How to spend more time not coding as a Freelance Developer

You were expecting some new tech, right? Not today!

You’re always on a tight deadline, learning a new framework, or looking to deploy a new project ASAP. The list is endless and they all seem important. You wish you could spend more time with loved ones and have fun. I understand!

As developers, we usually don't pay attention to work-life balance, and the kudos given to spending more time in front of the screen is becoming unhealthy. I started out as a freelance copywriter and I’ll say I really struggled with time and stress management. I would spend most of the day in front of my PC and in the end feel like I haven't achieved anything for the day. Little did I know that a career transition would triple this effect.

As a web developer, working overtime is inevitable, but can be managed in a healthy way to reduce screen time. I definitely don't have it all figured out but with the little time I've spent as a developer, I've been able to pick up a few things I’ve learned along the way and I’ve decided to share some tips to help you manage stress, and also spend less time coding while getting more done.

Freelance developer work process

As a freelance developer, the daily routine mostly is to wake up, turn on your PC, code, sleep, eat, and code again, and this cycle repeats itself daily. It never stops.

To be a successful freelance developer, you want to be able to manage your clients, work on personal projects, and still have enough time to relax and be taken care of.

Here’re a few tips on how to get more done and still enjoy your free time:

Be the boss of your own time

I begin each day with a to-do list, which I prepare the night before or first thing in the morning. If you have kids, planning out your day can also mean planning what to do first between cleaning, attending to kids, and so on. It keeps you organized and focused.

So how do I do this? I organize my tasks in order of importance using an app called Todoist. A rule of thumb is that you should be real with yourself and not overthink your abilities. Try as much as possible to limit your tasks to what can be completed within 24 hours. Win the day slowly but surely.

Work with Deadlines

The human mind is tricky. It stretches to accommodate the time allocated to finish a task when it could have been completed in half the time. If you set 3 months to complete a 1-month project, it’s going to take 3 months for sure to complete. Why? You’ve convinced yourself that it’s impossible to get the project done faster.

Deadlines are super important! The code word is to START IMMEDIATELY. Even if it’s setting up a new project or creating an outline of what you’re going to do. You just have to START. Motivation comes from action. Once again, set a deadline and START.

Getting your jobs done on time means more free time. More free time, a better lifestyle.

Pomodoro technique

This technique helps you adhere strictly to timing and keeps you organized throughout the day. For every project you work on throughout the day, you work for a certain period of time (25 min preferably) and take a short break afterward. This 25 min work time is called a "Pomodoro", which is an Italian word for "tomato".

How does it work?

The process is quite simple;

  • Pick a pen and write all the tasks needed to be completed for that day, or better still, use Todoist.
  • Get a timer and set for 25min.
  • Focus on a single task until the timer beeps.
  • Tick what you've been able to achieve for this 25min and take a 5 min break.
  • Increase your rest time to 20min-25min after 4 Pomodoro.
  • Repeat this process until you get all your tasks done.

If 25min is too small for you to get a lot done, you can increase your work-time to an hour and make sure to take at least take 25min break each time your timer rings. This technique is quite known among developers and has also been proven to be effective if taken seriously.

Bonus Tips

Stay Hydrated

Coding requires a lot of motivation and energy, and studies have also shown that dehydration increases fatigue and reduces motivation and energy levels. That's why taking lots of liquid while working is advisable. keeping your body system hydrated and drinking a lot of water will calm your nerves and help you reduce stress.

Another benefit of drinking a lot of water is it improves one’s memory and also helps reduce dryness which automatically causes tiredness, migraines and headaches.

If you’re not used to drinking water more often, there are few apps you can use to keep track of the amount of water that you drink and also get reminders to drink more water when you’ve not. Some of them are; Water drink reminder, water tracker, hydrillo and many others.

Take a Walk

Have you noticed that prolonged sitting for more than 8hours drops your energy level and you gradually start to lose concentration? That’s what happens when you sit for hours working without taking a break.

Sometimes, while coding and you’re stuck, instead of trying everything possible to fix that bug. Why not just relax!, take a deep breath, get up, and take a walk, somewhere quiet preferably. Stretching, playing, or taking a walk is an excellent way to boost productivity and also reduce mental fatigue.

Practice the 20-20-20 Rule

Over the years, screen time has always been an issue for programmers. I mean, we find ourselves gazing at our computer screens all day and it’s very likely you experience sore eyes, itchy eyes, blurred vision or even headaches, which are all as a result of eye strain. There’s a remedy for this. The 20-20-20 rule.

The 20-20-20 rule is basically looking 20feet away from your computer after every 20min for 20seconds. How do you even know if something is 20feet away? We are probably not going to measure the distance with a tape. What you can do is try to focus on something far away from you for 20sec, like a tree across the street or a house opposite your building. Practice this for every 20min and you’re good.

There are also free apps like Eye Care 20 20 20 that reminds you to take a break after every 20min in case you lost track of time.

Find a Hobby

Relaxing means something different for everyone. For some, it might be playing games or going to the parks and for others, it might be something entirely different. The point here is to "have fun". Do something that requires full focus (like playing video games). For me, it's movies. I make sure to watch at least a movie episode for an hour after completing a task. That way, I'm able to get my mind off anything that relates to code. You will be surprised at how much stress you're able to unload and how much bugs you're able to fix after taking some time off.

Conclusion

Work-life balance is a term developers don't really pay attention to, or maybe a number of us don't even know how to balance things up because we always find ourselves working on one task or the other. I hope reading this article will give you a clearer picture of how much free time you can have if your time is managed wisely.

Don’t hesitate to share if you find this useful. Till later. Byyeeeee.

Oluwasefunmi Bamidele's photo

Welldone!!!

Agada Queen oyife's photo

Nice one👌👍

Princess Jel-Edema's photo

Nice write up👏👏

Ezenwankwo Ugochukwu's photo

Nicely written!

Bolaji Ayodeji's photo

Love this, thanks for sharing!

Peter Thaleikis's photo

Nice! The 20-20-20 rule is interesting, never heard about it.

Adekunle Bamikole's photo

Nice one