March 24, 2021

10 Tips That Will Make You A Better Developer (and general human)

non-coding edition

10 Tips That Will Make You A Better Developer (and general human)

Developers are humans too. But sometimes we forget this with our late-night stints and general lack of vitamin D.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned over the years and try to be mindful of as a developer.

  1. Family first. It’s easy to lose yourself in the hours, to always put the code, the work, the error, the bug, the late-night calls, the scope creep, and the project demands. The thing about code and projects is that they will never truly close off. There will always be something else. So make time for the ones you care about. Code is transient but family is forever.
  2. Develop a sustainable routine. The secret to work-life balance is in your routine. Being a developer is not as glamorous as it looks. You can get lost in the job, become sleep deprived, easily lose your mind over time and burn out your spark. Developing a sustainable routine means you stop and start work at a particular time. You make space for learning and growing. You take the effort to make date nights, play with your kids, and water the plants.
  3. Meal prep or subscribe. What you eat matters. It’s easy to grab a packet of chips, snack on that cookie, and drink your calories. Make your meals in advanced if you don’t like cooking and want to optimize your time, or subscribe to one of those subscription boxes. When you eat right, you give your brain the right kind of energy. When your brain is fed, it can function properly. It’s better to work on bugs with a clear head rather than sit through it with brain fog.
  4. Learn for growth, not checkboxes. Every job application wants 10+ experience in every possible tech acronym they can Google. Ignore them. Quench your curiosities. Learn to grow by solving problems. Because code is more than just acronyms — it’s the art of problem-solving. Nurture your skills for growth across different areas. Go deep as much as you go wide with your chosen technologies. At some point, you’ll eventually cross paths with one of the listed acronyms.
  5. Hobbies do matter. You can’t create a solution if you don’t understand the problem. Hobbies are pathways to understanding how a particular facet of the world works. At some point, your hobbies and its ancillary skills may meet up with your problem, sparking inspiration and innovation in the way you think about solutions.
  6. Take a GYST day. Developers are human too. We’ve all got obligations and life commitments we must attend to. Sometimes, these things can become overwhelming. So take a gyst day — a Get YourSelf Together day. It’s a day where you catch up on life’s necessities and just chill out at the end of it.
  7. Make friends, not foes. It’s easy to be opinionated as a developer. But it doesn’t mean you have to completely dismiss other people’s perspectives to get your way. It’s easier to convince a friend to your perspective than someone who doesn’t like you. Be assertive but not aggressive. Listen to their views, opinions, and ideas. Be civil — especially to non-technical people. You might learn something new from them.
  8. Remember that dream. We all started on our coding journeys because had a dream. It’s easy to get sidetracked by our day jobs and forget why we started. Whatever that game, idea, dream, or grand plan is — don’t forget it. Write it down. Look at it every day and start working on it until something materializes.
  9. Mental health matters. It’s easy to become burned out as a developer. The long hours, the constant need to stay updated, the process of learning new frameworks, libraries, the latest standards, and releases. On top of that sits delivery timelines, your project manager asking you for estimates that you can’t accurately give because you simply don’t know what bugs and errors you’ll encounter. The easiest way to protect your mental health is to protect your time. When you start losing your time, you start losing yourself to the job. When the job takes over, you have no space to do what you want to do, leading you towards the slippery slope of burnout.
  10. Watch your waistline. Dev work is a sedentary job. You remain stationary for a good portion of your day. It’s easy to gain weight, lose your muscle mass, and deteriorate into a blob. Physical fitness is not hard. It’s just little things you can do each day to increase your physical activity. It might be walking, it might be taking the stairs. Whatever it is, remember to move and eat proper food. I’ve seen devs live on gummy bears and vending machines. Over time, their ability to focus became tied to the highs and crashes. Productivity is uncertain when you ‘work too hard’ and neglect yourself.

Final thoughts

I know it’s not 100% code related and these things can be applied to anyone in any industry. But sometimes we forget to do them. When you are physically and mentally fit, your performance, ability to create connections, and solutions are much more effective.

There will always be another job. So remember your dreams, work on your side projects, keep up with the people you care about, and don’t neglect yourself. You are human after all, not a machine making machines.

It’s easy to sink into the process of coding and forget that everything else exists. It’s easy to let the months and years past by with projects and tickets taking up the majority of your time. But the code will never be perfect and it will always age and degrade. You will always be just another employee, no matter how many office parties you get invited to. Tickets and projects come and go but you, your body, your mind, and your people stay with you forever.