Mental Programming Stack for Developers
Everything you need to perform at your peak levels from supplements to organization.
I’ve been a developer in NYC for 4 years now and you can bet that in the city that never sleeps optimizing output is key. It’s a fast paced and energetic tech hub which is why the best of the best come here — however, this causes a high competition gap from a lot of other geographical areas and cities. Because of that, I’ve picked up a few tricks for bringing your A-game day in and day out.
The “Stack” (MPS — Mental Programming Stack)
- Morning Routine
A good morning routine alone can completely shift your output and incorporate some or all of the other parts of this MPS.
Everyone’s morning routine is different and consists of tailored tasks that work for them. A really good book to read, and place to start on this subject for those that want to go deeper, is The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8am).
My morning routine has had many reversionings over the span of its life. Feel free to play around with yours until you find something that works.
Wake Up at the Same time each day.
It’s in the title…”routine”. Start by just aiming to wake up at the same time each day. This gets much easier if you can go to bed at the same time each night. You also want to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. I personally excel at 7hrs per night. Not so much sleep that I wake up in a fog but enough that I’m well rested and able to focus.
You Snooze, You lose.
This one is pretty simple. Don’t snooze your alarm — like, ever. This is the first thing you’re doing with your day and if you’re snoozing your alarm then you’re literally conditioning yourself and your day to push stuff off that’s uncomfortable or that you don’t want to do.
Messy Hair, DO Care.
This one is a little unexpected but when working from home it gets really easy to wake up and just stay in your gym shorts or pajamas and start working but this alone can break you over time. You’re conditioning your mind to blur the lines between work and leisure and this a n00b error and us l33t’s know that changing/getting ready in the morning is how you go from from pre-beta to beta. First thing out of bed I throw on my ripped jeans and my Ripped Jeans and Clean Code shirt from DVLPR Apparel. The second and third thing just pair well time-wise so I knock them out together and that’s making my coffee and doing my hair at the same time.
Start Your Engines.
I spend 15–30 minutes just watching TED Talks, reading, or listening to an audiobook as I drink my coffee. Basically you’re giving the caffeine time to kick in and wake you up while you do something that engages your brain but won’t completely matter if you’re still not fully awake.
Plan Your Day.
I use Todoist. Even if you use just the most basic feature of tossing new to-do’s in your inbox and going down the list knocking them out you’ll step up your game by 10-fold! This the part of your routine that will make it so you don’t have to dance no more so you can make money moves. Now it’s more advanced than that with different lists, adding dates, etc., but even if you’re just using the inbox feature you go through and mark them off as they’re completed and anything that’s not is left in your inbox for tomorrow so you can plan your day again without losing track of tasks. Spend 10 minutes a day planning your intention for that day and you’ll be amazed at how much more you get done!
Some other things I’ve tried over time and have found effective at different times were:
- Meditation using Headspace
- Breathing exercises from Tony Robbins which help to get oxygen to the brain.
- Listening to motivational playlists
Be extremely intentional with your time by planning your weeks. Write down all the high level things you’d like to accomplish that week. This will give you a really great point of reflection each week to see how focused you were! Not to mention it feels really good to see all the things you completed and gives you a lot of momentum for the next week. The other really big thing this does is give you a deadline for your projects/tasks. This is huge in preventing procrastination!
As mentioned above Todoist is your best friend for getting started with organizing your day but you can can also use a calendar or a notebook, anything that allows you to just write down your tasks so they can’t get lost or forgotten about over time. I like physically writing them in notebook but I like the ability to edit, change, and move them on Todoist so I go back and forth and some days I do both.
For your app or your project you’re going to want to use something like Trello to layout all of your feature development. I use five boards titled TODO, IN PROGRESS, BREAK DOWN, COMPLETED, PUSHED as so:
There’s so many different types of ways to supplement from coffee to nootropics so I’m just going to list mine with notes on what they do
‘nuff said. But actually though I mix two coffees and use a pour over method for brewing the best cup!
- Death Wish Coffee — known for having extremely high caffeine amounts (now you know why I mix them lol)
- Kumera Koffee — nootropic infused coffee. They were out at the time of writing this but a replacement is Mastermind Coffee.
Dose: 300–900mg, once in the morning
Prodrug of Modafinil, meaning it turns into Modafinil once metabolized. Modafinil is a stimulant and wakefulness-promoting agent. It has been shown to eliminate most of the cognitive side-effects of short-term sleep deprivation.
