4 Ways to Keep Yourself on Task During Long Coding Sessions

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When it comes to writing great code, there are no shortcuts. You simply have to put in the time necessary to type the code – and if the project in question is a large and complex one, we’re talking about a lot of time. We’ve all experienced those brief, magical periods of being “in the zone” – when line after line of code seems to flow from your fingers with little to no effort on your part. Other times, though, coding begins to feel like a slog – and it can become very difficult to keep yourself on task.

If you find yourself going through the second of those situations, this article will offer some advice that can help. Staying on task during a long coding session isn’t always easy, and there are going to be times when you’ll find it incredibly difficult to resist the temptation to switch to a new browser tab – or even to stay awake at all.

Here’s how to get yourself back into the zone.

Improve Your Sleep Quality

If you want to be a productive coder, your brain needs to be on point – and that’s not going to happen if you perpetually feel exhausted and always wake up in the morning feeling as if you hadn’t slept at all.

As long as computer programming has existed, coders have relied on stimulants – most commonly caffeine and nicotine – to keep themselves going during long sessions. Overconsumption of stimulants, however, is a losing battle. That’s especially true if most of your coding takes place late at night.

Stimulants stay in the body for a long time. Caffeine, for instance, has a half-life of about five hours in your bloodstream. That means you can drink a cup of coffee or a can of soda, and half of that caffeine will still be in your bloodstream five hours later.If you consume caffeine close to bedtime, your body will still be working to process it while you sleep. It doesn’t take the body quite as long to process nicotine, but with a half-life of about two hours, nicotine remains in the bloodstream for quite a while as well.

In short, it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been a heavy caffeine or nicotine user. You might think you’re immune to the stimulating effects, but that’s just an illusion – and it’s harming your sleep quality if you use stimulants late at night. If you dial back your intake, it’ll make you a better coder in the long run. Have a cup of coffee or two in the morning, and then stop for the rest of the day. If you smoke or vape, grab some nicotine-free disposable vapes from a company like VapeJuice.com and use those during the evening.


Use Your App’s Full-Screen or Focus Mode

The first step in keeping yourself on task during a long coding session is eliminating the temptation to click over to other applications or browser tabs while you’re trying to work. The web offers a limitless array of opportunities for wasting time, from news feeds and sports scores to YouTube and social media sites. If you succumb to the temptation to click over to your favorite time waster, you can easily return to your work only to realize that you’ve wasted an entire hour.

You’ve almost certainly heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” before. You can’t work on a coding project if your programming application isn’t the thing that’s on your screen. Likewise, the temptation to click over to your favorite time-wasting app will be greatly lessened if you can’t actually see that app. That’s exactly why every application has a full-screen button right at the top of the window. Click it, and the app will expand to fill the screen. Even better, many apps feature a “Focus” or “Distraction-Free” mode that also removes other distractions such as the taskbar and notification area.

Turn Your Phone Off

While you’re going through the trouble of eliminating the potential for distractions on your computer, it’s important to remember that your computer isn’t the source of possible distractions when you’re trying to code – in fact, it might not even be your primary source of distractions. If you’re like just about every other Internet-connected individual on the planet, there’s probably nothing in your life more distracting than your smartphone. All day long, your smartphone bombards you with a constant stream of notifications, calls, and text messages. If you’re hearing and seeing those notifications, you’ll feel tempted to look at your phone – so turn it off while you’re trying to code.

Don’t forget that your phone isn’t the only device that can display notifications while you’re trying to code. Your computer can also interrupt your work with browser notifications, instant messaging apps, an email client, and more. Even if you’re running your main coding app in Focus or Distraction-Free mode, you may still hear and see those notifications. Shut down any application that’s not essential for your work.

Choose the Right Background Music

The final thing to consider as you try to keep yourself on task during long coding sessions is the music that you’re playing in the background. Ideally, you want to choose something that isn’t too engaging. At the same time, though, you don’t want to play the music that’s going to put you to sleep – especially if you’re coding late at night and falling asleep is something that you’d really like to do.

Whether you find a particular style of music engaging or sleep-inducing is a matter of your own personal taste. In general, though, genres that are very complex from a structural, lyrical, or melodic standpoint – rap and progressive rock, for instance – are so demanding of your attention that they really don’t work well as background music for coding. On the other hand, ambient music might be a little too low-key if you’re in the midst of a lengthy coding session and are trying to stay alert. Classical music and video game soundtracks can work well if you’d like to find a middle ground between those two extremes.

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