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Small efficiencies add up

2024-05-11 | 1 views

career development productivity

Being efficient is very important as a developer. There are many tools we love because they reduce the amount of time that we need to ship some software to production. Think about AI coding assistants making you code very mundane tasks a lot faster, or pipelines which transformed having to publish every time you finish a new version into just writing a pipeline template once and seeing the magic happen! While all these tools are great a lot of programmers still do not get the maximum value out of the possible efficiency boosts that exist.

The heaven of efficiency

Maybe some of you know the tools that are most famous for efficiency but I will describe them in this article anyway and give my opinion on them. The main tools which many consider to maximise effienciency while writing code on your own system are:

These tools all seem scary at first but they offer a big efficiency boost once they are controlled. However in my personal opinion when starting out with finding efficiencies these are not the tools you should go for. This is because some of them are hard to learn and this makes them scary. I am an avid proponent of learning in steps and finding which efficiencies can be found in your current workflow or with small adjustments that are quick to learn. From the list above I think TMUX and fuzzyfinder still fall into this category since they can be easily used in your current environment. While Neovim and i3 are very good to get the maximum value out of every hour spend programming, they do take a lot of time to configure and learn.

Easy efficiency wins

As described above I don't want to make this article about what is the best way to increase efficiency and end up changing no one's workflow since the step to change is too big. I am currently still in the process of learning neovim myself and am still using visual studio code as my daily driver.

The easiest win for every developer or even every person using a computer is to learn the shortcuts that the programs you use often provide. Even if you are using something like Microsoft word. I have started doing this a while ago, when trying to learn all the visual studio code shortcuts and it has increased my productivity tremendously! I can now switch between tabs, open workspaces, search files, open projects, select everything I want and more without ever touching my mouse. My personal rule is to "try to reach a state where I do not need my mouse".

Secondly I have tried to create pipelines for my own projects. I have done this using the very easy to set up tool of github actions. Using this has two big benefits. One, every time you publish a new version you do not have to follow all the steps of publishing. But more importantly benefit two, you will get experience writing pipelines which can be a very valuable skill in your career.

Thirdly do not be afraid to experiment. This might sound weird since in the previous text I described trying new things to be scary but trying scary things and deciding they are not for you is still valuable. A good example for me is that I have tried i3 which is a very bare and mimimal tiling window manager and the pure minimalism was not for me. I like to have some basic things like a graphical interface to manage my settings. But after trying it I did see the great value in having a tiling window manager where switching between windows is only a shortcut instead of cycling through all your windows using alt + tab. So I am now trying regolith and enjoying it a lot.

AI assistant

Using an AI assistant when writing code has become very popular in the last years. It can greatly reduce the time spent on writing code. Especially when writing more redundant code or when using a new programming language where the syntax is still unclear. The AI assistant tools takes a hint from what you are writing and generates what you most likely want to write which is more than often correct. This increases the speed of development greatly.

However in recent years there has also been some criticism with the quality of code going down and when learning a new language it can obstruct the learning process since the AI assistant can write all the code just based on comments. This mostly works in popular languages like Javascript and Python. I think however that investing in an AI assistant is great value since the speed of writing code is greatly increased by almost 100%. This makes you able to do more work in less time and only for a couple of euros (or dollars) per month. The time saved to the cost of the tool greatly favours paying for the tool.

Efficiency mindset

The mindset I have for efficiency is that I am willing to take some time to improve my efficiency if in the long run it will save me time. This is a fine balance between a tool taking a lot of hours to learn but not saving a lot of time and learning a shortcut taking up no time at all but having massive efficiency gains. This is also why I have up till now not taken the leap to start with neovim since the time spent on learning the tool and actually becoming more efficienct with it is in my perspective very big compared to when the efficiencies will pay off. Even though visual studio code loves to consume all the memory my laptop has and more.

The constant mindset of improving as can also be read in my other blog posts is something very central to my developer journey, I try to always find new ways but in a way that I can stick to them.

Some of my favourite shortcuts

As described before I love shortcuts. They make my workflow a lot more efficient. Some of my favourite shortcuts for visual studio code are the following

Many more can be found here

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