Get ‘er done: project management for junior developers

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when you first sit down to work on a large project.  I’m currently developing my personal website using a WordPress starter theme and lots of design inspiration. I’ve been stalled for hours just wondering where to even start. Here are some strategies I use to overcome code-writer’s block and get past the blank screen.

Make a list

When I’m faced with a daunting assignment (or any major life event, for that matter) I make a list. It is easy to lose direction when your mind is overflowing with tasks. Take 10 minutes to get it all out with a pen and paper. Or Evernote. Whatever.

I find this process is helpful for two reasons. First, it helps organize my jumbled thoughts so I can clearly plan the task ahead. Second, it helps to ease any anxiety I might have. There’s nothing worse than being paralyzed by stress before you’ve even started a project. It will feel like your list is never ending, so start with big items first like “code the header” or “make image folder” rather than nit picking every little detail you *might* need to get that drop-down nav working.

Prioritize

Now that you have a list, prioritize your task order. For example, I like to have my HTML content complete before I move on to styling. Also, prioritize what are MUST HAVES and what are NICE TO HAVES. Wasting an afternoon trying to figure out a small transition may not be a good use of your time when your content isn’t complete. When tasks are given a value it becomes easier to manage your time. Plus, it feels really great when you complete a task that is crucial to your project.

Take Breaks

I’ll admit it. I’ve worked through lunch. I’ve said “just let me finish this #$%!ing drop down and then I’ll take a break.” It is thought that humans are actually more productive and creative when breaks are scheduled into workdays. It can take the form of a walk outside, a meal or even catching up on cat memes. I find that I start getting easily distracted when it’s break time. Embrace your natural clock, rather than punishing yourself for having a wandering mind.  Often I’ll come back with fresh insight to solve something I’d been stumped on.

As a junior dev, I’m still learning how long it takes me to do certain tasks and how they all fit together in large-scale projects. I’d love to hear strategies employed by other devs when they are embarking on new projects. Break’s over, time to get ‘er done!

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This post was written by Vanessa Merritt

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