching today! Help us break our earlier world record of 7,000 app developers that took our 6th survey. Take part, spread the word, win prizes and help us do great research !