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8 Practical tips to stay alert and focused while coding

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Coding is the core of what most developers and automation testers do and as an activity requires sufficient levels of concentration to be performed effectively.

TAs we live in a world full of distractions, it can be at times difficult to stay alert and focused while coding. Combat this by being aware of the different forms of distractions and taking actions to resist them.

Your well-being, routines, motivations and how effectively you plan, all play a role in your ability to remain focused while coding. Several time management tools and productivity techniques also exist that can aid and boost concentration.

Here are 8 simple factors that can be applied to greatly improve your effectiveness at staying alert and focused while coding.

1. Know your optimum time to code

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This is first on the list for a reason. If you choose the wrong time to start coding, such as a time when you’re tired, sleepy, unmotivated and so on, the remaining tips in this article will be 10x less effective! Enter coding sessions ideally at a time of the day when you’re likely to feel the most refreshed and alert. If you don’t know what this time is, experiment until you’ve found an optimum time you can reserve as your coding time.

Some of us are more alert first thing in the morning or some prefer coding later in the day. How much sleep you get and your daily schedule will also influence the time you have to code as we may try to squeeze coding in between other tasks.

Your ability to stay alert and focused while coding will be massively impacted by how you feel when you start your sessions. It’s therefore crucial you figure out a routine and find an optimum time you can be productive and code effectively.

2. Ditch the distractions


You’re at your computer and ready to start coding then.. your phone rings. What you planned to be a minute of checking the notification now turns into an hour of scrolling and getting lost in the world of the internet and social media.

Most of us are guilty of this and we think we have enough discipline to get rid of distractions at will, but it’s just not always the case!

Instead of relying on will power that we know is likely to fail us, start being intentional about keeping away from predictable distractions like our phones and other gadgets that are dangerous at taking away our ability to remain focused while coding. Some simple changes can be to put your phone on silent mode or in an entirely different room during your coding sessions. Also consider using apps that block internet activity or social media websites on your phone during certain times. When you become aware of the common distractions around you, the next step is to be disciplined enough to put in effort to find barriers you can place between these distractions and your determination to remain focused while coding.

3. Decide your to-do before the session begins

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Plan ahead before any coding session and decide what your targets are for that session. This is advantageous because not only does it avoid wasting time at the beginning of your session, but decision making in itself can take effort and may leave you feeling exhausted afterwards. This in turn affects your ability to focus for the rest of the coding session. Lack of clarity about what you want to achieve during a session requiring focus can also lead to you jumping between tasks and trying to multitask. Avoid this by planning each coding session well before it begins and ideally do this the day before you’ll be working on the tasks. To help you decide on your goals for that coding session ask yourself questions such as:

  • What project will I be working on?

  • What type of activity will I be doing – New feature? Refactoring? Bug fix? Documentation?

  • What are the high priority and critical tasks I need to get done?

  • What is one major task I want to accomplish by the end of the session?

Having a plan is critical even though things may not necessarily go according to that plan. A clear set of tasks and goals will help improve your ability to remain focused while coding.

4. Use a project management tool


An effective project management tool will allow you to plan, view and organise your work in an intuitive and easily accessible manner. There are some tools out there particularly useful for developers and can help to keep you organised and focused while working on development projects. Trello is an example of such a project management tool and is used by all sorts of engineering teams. Trello allows you to organise, visualise and plan all aspects of your work in a digitised sticky note style system. For developers, Trello can be used for brainstorming, gathering requirements, listing new features, bug tracking, setting deadlines, workflows and collaborating with others. I’m a personal fan of Trello and use it daily to organise my projects. As someone who was once a physical sticky note user, I now use Trello to plan projects and ensure tasks don’t get lost in a sea of sticky notes! Checkout our article on using Trello to organise your dev projects for more detail on how Trello can be an effective way to organise your work and even your life! Other platforms like Notion and Asana are also well known project management tools for developers. Try out different platforms and stick to the one that works for you. Once you’re over the initial learning curve of getting used to the platform it will surely benefit you in the long term. In a previous article we discussed 5 Simple and effective organisation tips for developers. Have a read for more ways to keep your development projects in order!

5. Work on achievable bite-sized tasks