Forbes: Find Your Zone: 13 Tips For Boosting Coding Productivity

Post written by Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council

Successful CIOs, CTOs & executives from Forbes Technology Council offer firsthand insights on tech & business.

Coding requires steady focus and concentration. Not only is each individual keystroke important, but often the project can be running on a tight budget or with a looming deadline. Even small mistakes can set back launch dates.

It’s critical to success that coders find the groove in which they’re most productive. Below, 13 members of Forbes Technology Council share ways they themselves tune out distractions and how they help their team get into the zone for coding.

1. Eliminate Visual Distractions And Tune In To The Familiar

The unexpected change in movement attracts the human eye. Eliminate possible visual distraction and include your peripheral vision. Recently I’ve been listening to video game music. It’s repetitive, familiar, not surprising — perfect for getting in the zone. Of course, isn’t that what coding is? It’s just a game to perform the correct tasks in sequence to get the computer to do what you want. – Robert Reeves, Datical

2. Apply The Science of “Flow”

Described and named by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” is a state of supreme concentration. In a flow state, you become so fully engrossed that distractions (and even time itself) seem to evaporate. If you study flow and find your specific triggers, you can enter this state more readily. The book Flow, by Csikszentmihalyi, is a great place to start. – Chris Grundemann, Myriad Supply

3. Listen To Music

They don’t teach this at coding school, but music helps. I always encourage programmers to listen to music (ideally instrumental) when grinding code. Of course, this is reserved for solo work; when collaboration is needed the headphones should stay out! – Nacho De Marco, BairesDev

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4. Make It Easy To Find A Quiet Place

Headphones are great, but nothing beats a quiet room when you are in the groove. In designing our new office, we wanted a balance between collaboration and intense solo concentration. We went with an open layout, using dividers to provide privacy and noise deadening, as well as including many single/double occupancy offices around the perimeter to use when someone really needs to focus without interruption. – Paul Lipman, BullGuard

5. Develop A Step-By-Step Coding Plan

In our instant needs gratification society, we can count on the fact that we will be interrupted. A lot. The trick is figuring out how fast we can get back into the groove.  I encourage my teams to break their work down into modular pieces and a written plan. As each piece gets implemented, the item is crossed off the list. We can use the list to bring us right back to what is next. – Kathy Keating, Apostrophe, Inc.

6. Start With Smaller Tasks

Coding typically involves a lot of problem solving. Start by focusing on a few smaller, easier tasks that get you in the mood to jump into the larger items. This will allow you to ease into the work and gain focus as you check some items off the list. Keeping focus and solving the bigger challenges will seem much easier when your head is in the right spot. – Brent Yax, Awecomm Technologies

7. Work In Spurts Of Time

Focus only comes when you work in spurts of time, regardless of what it is. Set a timer for half-hour increments; get up and do something entirely different for 15 minutes and then come back. I stay focused and lower my mistakes. – Chalmers Brown, Due

8. Request The Work That Interests You

People focus easily when they work on things they find interesting. Otherwise, it is just coding the next trivial thing. The best thing coders can do is find a good team leader who can organize tasks and give people work that they will truly find interesting. Different coders like different challenges. – Ivailо Nikolov, SiteGround

9. Get To Bed On Time

Get enough sleep. If you don’t get a good amount of sleep, no amount of coffee will keep you focused on work. With enough sleep, you’ll find you get into a groove faster and for longer. You’ll also notice that eight hours of sleep makes you a happier person, more eager to tackle tough problems. – Dan Stuart, Bidvine

10. Keep It Simple

Coding is indeed a challenging task. The holy grail to achieving high productivity is to first write high-quality code — this means as simple and as modular as possible. Once that is achieved, writing or maintaining such code requires much less concentration and effort, with the added benefit of being much less bug-prone. – Ofer Garnett, YouAppi Inc.

11. Block Your Time

Distractions and interruptions are the No. 1 challenge developers have to deal with. One of the best skill sets any developer can invest in is proper time management. For example, I like to keep my mornings open and away from distractions, like meetings, to concentrate on the mentally intensive work like programming and writing. Check out Deep Work by Cal Newport for more details. – Allan MacGregor,

12. Defend Your Coding Environment

The worst part about trying to code (especially in an open office layout) is creating an environment free from distractions and interruptions. Using headphones, “Do Not Disturb” signs and facing away from noisy coworkers helps. Making them aware of what you need to perform your work is critical. Of course, a good manager should be running interference, making it possible to find the zone. – Chris Kirby, Retired

13. Approach The Work With Passion

Developers should have a passion for what they are working on. No passion equals a waste of time and energy. Whether building a new feature or code fix, each developer should understand the requirements clearly and should develop passion toward completing it. This will fuel the developers in working hard toward the goal. Also, the work does not seem to be real work when you are having fun. – Sathish Raju, Kloudio

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