“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus
Let's face it. As developers, it's easy to let things get a bit out of hand health-wise. Many times we find ourselves in front of screens for hours on end. We sleep really late (or not at all) sometimes. Unless you're disciplined enough to follow a schedule, you might find yourself not having time to eat proper meals so snacking becomes a habit. All these are usually sacrifices made to fix some bug or find the most efficient solution to some problem. Usually, our health suffers as a result. While this might seem to work out just fine for the moment, we don't look at the bigger picture - how it will affect us in the future.
I think, if healthier practices were adopted, developers would be much more productive and would be able to accomplish some tasks in less time simply because the brain is much clearer. I might here quote surveys and researches conducted to prove this point but simple personal experience will suffice. It's hard enough to get anything done when you're down with a cold. There is an intimate connection between the mind and the body, and when one suffers, the other no doubt feels it. Below are some points to watch out for if you're looking to keep fit physically and mentally.
Just like your car wouldn't run without the correct fuel, our bodies also need the right fuel to work efficiently. Make sure you find time to eat a properly balanced meal - preferably a big breakfast to give you enough energy for the day, a good lunch, and a light supper. This is, of course, assuming a regular daytime 9 to 5 type of schedule. When working odd hours, you can adjust accordingly.
I won't go as far as some have to say that sitting kills 😄 but it's definitely a good idea to wake up and stretch at least once or twice every hour. The Pomodoro technique is great for this because you can take your breaks to get off your chair for five minutes. I have found that taking walks is a great way to refresh your mind especially when you're struggling with something. You can also take advantage of the fresh air of early morning jogs.
If you wait until you feel thirsty, you've waited too long. Always have a bottle of water around to help stay hydrated throughout the day. As it turns out, staying hydrated can improve our reaction time, make us more focused and alert, and improve our problem-solving skills.
We've all been there. Sometimes our minds work best when we step away from it all and take a break. Again, taking walks work great! I took a course on Coursera some time back called "Learning How to Learn" that explains the science behind how this works. You can check it out.
According to this study, sleep helps clear the brain of toxins that build up while we are awake. Depriving yourself of sleep only builds up these toxins and your brain gets all foggy. This only leads to spending more hours trying to figure something out, which leads to more sleep deprivation, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep but if you can clock in 7 or 8 hours, that should be enough. Again, this assumes a regular daytime 9 to 5 type of schedule. I understand that some people find it easier to work late at night and that's cool. I'm a morning person myself so I'd rather sleep early and rise early.
I might get into more details on each of these steps in future posts in the series. Topics of interest include taking a closer look at coffee and energy drinks to see if they really make us more productive. Probably a few discussion posts coming up too!