One topic that many software developers in our productivity studies are very vocal about are meetings. For example, in an online survey with 379 developers, 58% described meetings as a waste of time – one of the main reasons for feeling unproductive. In this blogpost, I explore reasons why meetings are so unpopular, especially for developers, and discuss why I think meeting agendas could make your meetings more efficient and successful!
I am often thinking and talking to other people about how to reach a balance in work-life; a balance that I sometimes reach, but often cannot hold for long. The reason is that I often lose track of what really matters, what brings me forward, and what I enjoy doing. I start to say ‘yes’ to all requests, start to work long hours, stop my exercise routine, and slowly find myself (again) fighting against the storm of work and obligations…
This work has been conducted by André Meyer (UZH), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft Research) and Thomas Fritz (UBC). This research has been published to the industrial papers track at the ESEM’17 in Toronto. Thomas Zimmermann will present it on Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 1pm in Session 4B: Qualitative Research.
Studying Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity instead of Measuring it
To overcome the ever-growing demand for software, we need new ways of optimizing the productivity of software developers. Existing work has predominantly focused on top-down approaches for defining or measuring productivity, such as lines of code, function points, or completed tasks over time. While these measurements are valuable to compare certain aspects of productivity, we argue that they miss the many other factors that influence the success and productivity of a software developer, such as the fragmentation of their work, their experience, and so on.
This work has been conducted by André Meyer (UZH), Laura Barton (UBC), Gail Murphy (UBC), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft) and Thomas Fritz (UZH).
Many software development companies strive to enhance the productivity of their engineers. All too often, efforts aimed at improving developer productivity are undertaken without knowledge about how developers spend their time at work and how it influences their own perception of productivity and well-being. For example, a software developers’ work day might be influenced by the tasks that are performed, by the infrastructure, tools used, or the office environment. Many of these factors result in activity and context switches that can cause fragmented work and, thus, often have a negative impact on the developers’ perceived productivity, quality of output and progress on tasks.
Besides “artificial intelligence” and “virtual reality”, “machine learning” (short: ML) is probably the most hyped technology in the past few years. And, at least in my opinion, with every right. However, it’s not that as if ML was just invented recently, as the term was first coined in 1959 by Arthur Samuel, a pioneer in the field of ML who described the technology as:
Machine learning is a field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.
What is ML?
ML is a computational, or rather, statistical, method that uses experience to improve the performance of a topic or make accurate predictions. The ‘experience’ in that case is based on past data that we can access and that is labelled or categorized (by humans). The quality of the predictions depends on the accuracy and amount of the data.
I am extremely happy to announce our newest project, FlowLight, a traffic-light-like light for knowledge workers to reduce their interruptions at work, and makes them more productive! The research project, published with the title “Reducing Interruptions at Work: A Large-Scale Field Study of FlowLight”, was conducted in close collaboration with researchers at ABB. It was also awared with an Honorable Mention award.
I am thrilled to announce the first publicly available version of Picturex for Business. Tierpark Goldau, a Swiss landscape and animal park, offers its visitors a unique way to share and exchange the best snapshots they took during their visit at the Tierpark. Also, users of the Tierpark Momente-App can create private photo albums to share their photos in private within their family.
What is productivity? Many would describe it as the time you spend in “the zone” when you get things done. The time you are fully present, totally engaged with what happens, time you spend in the productive flow. But how to get there? David Allen, one of the responsible people that elicited my interest in researching productivity, talked about his time-management method getting things done in on TED a few years back.
Being appropriately engaged with what is going on
The secret to stress-free productivity, according to Allen, is to be totally committed and engaged with just a single thing at a time. The more that is on your mind at the same time, the more inappropriately you are engaged, and the less you can focus on just doing the thing you should be doing. It may sound counter intuitive or even awkward, but the key to being able to fully engage with the current project/task is to park everything unrelated to the task on a separate list that you regularly revisit in the right time and trust that it lets you never forget a thought or idea.
We all have this in common: We live in a busy world. And we all have got the same 24 hours to spend. While (at least in theory) we can choose what to spend our time on, most of us are always in a hurry. And we often excuse ourselves with: “I don’t have time for that.” But that’s not entirely true…
I was regularly thinking or saying “I don’t have time for that.”. Was. Until I saw a Ted talk by Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, who studies how busy people spend their lives. She discovered that extremely busy people, such as a woman with multiple kids, a houshold to take care of and a very successful career, still had time to go for a hike on a Wednesday – a weekday!
In my strive to make people more productive, less stressed and generally happier at work, I’ve found an interesting article on Business Insider who interviewed Eric Potterat, a former head psychologist for the US Navy SEALs. He mentions that one similarity of “elite people”, whether they are athletes or military members, is how they cope with stress. He describes that people who control stress can control their performance in any environment, and that anyone can learn it and turn it into a habit.
Are you often feeling stressed during your work days? Do you never really find the time to do sports and train your body? You are not alone, but there are many easy things to be more active and healthy at work.
Meetings don’t have to be held in a dark and boring meeting room. Get your meeting partner(s) up and go out to take a walk. I usually take paper and pen with me (yes, they still exist! 🙂 ) to take notes.
Are you a multi-tasker? Maybe it’s time to reconsider your work habits.
I personally know many who are proud to be able towork on several tasks at the same time, as they “get more stuff done than others”. However, research has found out that multi-tasking is actually less productive than doing just one thing at a time. Here is why:
I’ve just watched an incredibly interesting TED Talk by Kevin Kelly, who explains why technological progress is inevitable and why robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will not kill all our jobs.
Much like our strive to make things faster, easier and more convenient couldn’t prevent the phone or internet to be ‘invented’, broad use of AI systems are inevitable. That’s why Kelly suggests us to “embrace AI to steer it”.
I am a frequent reader of Paul Thurrot’s Microsoft Insider blog and think this one about securing your internet identity/accounts is very worth to share, and probably a good intention to do (soon) in 2017!
In the blog post, he talks about how important and easy (!) it is to secure your online accounts on Facebook, Dropbox, Microsoft, Google, and so on with the Two-Factor-Authentication and why you should use a separate password for each online service you are using! As probably nobody can remember all the passwords used anyway, he recommends to use a password manager, such as LastPass or KeePass.
You can find the article on thurrot.com. Start now, and secure your online identity!