The Magical 10x Developer – How?
The elusive 10x developer produces ten times as much output as a decent 1x developer. Who are these rare, mythical, magical 10x developers? Can you become one too – and how? In this tutorial, we’ll unravel the mysteries of the 10x developer. As it turns out, there’s nothing magical about it. We’ll discuss productivity, focus, deep work, and smartcuts you can use to increase your hourly output.
Table of Contents
Achieve More By Doing LessWhat’s interesting, is that a 10x developer doesn’t work 10 times as hard as a 1x developer. They don’t write 10 times more code. They don’t work 10 times more hours. We all have the same amount of productive hours in a day, right? Software development isn’t a linear discipline. You don’t just start your day, begin typing, and stop working 8 hours later. Building apps involves creative work, emotional labor, decision-making, and communication. Efficiency, i.e. using less resources to produce the same output, doesn’t get you farther. Effectiveness, i.e. using the same resources to produce more output, is what makes a positive difference for 10x developers. Think about the concept of a lever. A lever amplifies any input force to provide a greater output force. You can lift an elephant with your index finger, provided the lever is long and light enough. So, what’s a software developer’s best leverage? As you’ll learn in this tutorial, they are:
- Focus and prioritization
- Setting the right goals
- Deep work and flow
- Batching and automation
Focus: Do One ThingThe 10x developer’s weapon of choice is focus. As a kid, you surely tried to burn stuff in the backyard with a convex glass lens. Such a lens converges rays of light on one point. If the light is bright enough, you can easily set a bit of tinder on fire (or worse). Productive focus works the same way. It’s not about intently staring at one thing, or forcing yourself to “stay focused”, or being forceful and controlling in your way of working. In fact, like most of these things, focus is paradoxical. As it turns out, it’s much easier to focus on the task at hand when you’re calm, quiet and non-controlling. It’s about letting go, instead of holding on. As you learn later on in this tutorial, focus and flow are two sides of the same coin. Most developers, including 10x-ers, typically describe some kind of mental state in which they experience “flow”. This flow is often brought about by initial focused effort. If you find it hard to focus, and if you feel that focus often escapes you, try the following exercise:
- Get a pebble or other small object, the size of a small coin
- Place the pebble on a flat, empty surface, about 60 cm (24″) in front of you
- Look at the pebble for about 30 seconds, and then look elsewhere
- Don’t stare intensely at the pebble, but calmly look at it – just enough for focus to naturally occur
10x Developers PrioritizeIf focus is a bit too vague for you, then let’s talk about prioritization. The concept is simple:
- Some tasks are worth doing – they’re important – and get a higher priority
- Some tasks aren’t as important, and get a lower priority (and maybe don’t get done at all)
- Start your workweek with an hour of planning (do this on Friday, so you can hit the ground running on Monday and let go of work during the weekend)
- Make a list of all the things you want or should do the coming week
- Give each task a score from 1-10, based on whether the task helps you or your goals move forward
- Discard any task below 4, unless they’re absolutely necessary or urgent (“call the fire department, otherwise house burns down” kind of urgent)
- Postpone any task below 7 to next week, unless they’re absolutely necessary
- Focus on the tasks above 7, starting with the most important task
Why Do You Need Productivity?If you type “productivity definition” in Google, you get this as a result:
- the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input
- the rate of production of new biomass by an individual, population, or community; the fertility or capacity of a given habitat or area
- Efficiency is the rate at which you can climb a ladder. Climb fast and get the most out of your resources, and you reach the top in less time.
- Effectiveness determines if the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Is it worthwhile to climb it? If not, which wall should you pick?
Distractions, Deep Work And FlowHow much time did you spend today on the following things?
- Browsing Facebook, to see what friends were doing last weekend
- Responding to urgent but unimportant chat messages
- Being at a meeting that should have been an email or 5-minute chat
- Reading BuzzFeed about the 5 traits successful millionaires have
- Checking your email. Again. And again. And again. And again.
- Thinking about something stupid you said 5 years ago
- Daydreaming about the moment you get out of this place
- Do work you love and enjoy – it’s hard to get into the flow of washing the dishes or doing laundry (unless that’s what you love!)
- Work on something important, like getting to your goals; a task that makes you feel good when you’ve accomplished it
- Do this task first thing in your workday, so don’t postpone it by doing urgent or unimportant work
- Find your “peak time”, i.e. experiment to find out which hours of the day help you get into a flow and be more productive
- Let the flow naturally come about, don’t force it, but also learn to recognize how it feels, so you get to know it better
- Close any apps on your Mac/PC that produce realtime notifications, such as chat and email
- Put your phone in flight mode, and place it face-down somewhere you can’t see it (give it a try, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable)
- Shut your office door, or put on noise-cancelling headphones if you like (some people have a headphones on = don’t talk to me policy)
10x Output: Automation And BatchingCan you automate some of your work with the help of scripts, apps and tools? That’s what we’ll discuss next. It’s exciting, because automation typically comes naturally to 10x developers! You can’t outsource software development work to a computer, but you can automate a lot of other things. Some ideas:
- Use continuous integration (CI/CD) tools to automatically kick off a new iOS app build when you push a commit or tag a release. You can let it push the app to TestFlight, or even to the App Store. This saves you at least a day.
- Use Zapier to create a digest of notifications or updates, like Twitter replies. Send these replies to yourself by email once a week, and batch reply to anyone who’s mentioned you on Twitter.
- Learn keyboard shortcuts for your favorite programs, instead of mousing over to every button. Keyboard shortcuts aren’t faster in general, unless you use them for repeat tasks, such as editing a video or archiving email.
- Imagine you’re preparing a meal. You need to wash veggies, chop them, cook them, and put them on a plate.
- One way would be to do these tasks individually for each vegetable. You take the tomatoes, wash them, chop them, cook them, and put them on the plate. You do this for each vegetable.
- It’s probably faster to first wash all veggies, then chop all of them, then cook them together, and finally put all of them on plates.
Further ReadingThe 10x developer doesn’t do the work of a 1x developer 10 times as fast. As it turns out, 10x developers aren’t magical: they just get more results by doing less. Their leverage can be found in:
- Focusing on one thing at a time
- tasks, and simply not doing unimportant tasks
- Figuring out what their goals are, and how to get there
- Eliminating distractions and getting into a flow state
- Automating tasks that can be automated, and batching other tasks
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