Given enough time, any amateur web developer can perform excellent implementations of web designs and layouts. They may even be able to do good site optimizations as well.
Unfortunately for amateurs, most businesses will not offer them the luxury of time. In most cases, the difference between professional web developers and rookies is not the quality of their work but rather their speed and the consistency of their output.
If you’re interested in improving your productivity as a web developer, you’re in luck. Below we’ve got a few tried and tested tips that will not only help you do more work but will also give you more free time to do the things you enjoy.
1) Research and Use the Best Code Editor for Your Needs
Becoming a consistently productive web developer will require investing in a good source code editor. Regardless of whether you choose a free or paid app, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your editor has to meet your needs as well as your coding specialties.
It can be tough getting good recommendations because some developers can get emotionally invested in one tool or another. The fact is, there isn’t any single code editor or productivity tool that will fit everyone’s needs and preferences.
Before you choose an editor, take some time to consider the following:
- Plugin and theme ecosystems
- Aftersales and community support
- Automation and functionality features
- Syntax highlighters for languages you know
Choosing an editor that meets your needs will potentially save you hundreds of hours each year. If you’re a freelance web developer, these time savings can make a direct impact on your income, effectively allowing you to take on more projects while reducing the effort needed to complete them.
2) Invest in a Proper Workstation
If you’re going to be doing any serious volume of web development requests, you owe it to yourself to move on from just a laptop and invest in a real workstation. At the very least, you want one with a multi-monitor setup, a proper chair, as well as a keyboard that prevents repetitive strain injuries.
If you don’t have the budget to go all out just yet, at the very minimum you should get yourself a second monitor. Multiple studies show that having a second monitor can increase productivity anywhere from 10% to 40%, with no additional effort from users. This is largely due to the additional focus and reduced distractions that come with having dedicated monitors for important tasks.
Next, you should consider ergonomic tools and peripherals, including a better desk. While immediate productivity gains from having these will be more modest compared to extra monitors, they may help prevent repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, which if developed, will put you out of work for months, if not forever.
If you’re based in the Philippines, you should also consider having an air-conditioner when your budget allows it. If that sounds like a joke — it isn’t. Lee Kwan Yew considered air conditioning to be key to work efficiency in the tropics. While these don’t always come cheap, they will allow you to stay focused on your tasks, even during the hottest and most stressful days.
3) Always Plan Your Work Well in Advance
Taking a couple of hours to plan your activities for the rest of the month is one of the most underrated productivity hacks there is.
First, planning things well in advance can save you time by allowing you to better focus on coding and other productive tasks. Impromptu planning can seriously sap your potential output as you have to periodically ramp back up to full efficiency each time you switch tasks.
Next, planning allows you to quickly identify which tasks should take the most priority. This prevents menial tasks from becoming a distraction.
Lastly, having a plan makes it easier to identify possible roadblocks along the way. This allows you to readjust or bring things up with your client early on, rather than right when the problem is happening. This can potentially save you from having to redo the whole project from scratch.
4) Develop Better CLI Skills
As code editor GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) get better, many developers have unfortunately lost their Command Line Interface (CLI) skills. Being fluent in a CLI rather than a GUI will dramatically speed up your productivity, particularly if you also learn how to use shortcuts efficiently.
The other key advantage of being fluent in CLI use is that you can easily readapt your skills in various other coding projects. If your client or employer needs you to use a code editor or CMS platform that you’re not familiar with, your fluency in CLIs should help your readjustment go much smoother.
5) Automate Routine Tasks with a Task Runner
While there are relatively few areas of web development that benefit from automation, automating these will still save you a lot of time, especially if you do those tasks every day.
Thankfully, you will find task runners for automating web dev activities on virtually all popular platforms, including Shopify, WordPress, Drupal, and most others.
Being familiar with how task runners work will potentially save you hundreds of hours of work a year, giving you more free time and allowing you to focus your mental energy on more important tasks.
If there’s a pain in the neck manual task that you have to do each day, chances are you can find a way to automate it. Image optimization, code minification, and many other routine tasks can be safely automated with these tools in most instances.
6) Learn to Track Your Hours Effectively
Tracking tasks and hours is often seen as an unpleasant activity. And it often is. However, tracking your activities properly can be important for improving your time management.
With a task management app or even a simple notebook, you can track your productivity throughout the week. After some time, you should have a decent overview of what your regular work days are like. From there, you’ll probably see opportunities for improving overall productivity.
Once you have identified your work habits, you can start making better use of your time. You can schedule tasks for the best possible times of the day and you can even block out things that you didn’t even realize were distracting you.
This productivity tip is especially handy if you have multiple projects that may not directly involve web development. If you’re a freelancer working on an hourly basis, you also can use your time-tracking data as a basis for your billable hours.
7) Make It a Habit to Read Briefs and Instructions Thoroughly
Some web developers have the bad habit of failing to read their briefs thoroughly. This is sometimes due to an overeagerness to get the project over and done with.
Unfortunately, the failure to read and follow instructions can lead to a lot of unnecessary revisions and even lost income. These are much worse outcomes compared to losing 30 minutes because you had to read and understand a convoluted web development brief.
After reading the brief the first time, reread it and try to see if you could condense it down to the essential points. Not only will this prevent you from doing preventable revisions, but it may also help you compose better briefs when it’s your turn to manage other web developers and designers.
8) Take Care of Your Health
Your career as a web developer is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you want to work in this career and still have a decent quality of life, you’ll want to include physical activity and mental wellness as part of your priorities. Taking care of your physical and mental health will help you work more consistently, sustainably, and to a higher standard than would otherwise be possible.
There are studies that back this up. Maintaining physical and mental health is associated with better productivity for both employees in traditional workplaces and people who work from home. The same applies to business owners and freelancers as well.
Becoming a consistently productive web developer involves more than just having good coding skills. All too often, promising developers fail to consider the wider context in which they work, leading to unsustainable work habits, poor output, and wasted potential.
By taking the more strategic aspects of productivity seriously, developers and other digital marketers can, over time, improve the quality and quantity of their output while simultaneously enjoying a better work-life balance. The key is to find a set of strategies and tools that are a good match for your needs, workflow, and long-term professional goals.