This post was influenced by the film Limitless.
“An action-thriller about a writer who takes an experimental drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his mind. As one man evolves into the perfect version of himself, forces more corrupt than he can imagine mark him for assassination. Out-of-work writer Eddie Morra’s (Bradley Cooper) rejection by girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) confirms his belief that he has zero future. That all vanishes the day an old friend introduces Eddie to NZT, a designer pharmaceutical that makes him laser focused and more confident than any man alive.” – IMDb
I found the film quite inspirational, and immediately began researching methods to improve my productivity.
Focus is the key.
Anything which has the potential to break your concentration must be removed from your environment. Close Facebook, Twitter, Skype and your Email. If you have your own office close the door. Position your desk in a direction which minimises passing distractions. Clear your physical and virtual desktop.
Performance enhancing drugs.
Caffeine can help stimulate your mind and body. In my case, only a small amount is required otherwise it has the opposite effect, and actually reduces my concentration level.
Fuel the fire.
Keep bottles of water and various snacks at arms length. Being well hydrated will keep you alert, whilst the sugar will satisfy the slightest hunger, without having to resort to getting up for something more substancial. Your doctor won’t be too happy about this, but hey.
Stay in the zone.
Listening to music works for me. Tracks without words ideally. The higher the BPM, the better. Drum & Bass is a great choice. This one is very much about personal preference. There are cases both for and against playing music which is familiar, versus new.
Time of day can play a role. If you are a freelancer or work from home, do so when you feel you are the most proactive. For many developers, it is often the night time. Unless you live above a bar, it should be quieter during the small hours. Clients and colleagues are likely to be in bed, so you won’t be disturbed by emails and phone calls.
Don’t touch the mouse.
Learn all the keyboard shortcuts for the IDE you use.
Engage Auto Pilot.
Try using auto code completion and self closing braces. Keep snippets of often used code handy.
Once you go black…
I switched over to having a black background in my text editor, after years on white. Some editors will allow you to simply invert the syntax colouring. I’ve found that I can look at a darker screen for longer without causing my eyes to fatigue, plus it looks more geeky and matrix-like.
Get a head start.
It’s all about finding out what works for you. Getting in the zone, and then staying there.