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Sophia Li
Sophia Li

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

5 Ways to Stay Productive as a Self-taught Developer

As a self-taught developer, it can be tempting for me to watch an episode (or two) of Bon Appétit instead of fixing that bug, starting that new project, or practicing that new skill on my evergreen list of things to learn.

There are definitely times I’ve chosen the YouTube video over my projects. But now that I’m three months into my self-taught developer journey and have gone through some trial and error, I’ve found the productivity methods that work for me.

These are five ways I stay productive:

1. Set metrics for success

Every quarter, I set learning goals along with metrics for each goal using OKR methodology. See my OKR explanation here. Knowing that I have ambitious yet reasonable goals keeps me motivated. And on the days I’m feeling unmotivated, this structured roadmap keeps me disciplined to stay on track.

2. Work in intervals

I like to work in 30 minute blocks with 5-10 minute breaks in between. This is also known as the pomodoro technique, a time management method.

3. Change in working environment

My usual working spot is home, so it’s nice to have a change of scenery. This usually means working from a cafe or the climbing gym if I’m between commute and my next meeting. I especially like working from cafes when I’m stuck in a rut because the light background noise paired with a warm latte helps get my creative juices flowing.

4. Social accountability

I tweet about projects and small learning goals to keep myself accountable. It’s a must that I finish a project since I’ve announced it to the people of the internet, right!? If I’m feeling really good about a project, I share it with my friends to get the obligatory, “It looks great!”. But I also use it as an opportunity to solicit feedback for improvement.

5. Project management

Even for solo projects, I enjoy using Trello to keep myself organized. See an example here. Writing out MVP and bonus user stories at the beginning of the project has allowed me to better scope out and estimate the time needed to complete a project. The satisfaction of moving a card from the “backlog” to “in progress” to “completed” also keeps me motivated. Most importantly, defining MVP user stories has helped me see the endpoint of the project, which has resulted in less unfinished projects.

If you’d like to share any tips on how you stay productive, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Discussion (3)

loq24 profile image

The pomodoro technique really changed the way I work. As a freelancer with 1-2 clients, I can easily keep track of the time I spent for both clients and it makes me organize my time very well. It somehow made me more productive since I have a goal everyday to atleast have 10 blocks(25 mins each) of pomodoro timer.

gauraws profile image
Gaurav Singh

Great article. I am new to dev community and was looking for something like this. I am trying to get into product based company as my current organization is service based. Most of the time I struggle on how to begin my self taught journey and I give up easily seeing the amount of work have to be done on any project and lack of time.

sophia_wyl profile image
Sophia Li Author

Thanks and welcome to the dev community!

I've found that using OKRs and project management techniques has helped me with lessening the daunting feeling of like there's too much to do and too little time.

Best of luck on your journey!