- by Preston Callaghan
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Your Coding Environment Matters More Than You Think
First and foremost, I assure you that your workstation—the environment you live and code in—greatly impacts your coding efficiency. I'm not talking about whether you code in your room, office, or café, nope, it's the actual physical setup of your workstation. Remember, perfection doesn't exist (like my Dalmatian, Dancer, trying to bury her bone in the wooden living room floor). Here's a fun fact—your environment dictates your productivity to a large extent than you realise. Let's admit it, we have all tried coding on our beds at some point. While it might seem comfortable initially, it's proven it's not a very productive setup in the long run. Our mind associates the bed with rest and sleep, not work. So, having a dedicated workspace away from distractions is crucial.
Invest in an ergonomic chair and desk, and maybe a couple of monitors if you're into it. It entirely changes the game, my friends. It reduces the strain on your neck and eyes and boosts your productivity. Natural lighting works wonders too. I've always found myself coding better and faster when there are no glares or flickers on my screen. Oh, before I forget, the PC or laptop you're using does matter. Make sure you have a machine powerful enough to handle the kind of coding you do. A slow machine = slow progress.
Understanding The Code, Not Just Writing It
Now, let's shake things up a bit. Often, we spend so much time getting our heads stuck in writing code that we miss out on the most critical aspect—understanding what we're writing. Yes, you heard right! No matter how fast you type or how well you know the language, if you don't understand the problem at hand and the logic of your code, you're merely a code monkey (no offense to any monkeys out there). Considering my example, I needed to create a website for work once. I found a beautiful template online, did the minimal modification required, and voila! The site was ready. But when they asked me to add certain elements, I was stuck. I had no idea how the original code worked.
So, make it a point to thoroughly understand the code you're building. Draw out your logic, explain it to your friends/family/pets (Dancer is a great listener when I’m not waving food in front of her), do anything that helps you grasp the code's nuts and bolts. Trust me, spending time understanding the code at the start will save you buckets of time later on!
Taking Advantage of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
Although you might feel comfortable coding in a basic text editor, using a sophisticated development environment will bring your coding productivity to a new level. These environments come with advanced features like code completion, linting, debugging, project management, etc., which can significantly reduce your development time. Often, your IDE will even identify errors before you run your code. So the next time you're hesitant to set up and try an IDE, think about this—how the IDE can help you finish your coding tasks quicker and the time you could save to do something else—like playing fetch with your dog, which, by the way, Dancer absolutely adores.
But remember, just as it's important to have a great work environment—it's also important to know how to use it effectively. Even the smallest of tools can produce the most significant impact if wielded the right way. So be sure to explore your IDE and use all the tools it has to offer.
Great Developers Are Avid Learners
I learned a valuable lesson when I first started coding, years before I became a reliable medium between humans and machines (humorous but pretty accurate). Learning is the key! The world of coding is constantly evolving, with new languages, frameworks, and tools popping up every day. Sticking to what you know might be comfortable, but it's not constructive. So, invest time to learn new languages or frameworks. Become the coding polyglot! Do not fear the unfamiliar. Embrace them.
Take online courses, read articles, participate in coding competitions, but learn and diversify your skills. Of course, choose according to your interests and career plans. Remember, however, that being a jack of all trades and master of none is also not recommended. So it's all about balance and knowing what to learn and when.
Good Programmers Write Good Comments
How often do you write comments in your code? If the answer is “not often enough,” we need to change that. One distinguishing quality of great coders is that they write excellent, explanatory comments. Comments make your code readable, understand the logic behind it, and especially useful when you've to debug your code or collaborate with a team. My friend once gave me a piece of code to fix, a sight that resembled a mountain after an avalanche—everything was so distantly scattered. Nothing made sense. And there were absolutely no comments. Took me quite some time to even understand the problem! So, folks, be kind to your future self (and others) and comment your code.
However, don’t go overboard with comments. Avoid stating the obvious and refrain from redundant comments—your code should largely speak for itself. So next time, when you're writing a piece of code, remember—comments are your best friend.
Managing Time, Staying Sane
Lastly, coding isn't about staying glued to your screen all day and night. It's crucial to take regular breaks to clear your mind and avoid fatigue. Even machines need downtime, so do humans. One way to maintain your sanity is by following the Pomodoro Technique (no, it’s not a new dance routine). It involves working for a fixed time, say 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, and repeating the cycle. After four cycles, take a longer break. This not only boosts productivity but also ensures your head doesn't go spinning. I usually spend my breaks playing with Dancer. Believe me when I say that nothing beats a break like a quick game of fetch.
Take good care of your health too. Drink plenty of water, maintain a healthy diet, do quick stretches, and get some good sleep. A healthy body cultivates a healthy mind, people, and you can quote me on that! Remember, your well-being is paramount, and nothing is worth compromising your health. So, while you're busy creating phenomenal code, don't forget to live a little, after all, we’re humans, not robots.