I type fast. Incredibly fast. I was a music major studying to be a concert pianist before I got married. As such, I type like I’m playing Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude. Because of this, it drives me bat-crazy when I sit next to a developer that doesn’t have the speed at the keyboard that I do. But the reality of it is, you don’t need to type a million words a minute to be an efficient coder. You just have to be smart about the decisions you make. With that said, here are five things that you can do to help boost your productivity as a developer.
1. Maximize productivity with IDE keyboard shortcuts.
Take your hand off of the mouse. Seriously. One of the biggest productivity gains you’ll ever experience is by keeping your hands on your keyboard. Often times there is a good 12 to 18 inches of space between your hand on the keyboard and your hand on the mouse. Every time you move between the two, you are costing yourself small amounts of time. This time adds up to large amounts over the course of a day.
The context switch between a keyboard and a mouse is insignificant compared to how long it takes to do anything of value with the mouse. Selecting text, right-clicking and selecting an item from the context menu can take much longer than hitting a couple of different keys in a sequence on the keyboard. There is simply no good reason to use a mouse when you are writing code. It is an all-out productivity killer.
Every IDE worth using has a swath of shortcuts at your disposal. Most of them are very logical. Get intimate with them. Print them out and hang them up by your monitor. Commit them to muscle memory. It will take some time and adjustment, but the investment will pay back with very high returns.
2. Start typing in multiple places at once.
If there is one thing that changed my life as a developer, it was being exposed to editing multiple lines at the same time. Several editors allow you to type on multiple lines at the same time, but having multiple cursors at non-contiguous spots of an editor is a real game changer. Atom, Sublime, Code, and Visual Studio all offer multi-line editing capabilities. Visual Studio is somewhat lacking to its competitors, but there are a few extensions that help make up for its short-comings. I find that my productivity increases almost exponentially for every cursor I’m able to drop on the screen.
3. Use your refactoring toolbox.
Using a refactoring toolbox is incredibly handy, especially if you follow a Test-Driven Development (TDD) technique. Often times you may author a unit test before the required interfaces and implementation even exist. When you author code in this way, you can utilize the refactoring toolbox to flesh out the skeleton of the classes and methods that you require. Many IDE’s are able to infer the return types and argument types based upon their usage as well. All of this means that you’ll spend less time typing.
4. Install some useful productivity extensions.
Sometimes you find yourself with some repetitive and mundane tasks, like opening a command prompt to execute a script, or launching an NPM task. Most of these things aren’t hard to do, but you have to perform multiple steps to do them. Perhaps there’s an extension to help you out. There are so many to choose from and many of them perform their jobs very well. You can find one for almost everything from formatting and transpiling code, to getting you to a particular place in your source control system, or even checking your spelling. Can’t find an extension that does what you need? Create your own!
5. Utilize code snippets.
Often times as developers we end up typing the same things over and over. Class definitions, property definitions, and guard statements. Div tags, anchor tags, and other elements with complex hierarchies. Use the code snippets that come with your IDE. If you’re an HTML dev, get familiar with Emmet. If you find you’re typing the same things repeatedly, create your own custom snippet and start using it. Write it once, use it forever.
What keeps you productive when you sit down to write code?