As a programmer, you are highly dependent on your brain to function properly as the main tool you use to advance your career and provide for your financial stability. Any changes to your lifestyle immediately affect your health and, by extension, your overall cognitive abilities.
In fact, the habits you maintain daily may reduce productivity by between 30 and 90 percent, according to an article breaking down the way that the state of health affects daily productivity.
When your state of mind is directly linked to the quality of work you produce, being meticulous about your daily routine is definitely a logical thing to do, considering you are looking to maintain a consistently high performance.
You have probably asked yourself at least once: “Is there something I could be doing to make my quality of work consistently higher?” The quick answer is yes. There are many ways to influence your performance by tweaking your daily choices to be more health-oriented in terms of food, sleep, and overall, being mindful of the consequences of your lifestyle.
Here are three changes you can make to your daily routine to help you stay on top of your health and, in turn, your programming performance.
It’s important to drink enough water to be able to function properly while programming. In recent research conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, it was determined that while the extent may vary due to changing conditions, dehydration has huge negative effects on the basic functions of the human body. This includes impaired cognitive performance, particularly related to tasks involving attention and motor coordination when hydration levels drop.
The study compared the way people who have not consumed enough water handle different types of tasks. The first category contained detail-oriented tasks. The second category focused more on monotonous tasks such as making coffee, walking, replying to emails, etc.
While the latter was hardly affected, attention to detail significantly dropped under the influence of dehydration. Other cognitive functions that the study suggests are impaired by dehydration include focus, complex problem-solving skills, coordination, and attention span.
In the software development community, you are always expected to bring your A-game to the table when working on a project. Actively keeping your productivity levels consistent is not only expected but required. Luckily, dehydration is easily avoidable, so there really is no reason not to make the choice to maintain your health and job performance in this way.
Do Not Go Overboard With Water Intake
It is important to mention that on the other end of the spectrum, excessive water intake can have certain negative effects as well. This includes diluting the liquid substance of the body, leading to low levels of sodium and salt and even causing severe issues such as brain swelling and, on very rare occasions, even seizures.
Keeping up a healthy and consistent level of water intake is the best thing you can do in terms of hydration. A good amount of liquids to consume on a daily basis is around two liters (68 ounces). This may include other forms of drinks such as tea and soft drinks, but it is also OK to drink two liters of clear water in addition to having other beverages throughout the day.
In addition, it is often advised to drink fluids throughout the day so you are always hydrated rather than chugging it all down in big quantities at once.
Watch Out for Sleep Deprivation
Working for a java development company has shown me just how big of a difference consistent and high-quality sleep affects my daily performance.
We all know we need to sleep for seven or eight hours on average per night to recover from the day’s exhaustion and to support the body’s functions. Most of us have already personally experienced the difference between being well-rested and being sleep-deprived.
But what actually are the effects of sleep deprivation?
Some of them may include being easily irritable and experiencing mood swings in addition to having constant headaches and impaired cognitive and motor function and having issues with memory, problem-solving, use of language, forward planning, and attention to detail.
Perhaps the most long-term impact of sleep deprivation is that it can potentially lead to life-long sleeping disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and more.
Depending on how often the disruption or how inadequate your quality of sleep, its impact may vary from annoying to severe. While your body can recover from the occasional all-nighter, if you put it under immense stress for a long time or too frequently, you will likely experience some serious changes in your job performance..
In any case, for someone who is as dependent on their cognitive capabilities as a software developer, being well aware of the importance of sleep is imperative for not only success at your job but also for an overall good quality of life.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
We all appreciate the occasional night out on a date or a simple hangout with friends. Good food, great company, and a cold refreshing beer in hand. This is a scene that many enjoy participating in.
In fact, one of the best ways to feel close to someone is to share food and drinks together. The reason behind this is hardwired in our instincts.
No animal would ever feed or drink if it feels threatened by its surroundings. In modern society, this is triggered in reverse—when eating or drinking with people we may not know too well, we gain a sense of trust with them. In fact, many companies have a policy of shared breakfasts or encouraging employees to have lunch together as a way of socializing and building a bond within the team.
As a society, many adults have gotten used to the idea that drinking alcohol in a social setting is a part of the experience of being adults. What many do not consider as much is the negative short- and long-term impact that alcohol has on brain function. Overconsumption of alcohol has a strong, negative effect on our health and performance. This, however, varies based on how much you drink as well as how often you drink.
Effects of Occasional Drinking
The short-term effects of drinking include:
- Memory issues
- Lowered inhibitions and recklessness
- Issues with decision-making and problem-solving
The long-term effects of casual drinking include:
- Weakened immune system, leading to anaemia and malnutrition
- Risk of osteoporosis due to an impaired ability to absorb calcium
- Predisposition to depression, anxiety, and psychosis
- Increased risk of dementia
- Impaired balance and coordination
Effects of Heavy or Chronic Drinking
Drinking heavily or frequently causes all of the side effects occasional drinkers experience, with the addition of other heavier and more severe effects in the long term. They may include issues such as:
- Destruction of gray matter in the brain, limiting cognitive function significantly
- Permanent damage to the ability to think abstractly
- Loss of the ability to identify and differentiate objects visually
- Difficulty being imaginative
- Severe memory loss
- Significantly limited attention span
As you have probably gathered by now, even from light drinking, the buildup over time can cause a lot of damage to your cognitive system.
Depending on your weight, gender, and the amount you consumed, the rate at which alcohol leaves your system can vary. For example, if a grown man drinks one beer, the alcoholic effects will likely wear off in about an hour. Whereas if a woman consumes the same amount, the same process may take around two hours or more. This depends on the type of alcohol as well, so get yourself familiar with the potential impact, and moderate your intake to keep your health in check!
Let’s rewind a bit. This is not to say you should not enjoy a casual beer with your friends every once in a while. But a warning is in order: Be mindful of how often you indulge in alcohol and how much you drink in an outing.
Is it one beer? Two? Five? Or perhaps a glass of heavier drink like whiskey or bourbon?
As a developer who relies heavily on a functional intellect, the risks can easily outweigh the perks of socializing through frequent drinking. Not to mention you can still have the same experiences of good food and great company simply by opting for a nonalcoholic beverage instead!
Take Care of Yourself
As in any other field of work, professionals need to take good care of their tools. So it would be logical enough for a programmer to do the same in regards to their cognitive function as the main tool used in their work. More importantly, most of those factors are already tightly connected to your overall mental and physical health, two factors that should always be at the top of your priority list, even above simply striving to be a better programmer.
So along with exercising and watching what you eat, make it a priority to stay aware of how your lifestyle affects your health and by extension, your performance!
Published on Java Code Geeks with permission by Danila Petrova, partner at our JCG program. See the original article here: 3 Things to Avoid For Optimal Performance As a Developer
Opinions expressed by Java Code Geeks contributors are their own.