The programmers biggest obstacle: time management

One of the biggest problems faced by students is time management. It manifests itself as assignments that are started later than they should be, and are therefore handed in late – even by as little as 10-15 minutes. The reality is, that the longer you procrastinate on a programming assignment, the more stressed you will become. If you submit a project once, it may happen a second time, and before you know it, it becomes habit. Why?

It’s easy to think “Well, I have 3 weeks to do this assignment, plenty of time.”, then “two weeks left, I should be able to get it done if I start next week”, and finally with a week to go, you put it off day after day, until finally you are left with three days, and realize that it isn’t possible to squeeze all the work into that timeframe. Why does this occur?

  • It’s EASY to procrastinate. We all do it. Easier to play a game, do some sports, go out somewhere. There is always tomorrow, but in reality there never is.
  • The task seems too Herculean. It’s seems too HARD, and may be easier if I start it tomorrow. But it never is.
  • There is a LACK of understanding. But it won’t get easier if it’s left to fester.

So how to manage your time better?

  • Start early. Creating software  involves a number of steps: problem solving, design, build, test. Start on day one with looking at the problem to solve, and explore different ways of solving the problem. If this is all you do, it’s a start.
  • Plan the project. Create a time-line. Prioritize what needs to be done.
  • Write a to-do list.
  • Manage your distractions.  Work in a “closed environment”, which means away from distractions. It may not be great working in a closed office, with no real fresh air, but there are other places to work: the library? coffee shop? Avoid email, and twitter, and the net in general. People think they get more done in the office, but co-workers, and the office environment aren’t always conducive to thinking.
  • Don’t skip on breaks. Okay, so it’s likely not good to pull “all-nighters”. Better to work consistently for a time, then take a break. Go for a walk around the block, or a bike ride. Give your brain a chance to reboot.
  • Create a balance. Try and balance the work you have to do with other things that keep you sane. If you start early this is the best way to approach it. Starting a project due in 3 weeks early means that you may have 50% of it done by the 1-week mark, which means you can take a break from it, and reflect on what you have done so far.

Anyways, the internet is awash with ways to manage your time. It’s not rocket science though. And likely we could all do a better job if we weren’t juggling 101 different things – but that’s the modern world isn’t it?

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