In a competitive job market, efficiency is more important now than ever. This is especially true in the field of software engineering. With new technologies and approaches emerging every day, it can be difficult to keep up.
That's why it's so important to learn from the most efficient software engineers out there and mimic their patterns. Find a well-respected tech lead or engineer on your team and observe their output. What can you learn? Your goal is to work smarter to achieve more, without burning yourself out.
How Efficient Engineers Operate
The most efficient software engineers have three things in common:
- they're able to focus
- they're constantly learning
- they're able to take breaks when needed
Let's break down each of these patterns in more detail.
The ability to focus is crucial for any software engineer. There are always going to be distractions, whether it's colleagues stopping by your desk or notifications popping up on your computer screen. But the most efficient engineers know how to tune out these distractions and stay focused on their work. Here's how to prevent yourself from getting sucked into the world of distraction:
- Create an environment to get in the zone (e.g. move your phone out of arm's reach)
- Break down your tasks so it's obvious to you what the next action item is.
- Find an accountability partner.
Check out the masterclass in Taro about managing your time optimally in tech with several additional high leverage tools and tactics here.
Always be Learning
Secondly, the most efficient software engineers are always learning. They know that the field of software engineering is constantly changing and evolving, so they make it a point to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies.
They read industry-related articles, attend conferences and webinars, and generally make an effort to continuously learn throughout their careers. This ensures that they're always ahead of the curve and can take on whatever challenges come their way. Here are the skill you need to master in order to maximize your learning:
- Know when to ask for help. My rule of thumb is to ask for help if you're stuck for more than 20 minutes.
- Ask effective questions that get great answers
- When you have extra time + capacity, peel back abstractions to gain deeper understanding.
Here's a case study of how Seed Zeng grew rapidly at a hypergrowth startup by focusing on learning.
The most efficient software engineers know when to take a break. The fact that we can do software engineering work from anywhere is both a blessing and a curse. Since we're constantly "plugged in", it's easy to get burned out. Once you're burned out, you can say goodbye to efficiency.
It's important to take some time for yourself. Build a system to ensure that breaks are part of your system – it should be on your calendar, setup with a timer, or some other mechanism to remind you.
Go for a walk, grab a coffee, or just step away from your computer screen for a few minutes. The only criteria for the break is that you should not screw up your emotional state – don't check TikTok, don't look at the scores from the game, and don't get into a fight. Those are counterproductive breaks, but we're focused on increasing our productivity. When you come back from a break refreshed and rejuvenated, you'll be able to tackle your work with renewed energy and focus.
If you want to be an efficient software engineer, there's no need to reinvent the wheel—just follow the patterns of those who have already mastered the art of efficiency. Stay focused, keep learning, and take breaks when needed, and you'll find yourself getting more done in less time. Soon enough, you'll be wondering why you ever worked any other way!
If you want more tips about efficiency and advancing your career, join the discussions from ambitious software engineers on Taro.