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Software Engineering

How Developers Can Avoid 3 Common Distractions in GitHub

Software developers rely on uninterrupted focus time to work. Flow is critical not only to developers’ efficiency but their happiness too. Poor coding practices and staring down ticking clocks are guaranteed not to make developers happy. So too, is coping with endless interruptions.

When working in GitHub alone, eliminating distractions is not always easy. With a one-size-fits-all format, GitHub can accommodate Agile practices but isn’t built to enable or encourage them.

Here are three of the most common types of distractions developers deal with and the tools and techniques they can use to stay agile and get around them.

1. Context-switching

It’d be bad enough if jumping between different contexts was just annoying. But the research says it’s worse than that. Humans just aren’t good at bouncing between tasks. Even for short periods, context-switching is a drain on productivity: it takes time to get back into the groove of your work.

If it were just notifications, that’d be one thing. But what about when you’ve got meetings scheduled throughout your workday or code reviews, for that matter? These don’t shift your attention so much as they bodily haul it away.

Someone pointinng at a full calendar

GitHub doesn’t offer any concrete tooling to limit or eliminate context-switching. But there are ways.

Batching, as in grouping together meetings, is an excellent way to cut out context-switching. If you know you have meetings coming up, get them scheduled back to back. If they’re spread throughout your day, they slice your day up and prevent you from getting that block of focus you need.

Zenhub also offers tools to eliminate context-switching. Integrating notifications directly into your board eliminates the need to jump into Slack to see what Darryl from down the hall wants this time.

And Zenhub’s planning poker feature allows for asynchronous evaluation of issues, so you can story point them at your leisure. If everyone agrees, there’s no need for a meeting at all. Some teams completely eliminate the need for backlog refinement meetings or reduce them down to just 15 minutes. And if most issues are handled in advance, at least the meeting will be shorter and more efficient (in theory).

ZenHub's Planning Poker Feature

2. Busywork

Busywork is just about everywhere, and GitHub is no exception. Take submitting a pull request in GitHub–typically, you go in, find the new pull request form, find your pushed branch, enter some text and maybe a few labels. It can be a bunch of work. To get around it, use GitHub’s command-line interface to submit pull requests with ‘gh pr create.’ You can pass labels, assignees, and reviewers as options, and they’ll be in your shell history for easy access next time.

You can eliminate a lot of manual work by combining this workaround with Zenhub’s ability to automatically link pull requests with issues and move them to the appropriate column using a closing keyword. If you have that workflow with the command line program, you submit your pull request automatically, and if it has the closing keyword in it, it automatically updates your Zenhub board too.

Managing handoffs and sprint planning can also be a chore using GitHub alone. But Zenhub’s automated handoffs and sprint planning can handle the heavy lifting. Tasks go from design to development, and unresolved issues from the previous sprint automatically get brought forward.

3. Requests

You know what you’re doing. Your team knows. But your boss’ boss probably doesn’t, and they probably don’t speak developer either. In GitHub, the only way to explain where your development progress is, what your trajectory is looking like, and so on is by sitting down and presenting it to them. In other words, more meetings.

Techniques and tools for eliminating meetings—planning poker, batching—can help, but they just treat the symptoms. What you need is an easy way for non-technical folks to get the info they need from GitHub, without the need to ask you 35 questions in 33 separate instances.

Zenhub was built to address these challenges developers know all too well. It offers the visibility stakeholders need, letting developers focus on their work. The roadmap feature, for instance, offers clear, readable insights into trajectories. Estimation using story points give stakeholders updates, so they aren’t pinging you on Slack three times a day. And productivity insights provide an on-demand snapshot of the team’s velocity and productivity, as well as bottlenecks

ZenHub's Roadmap Feature

Protect your focus time with Zenhub

Purpose-built for Agile in GitHub, Zenhub was designed to make it easier for developers to develop and automate the rest. From planning poker to automated handoffs to burndown reporting, Zenhub offers a single workplace within GitHub for developers that eliminates busy work, minimizes distractions, and manages requests.

If you’re curious about how Zenhub can help you, consider signing up for a free trial. And check out our full breakdown of how Zenhub can help you work more easily in GitHub.


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