How Simplicity Leads to Greater — Productivity, Quality & Satisfaction

Though we can do so many things simultaneously - should we? Does it actually reduce effectiveness and productivity which are the antithesis of professional application development? Let’s discuss.

Productivity, Quality & Satisfaction

Though we can do so many things simultaneously - should we? Does it actually reduce effectiveness and productivity which are the antithesis of professional application development? Let’s discuss.

More Work != More Productivity (and Satisfaction)

Recently, I’ve felt rather under the pump to get through a series of client projects (lucky me you may say). There has been a lot to do, to organise, to plan and, ultimately to balance.

Whilst I’ve been a web application developer for over 12 years, I still found myself feeling overwhelmed and eventually having to deal with anxiety and stress, which if left unattended may have lead to burnout.

I had the thought, as is common in a western-based mentality, that to be busy, to be industrious, to try and multi-task a series of independent tasks and projects simultaneously was the right thing to do. It’s meant to be a simple formula:

Greater productivity = Greater self-worth right?

Sounds almost like Thatcherism.

I felt that this was not only right, but the sign of an intelligent and sophisticated developer, who truly had honed his craft. Perhaps you’ve felt the same at one time or another?

How about this - have you been offered an enticing project? One that gives you the ability to expand your knowledge of the subject matter (such as accounting, advertising or physics); one that challenges you to create a rather sophisticated and intelligent design, ultimately resulting in a very remarkable application for the client or organisation?

I’m sure, if you’re anything like me, you have and that it set your mind racing. You thought:

“I’ll create it around a set of modules. Those modules will have a set of sub-interdependent parts, which will intern interact seamlessly with related, external, services - and it will be AMAZING”.

Well, that was me. I did just that. This excitement, lead me to try do everything all at once. I was trying to create tests for forms, entities, controllers all at once.

However, instead of brilliance, this resulted in extreme stress and anxiety as well as a substantial workload. As a result I decided to stop, think and ultimately take a different approach. If this was the first time, I may well not have.

The New Approach

It takes many forms, but said most succinctly, it’s an idea that I’m sure you’re heard at least one time: Keep It Simple Silly. Yes, KISS.

Instead of trying to do everything at once - I stopped and decided to only do one thing at once. And that one thing, had my full attention and focus. When it was done, I then moved on to the next one. Not before and not after.

Why? Well have you heard the answer to the question - How do you eat an Elephant? If not here it is - one bite at a time.

Will It Work

At this stage, I’m not sure how this new approach will go. But I’m hopeful of what the results may be. The best thing is, one of my active projects will be acting as a test subject. So I’ll get to see how it goes.

As a bit of background - it’s a Zend Framework 2 based project. Whilst it’s not, technically, that complex, the amount of forms, entities, validators, filters, modules, controllers, actions and relationships within the components of the application, make it both complex and time intensive to complete.

As an aside: I’m confident that a good use of the Module Manager and Service Manager in zf2 will help make code easier to write and more maintainable. I’ll be blogging on the results, as well as how using database views reduces application complexity, over the coming weeks.

For the remainder of this project I will be following this new motto - doing one task at a time and doing it well. No more, no less. This doesn’t reduce the workload, but it should make it easier to manage.

I’m hoping that it will not only produce a better result than my previous approach and also one that will result in more satisfaction, less stress, and overall a* better work/life balance* - along with a happy client.

Over to you

Do you attempt to take on too many projects, or too many tasks, at the one time? Do you believe that results in better developed applications, greater satisfaction and happy clients?

If you’re honest with yourself now, is it working for you? Or would a simpler approach be more beneficial?

I leave this question with you and hope you’ll give your input today.

Image credit Erving_Lau

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