When push comes to shove a good workflow is an efficient workflow. The more efficient we are the more work we can complete and in turn the more profitable we can be. Workflows are very unique to an individual. We tend to do things by habit not even realizing they improve or hurt our workflow. Minor details such as the order in which we open software may seem pointless but even saving a second or two each and every day adds up over time.
Hypothetically speaking you’re about to open three programs on your computer. If it takes you two seconds from each click of the mouse to launch an application even if all three applications load instantly it will take you 6 seconds to open all 3. Now assume application A and B load in 3 seconds and application C loads in 6 seconds. If you open application C first you can save up to 4 seconds of load time. That’s roughly 24 minutes a year. Again a small amount of time but combined with other techniques the time will add up quickly.
Get a second monitor
This is absolutely the most important item on this list. A second monitor allows you to keep reference material on one screen with your code on the second. Try leaving firebug or chromes console on one monitor to save browser space.
Get a third monitor
What’s better than two monitors you say? Three monitors! A 3rd monitor allows you to code, browse and debug without having to jump between applications
Hotkeys are a must. You don’t need to spend hours learning hotkeys for each and every application, although you should, but invest the time to learn your operating systems hotkeys. Simple things like switching between applications (Alt + Tab), searching / opening an application (Windows Key), creating new folders (Ctl + Shift + n) are extremely useful. Once you think you know them all attempt using your computer without a mouse.
Pick a good IDE
Yes I know you are a master of code and need nothing more than note pad. That’s fine but let’s face it there are great tools out there to help speed things up. My IDE of choice is PHP Storm. As a PHP Developer it’s the clear winner, not to say there isn’t anything else out there. PHP storm supports FTP/SFT synchronization, version control, and a ton of other built in features. Whatever IDE you use make sure it minimally has code hinting. You can’t be expected to memorize every parameter of a method or if that function you need is camel case not.
Save Code Snippets
It’s not very often that we write a line of code we have not written before. And when this rare occurrence happens most likely we will find someone online who has had a similar problem and needed a similar line of code. The problem is searching past projects or online repositories for a small piece of code can take up a lot of time. Consider building yourself a database of code snippets with a search tool. As you come across new snippets of code add them.
Coffee / Nutrition / Music
This may not seem like a workflow tip but it’s very important to my personal workflow. Programing can be a tough gig. Sometimes it can feel like you’re in a staring contest with your monitor and let’s face it, unless the power goes out you’re never going to win. Caffeine and nutrition keep you mentally focused while music helps to keep your spirits up. Combined they allow you to grind through those long hours. When we say a good workflow is about efficiency its hard to leave this off the list.