Sunday, July 20, 2014

Time Management for Software Developers

And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble; and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.
~ F.L. Lucas 
A writer's problem does not change. He himself changes, and the world he lives in changes, but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly, and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes part of the experience of the person who reads it.
 ~ Ernest Hemingway

It truly wasn't until I had read Elizabeth Grace Saunders' The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress that my faith in the time management advice genre was restored. If you're like most people, you've probably found yourself cringing at the mere mention of time management; I used to. But this gem of a book, with its brilliant take on time investment, has changed all that. Far from being a run-of-the-mill time management title, it goes right to the heart of what works, what doesn't and, perhaps most importantly, helping you understand why certain time investment strategies work, while others don't.

I've found both quotes—which appear at the top of this essay—faithfully personified by the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, and embodied in the pages of this book. Jenny Blake (author of Life After College), in praising The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, perfectly captures the book's central message when she notes that Elizabeth "...eloquently moves us past traditional and outdated concepts around time management and instead lays a compelling foundation for time investment—so that we can all focus on what matters most to our individual lives and careers...."

I'd say that The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment has clearly over-achieved its claim, which I see prominently emblazoned across the dust jacket's back of my hard-cover copy of the book: Time management skills that work! Reboot your entire life in three simple steps. Fellow software developers, take note of the rebooting metaphor in the preceding claim :-) While this book is definitely not limited to us software developers, I have yet to see another book that comes even remotely close to what we need to stay on top of our dizzying project schedules and deadlines...
In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
~ John von Neumann
Elizabeth's book is the one you want to read, should you read only a single book this year! At long last, there is absolutely no need either to cringe on hearing the phrase time management, or to philosophically resign yourself to half-heartedly (i.e. mechanically) getting used to the advice offered by other time management books—as for the quote above, I imagine that the legendary John von Neumann was being facetious. So read up on the strategies in this book, and put them into practice to reap the benefits. Thank you, Elizabeth!

And I have Cal Newport to thank for bringing this book to my attention, by way of his foreword to the book. His written work (both his blog and books) has also had a profound impact on me over the years, and I own a copy of every book that he has written so far—While Cal's book How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country's Top Students is ostensibly aimed at college students, a lot of it is every bit as relevant to those of us in the workplace; it has amazingly helpful and original strategies for mastering hard, technical material. And that's all stuff which is highly relevant to what we do daily as computer programmers.

To give you a flavor of the topics covered, here is a handful of my favorite chapters from Cal's book:
  • Write as if Going for a Pulitzer
  • Laugh Every Day
  • Don't Undersleep, Don't Oversleep
  • Stay in Touch
  • “Don't Have No Regrets”
Lest I forget to mention, an excellent newsletter serves to supplement the book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment. And finally, to give you a flavor of some the topics covered in the book, here is a handful of my favorite sections from Elizabeth's book:
  • Strengthen Simple Routines
  • Increase Your Hope: Optimism 
  • Increase Your Peace: Mind Time
  • Priority-Based Decision Making
  • How to Pacify Your Inner Routine Rebel
Last, but by no means the least, the written works by Elizabeth and Cal reflect good taste in that they both treat the reader with great respect, and that shines through the pages of their books, newsletters, blogs, etc.!
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
~ Anna Quindlen

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