Dose: 200mg, usually with 100mg of caffeine
Increases attention and mitigates the negative aspects of caffeine such as anxiety, increased blood pressure, and diminished sleep quality, while possibly improving on the positive aspects.
Dose: 2 grams, on an empty stomach
Works to increase memory, especially in the face of stress or sleep deprivation
Dose: 30mg, taken once or split in 3 throughout the day for no more than 56 days straight.
Provides a mild cognitive boost after supplementation. Beefed up version of Piracetam.
Adderexin is a supplement that is created for mental clarity and energy and is currently the only thing I take aside from coffee. The dosage is 3 capsules per day but I start with 1 with my morning coffee and take another one a little bit later and generally I find myself more focused as I move throughout the day. I drop the nootropics when taking Adderexin because although it’s not marketed as a nootropics stack that’s basically what it is but all in a single capsule. Not to mention you simply don’t need anything else. I’m quite blown away at just how effective yet mild this product is and I’m absolutely in love with it!
Like seriously, try it.
This term to me means a few different things to me so I’m going to hit this from the different angles I think of it as.
This one is pretty simple. If you want to condition yourself to be a machine then you must go even deeper when your mind is telling you it wants to procrastinate. When you’re tired, or bored, or can’t focus — these are times that you can condition yourself to be stronger than everyone else. Those are the opportunities that high-acheivers utilize and build on. That’s when most average people (normies) would stop but high performers look at that as the time to dig in. You do things based on what you know is best for you and your future, not based on what your body or brain are feeling in the current moment. Machines don’t let feelings dictate what tasks they do. They just do the tasks. Be a machine.
Your brain is a really big muscle, like literally, so treat it that way. Just as you would go work out to get in better shape/condition do the same with your brain. Push it to it’s limits then push a little further. Once you start feeling the weakness set it do one more rep so to speak.
A tactic I use is as soon as I can feel the urge to stop coming on I look at the time and tell myself “30 more minutes and I’ll see how I feel then” and I keep repeating that when that time limit hits. I’ll add a second set of 30 minutes or I’ll drop it to 10, maybe toss another hour on the clock. You’d be really surprised at how 30 minutes turns into 2–3 hours and how you start to condition your mind.
One more rep…
Use punishment and reward to train you. It’s a lot easier to stop if you know there’s no punishment or that you can jump right to the reward and start watching YouTube videos and crash for the day. You have to fight this.
Look at your todo list and say ok when I get this, this, and this done. I’ll give myself 30 minutes to watch YouTube. Or after this git push I’ll allow myself one video, etc.
You get the point. Only reward yourself for accomplishments, not for caving.
Also, use your music very intentionally. I have specific music that I listen to when working that I won’t listen to outside of work so that my brain is conditioned to go into work mode when it hears it. So if I’m doing my morning reading or just want to get to work soon I put that music on and my brain is ready to go.
This one sort of lines up with deadlines and has been especially helpful to me lately.
I used to think that working 16 hours a day was the way to get ahead, and for small spurts of time it’s extremely effective! But you will burnout.
Us l33t’s have figured out the real move which is to work an extremely optimized and focused 8–10 hours per day then take time for yourself. Doing things outside of programming makes a you a better programmer and keeps your mind flexible.
For me I schedule the gym each night. This is perfect for me because between travel, workout or indoor soccer, and sauna/steam room I’ll be gone for 3–4 hours doing “me” time. The working out is usually about 45 minutes and is maintenance to stay in shape and look good. The indoor soccer is 1.5–2 hours and is where I truly have my funnest time during the week. And the sauna/steam room is great for detoxing, resetting, and is generally where I get my meditation time in, whether actively or passively.
The reason I say it’s great though is because I have a couple hours to play around with as far as the time I have to leave my apartment goes but there is a deadline. I shoot for leaving between 6:30–7pm and I can push it to 8pm but that’s the absolute latest for me to make it and do everything in time before the gym closes. So on busy days or when I’m wrapping something up I push it to 8. On other days I out the door right at 6:30.
I also take my pre workout because I know that once I take that I have to make it to the gym, otherwise I won’t sleep that night. It’s like my personal ticking time bomb that guarantees I meet the commitment to my “me” time.
Have anything tips, tricks, or hacks to add? Let me know below!