Leon Bambrick has an interesting post 8 ways to be a better programmer in 6 minutes. Even if you don’t agree with Leon’s tips, they’re interesting, and thought provoking. In the same spirit, here’s some more tips for you… though some of these might take more than 6 minutes to do.

Learn the Keys

Take that menu item you select every five minutes and find the keystroke that has the same effect. Practice using that keystroke instead of the menu item for all of today, and tomorrow as well.

Pretty quickly, you’ll internalise the keystroke – retraining your muscle memory – and you’ll be more productive.

Ask “Why do we do this?”

Is there some development practice you follow that you don’t understand?

Perhaps a practice that is mandated where you work, but with no explanation, or maybe some advice you follow because it seems like a good idea.

Take the time to find out what motivates the practice. Where did it come from? Why was the practice first adopted? Do you still get value from the practice?

Start Using Source Control

If you’re not already using source control, pick a tool and start using it – whether you use Team System, Subversion, Git or Mercurial is much less important than using something.

Or, if you’re already using source control, learn about one new feature of your source control tool and how it works.

Improve your tools

Make one change to improve your toolset.

Not running commandline builds? Write a batch file. Already have a batch file? Write a NAnt script? (or an Ant script). Have a build script, but not continuous integration? – try out TeamCity (the professional edition is free).

If you use Notepad all the time, try using Notepad++, ConTEXT or Crimson.

Visual Studio user? Start writing your own snippets, set up a margin guide, or give Resharper a trial run.


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February 2009