The habits of success – in IT and elsewhere

Have you ever wondered what makes highly successful people more productive, less stressed, and nevertheless happier? We believe that what they have in common is that they know their priorities, organise their life around them and have a positive perspective on life in general. We looked into our own habits and those of successful entrepreneurs in order to share the habits that we find the most important. Here they are:

1. Take advantage of time management and organisation

  • Choose the beginning of the week for prioritising your schedule for the rest of the week. Than daily review the priority list in the morning and start your day with focusing on the most important thing. Leave the small and non-urgent tasks for the end. The most commonly used technique is the four-quadrant “Eisenhower decision matrix”. This 2×2 matrix classifies tasks as urgent and non-urgent on one axis and important and non-important on the other axis. This time management approach helps to focus on “first things first.”

  • Use notepads, planners or whatever helps you writing down your daily tasks, goals and plans. This will free your mind of the pressure that you might forget to do something. That way you can actually focus on the present and the work that needs to be done. Be organized, however flexible to modify your plans if required.

  • Organise your calendar by dividing your working day to several working blocks that will help you stay focused and not multitask all the time.

  • Make sure that you take breaks. We looked for evidence and found out that there are scientific reasons to prioritise breaks at work – they keep us from getting bored (and thus, unfocused), also help us retain information and make connections, they help us reevaluate our goals, boost creativity, productivity and memory. If you are eager to try a new method to incorporate breaks into your daily work routine, you can find a few ideas here. We suggest the simple Pomodoro technique, where you first define the task, then set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, you take a short 5 minutes break. After four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of up to 30 minutes. It is a great technique to combine with other tools, as Pomodoro focuses on progress, staying focused, and getting things done.

  • Here are a few suggestions for productivity-boosting activities for your break: take a walk, daydream, eat, read, get a coffee, listen to music, nap, exercise… In case you spend most of the day in front of your computer, we suggest you use micro breaks to exercise your eyes by applying the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes take a break at least 20 seconds and look at objects that are 20 feet (cca. 6m) away from you.

  • Eliminate disruptors. Texts and notifications that pop up on your cell phone or laptop can be a big distraction while you are working, therefore put your phone away and shut down all unnecessary applications (e.g. Email, Facebook) while at work.

  • Remember that work is work. Sometimes it is fun and sometimes it is the opposite. Deal with it!

2. Acknowledge the importance of your attitude

  • Accept and give feedback. Try to see the positive intent behind criticism and think about how you can improve. When giving feedback to others make sure that you emphasise positive things and explain where you think there is a room for improvement by being clear and fair.

  • Be a problem solver and not a complainer by turning negativity into positive action which will sound professional and will help you re-frame issues into challenges and opportunities. Change negative events to your biggest lessons learned and use them to grow personally and professionally.

  • Be dependable and always do what was agreed. Make sure that you are at work on time as scheduled.

  • Allow yourself to be an expert and also see expertise in others. In our team we help each other and are not scared to ask for help or advice.

3. Maintain your work-life balance

It is crucial that you maintain balance between work and personal life. And here we mean the balance within your body, mind and soul as well. Successful people are usually successful on all fields of their life and isn’t that what we all strive for?

  • Therefore take care of your body by drinking enough water, eating healthy, exercising and making sure that you have enough quality sleep on a daily basis. Here we suggest that you start your day with an energising and healthy routine and by this you will set a standard for the rest of the day.

  • Be open about your needs. It is important that you identify what truly matters to you and communicate it. In our office we know who needs to pick up the kids from the kindergarten on time, who has training and who needs 2 hours to bike to the office, so we try to adjust work processes accordingly. I doesn’t always work, but at least we talk openly about it.

  • Make quality time true quality time. Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives, while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress. Make sure to set up boundaries – for instance by not checking your work email or reacting to updates while you are at home with your friends, family or kids in the late afternoon, that way you will develop a stronger habit of resilience.

  • Pace yourself. To have a balanced life and career you need to understand the value of pace. There are times when you need to throttle up and times when you can throttle down. Self-awareness is crucial. Doing so will help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Did we forget something? Share your habits with us, we’d be happy to learn from you.

Why developers work overnight

It’s no myth that we transform caffeine into code and often work late in the night, but we never give it much thought why this is so… We are an agency, we have working hours, so why do we often keep working late in the night? We figured we are not the only ones and here are the three main reasons why programmers prefer to work when the night falls.

Intelligence or laziness?

A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences analyzed over 20,000 people and concluded that night owls, regardless of the age, are more intelligent. Individuals with higher IQ levels have different sleep cycles compared to people with an average intelligence. They tend to sleep and wake up later than those with lower IQ levels.

Or maybe it’s not about intelligence and we are just lazy, we wait until the last minute to finish work and then we have to pull all-nighters… Sometimes yes, we admit it, but our project manager would flip out if this would keep happening… So,this is not really the case, and we also do not think of ourselves as Einsteins, but at the end it comes down to distraction.

No distraction

Programming is a process requiring deep thought and a lot of concentration, as Swizec Teller writes in his book. Ask us a question and it can all be gone in the blink of the eye. All that hard work and deep concentration, just gone. Simply because we had to think about something else. No, we cannot multitask, not at all.

During the day we have meetings, we discuss problems and new projects, we look for solutions together… And when the night falls and everything goes quiet, we build the framework in our mind, start working, make tweaks, beat one small problem after another until suddenly it’s morning and birds are chirping outside the window.

It’s a lifestyle

We are used to work that way since forever… Staring at a bright screen doesn’t really make you sleepy, studies show. Your sleep cycle gets delayed and you are not tired until 3am. Also, having no little children who have to be in the kindergarten at 7am allows us to work more flexible hours.

