Insights | Software Development Sprints and Work Chunks

Software Development Sprints and Work Chunks

By Andy Hilliard | September 22, 2014

Often, software developers face interruptions in the form of e-mails, chat windows and phone calls.

The question then becomes how you can eliminate these distractions and cut down on the type of multitasking that actually lowers your productivity.

One possible way to introduce some discipline into your work schedule is to break your day down into “chunks” that ultimately allow you manage your time more effectively.

What are “Chunks”?

Breaking your day into chunks essentially means breaking your day into manageable blocks of time. It is recommended that you break an average day into two or three chunks in the morning lasting 75 minutes each and then two or three after lunch lasting 75 minutes each as well.

The key is not to look at your day as an 8-hour block of time that you’re just trying to get through. After all, software development can be draining work. High-level software developers often have an almost Zen-like quality about them when they’re in the zone, and that often comes from structuring their day to provide optimal energy levels.

You should be using at least two to three of these chunks to focus on important work. During this “sprint” period you won’t be taking any breaks for about a 60-minute period. Your phone should be on mute and you shouldn’t be checking e-mails or the football score. This can help you get into a steady rhythm that can increase your work output.

Managing your Breaks

An important part of being able to focus during a 60-minute period and throughout the workday is to properly managing your break periods. Breaks can help you become more calm and relaxed, helping you bring a high level of energy to your work when you need it, but they also need structure.

First, it’s important to think about how many breaks you’re taking during the day, and how that aligns with your goals. The average person takes about 10 to 12 breaks a day, and some even take as many as 18, but often these breaks are not refreshing and interfere with your work. Do everything you want to do at one time when you take a break instead of doing work for a minute and then checking your e-mail for a minute.

It’s important to separate your breaks from work. Try to identify the activity you do the most, such as talking on the phone or sending e-mails, and keep that under 30 minutes a day. That’s why it’s important to be conscious of what distracts you in order to keep it under control.

You should also be checking with your manager on how to better organize your time. He or she can show you the work habits and structure of the top 20 percent most productive workers at your job site, and that can help serve as a benchmark for your own progress.

In the end, it’s about contributing to making yourself and your company a success. After all, being a software development professional is about trying to do your personal best everyday. If you want to make yourself a more effective developer, experiment with how you break your day into chunks to find the optimal time structure for yourself. You should like the results.


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