So that are the results of our little ‘study’. Tell us what you think! 🙂

How to be effectively involved in the development process – as a customer

In this blog post, we will look at five key points, where it’s important that the customer is involved in the project development. Communication is key, and this allows for all stakeholders to be on the same page and know exactly what the goal of the project is.

1. Requirements

The development of every project starts with specifying the customer requirements and development timeline. While a lot of customers think this is the developer’s job, it’s actually something everyone must be involved with.

From time to time, we all get a customer that simply wants something done, without giving it much thought or discussing the details with the developer. This very often leads to the situation, where the end product is not exactly what the customer wanted and they blame the developer.

The best solution is for both the customer and the developer to sit down at the start of the project and discuss everything in detail. Both parties should be aware of the project’s difficulty and any possible limitations. This will also help to clearly define the requirements, which are the basis for the development timeline and a way to easily determine the development cost.

2. Unforeseen changes are expensive

Piggybacking off the previous point, you should be aware that any unexpected changes (like new features in the middle of development) can lead to increased development time and costs. Even a small change can cause major restructuring of the framework.

As a customer, you should really think about the project before meeting the developer. Are you unsure about a certain feature? Discuss it! Even if you ultimately decide not to include the feature, let the developer know about it. They will at least try to design the framework to reduce the work required to implement the feature in the future.

3. “They haven’t done anything after two months!”

Don’t worry! If you started a project with a large web application or a web portal, quite a while will pass, before you’ll see something usable or even anything at all.

When the development starts, the development team will begin with the most important phase – planning the database structure and back-end, and choosing the platforms and frameworks to work with. During this phase, most of the functionality is defined and later implemented. The whole process can take a long time, since any small mistake can cause an issue in the future.

The designers will start with wireframes and mockups. Until the website has at least the basic functionality, this is all you’ll see. Some developers can work on front-end in the meantime, but this ultimately depends on the size of the development team.

4. Project launch is almost always problematic

So, you launched the project. Customers and users start stopping by. For some time, everything works, but soon you or someone else discovers that something is not working properly.

In the world of web development, every user can have a completely different environment (different devices and browsers). That’s why it’s impossible to test the website on every device.

With a simple website, this rarely happens, but with a large web application, this can be quite common. That’s why it’s important to run a limited beta test. Find some friends for instance, and let them use the website for a week or two. This way the most annoying issues can be solved early on.

5. Maintenance agreement

After the project launch, it’s customary to sign a maintenance agreement – a contract with the development team to continue maintaining the project.

Over time, many issues can appear. Is the server too slow to handle the large amount of users? Is the website not working in the new version of a web browser? The maintenance agreement ensures that developers solve this issues as soon as possible. Critical issues (like the website not working) are mostly free of charge.

Like with the requirements, it’s important that both parties collaborate when defining the maintenance agreement.

Conclusion

Hopefully this blog post successfully presented the main customer related issues we face during development, which many customers have no idea about.

The idea of this post isn’t to shed a negative light on customers, but to inform them how to be effectively involved in the development process.

Worrying about people stealing your ideas is just a waste of energy

Creativity is not something only a few lucky ones have, we all are born with it and we all have the potential to be creative, we just have to figure out how to enfold it.

Think a bit… we are constantly having ideas – some of them are crazy, others are quite good and then there are the really great ones. It often happens that when we have an excellent idea, we try to hide it or are almost paranoid that someone would steal it and present it as their own. But actually worrying about others stealing your ideas is just a waste of time.

Idea-Nothing

Let us explain… A great idea is useless until you turn it into reality. But the way from an idea to realisation is quite tough. The idea is just a small piece in the mosaic of success. Many are not aware of this. You can come up with a great solution, but if you do not invest in it, develop it further and finally put it to realisation, it will stay what it is… just an idea which has no use for anyone.

Sharing-means-more-ideas

One idea is not enough. Do not stick with just one. Sharing your thoughts with others will extend your creativity and consequently you will come up with more and more ideas. A career is a combination of a variety of different ideas and a lot of drive and hard work is needed before you achieve a pursued goal and accomplish your personal victory. Talk, discuss and explore. Those you share your ideas with will give you some new perspectives and will help you think out of the box. As a result, your idea will be further developed and therefore have more value. Or you will find out the opposite – a negative side of the idea, you haven’t even thought of. Sometimes others can help you evaluate your idea and may help you decide if it is worth executing or not.

Sharing your ideas may also helps others. If someone has problems realizing their ideas and you already have gone through that struggle, you might help and guide them to achieve their stated goals. At the same time you will get new inspiration or discover various approaches to different problems.

You-probably-were-not-the-first-one-anyway

Ideas are being constantly born and there’s probably someone else who already thought of the same or had at least a very similar one. That is why, for example designer’s works are similar without them knowing about each other – ever heard that phrase: “Great minds think alike”? The fact is that people are much more alike than we think and are willing to admit.

As said, almost everything has been discovered before. Remember Picasso’s quote: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The key is to personalize already explored ideas. Do it your own way with your own touch, using your experiences and knowledge that are unique to you. An idea can be executed in so many ways, that the outcomes look nothing alike.

And-finally

Take into account that ideas are hardly ever stolen. Artists, businessman, designers ect. who have any pride in their abilities will not take your idea entirely. More often little pieces are taken from various sources and are combined into one. Consciously or subconsciously we all steal ideas and make them fit in our mosaic.

Make your own unique combination and do not be scared to share it with the world! 🙂