What to Do When April Showers Bring Idle Hours

The fast-paced software industry is known for many positive things. It produces innovative programs that help us learn, build, and engage with the world in new ways, and inspires useful products that make all of our lives easier, safer, and more fun.

However, one aspect of this industry that is discussed much less frequently is that the life of a developer rarely leaves much time for breaks. Regardless of your chosen field in the developer community, in a rare moment of free time your mind is probably still occupied with concerns over whether your latest debug efforts will work, while others of you may even see lines of code in your sleep. In fact, your work week probably looks a lot like this:

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Credit: Cyanide and Happiness

As the seasons change and, for many of us, rainy days have come to stay, it can be harder to avoid distractions. Though you may not be able to get away from the computer entirely this spring, there are plenty of ways to take your mind off the grind while still being productive. Here are our eight favorite rainy day activities for developers:

1. Pay your respects to your predecessors. Though you may be an expert on a given language or framework, do you know the details of how it was created and why? Take a look at the history of your favorites, or even better, learn more about the people behind them. A quick online search will provide you with articles on everyone from Alan Turing to Steve Jobs, and looking into their worlds can help you appreciate your role in the current generation of computing.

2. Catch up on the latest tech news. From Google drones to Cortana, staying attuned to industry news is always worthwhile, and seeing what your peers are creating can be a great motivator. Even if you don’t gain any major insights, at the very least your newfound knowledge will prove beneficial during your next visit to the water cooler.

3. Clean off your desktop. “Spring cleaning” can mean more than dusting the top of your ceiling fan once a year. De-cluttering your workspace can have psychological benefits, making you more productive and happy. Besides, do you really need that many icons? Probably not. (And neither do I—see the following image for proof).

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My cluttered desktop

4. Read a Succinctly series e-book. There are currently 31 titles in this educational series, and each book averages around 100 pages, meaning you can learn the basics in just a few hours. Or, if you’re already familiar with a topic, it’s the ideal way to refresh your memory; you may even find something new to try. If we don’t have the title you’re looking for, don’t despair—we’re adding several exciting new topics in the next few months, including HDInsight, Node.js, and R.

5. Watch a movie. Though this may be the least technically productive item on this list, just think of yourself as an artist seeking inspiration. To embrace your inner child, I highly recommend The Lego Movie or Wall-E. If you’re feeling nostalgic for a time before you knew what HTML stood for, the classic Star Wars films never disappoint. For fun, early-90s dialogue and animatronic beasts (and to see a 12-year-old girl successfully “hack” a Unix interface), I recommend Jurassic Park. And if you’re looking for something a little more recent (and possibly inspiring), Primer and The Social Network are also great choices.

6. Speaking of social networks, why not do some networking? Social media is no longer simply a way to stay in touch with your old friends from college. New social sites are popping up all the time, and many have become educational vessels as well. News is shared, relationships are formed, products are reviewed, and businesses are promoted. As the lines between media and communication continue to blur and blend, social networks are also an ideal place to advertise or host your apps.

7. You can also add your latest project to an app store. Though it may not be fully polished yet, offering a free beta version of an application is a great way to find an audience for your app. In addition, you can get useful feedback from your target users to help refine it before you’re ready to officially publish.

8. Create some icons in Metro Studio. We’ve done the work on this excellent editor so you don’t have to. Search through thousands of icon templates, and add fonts and colors to customize them. Ideal for everything from enhancing mobile UIs to branding your projects, Metro Studio is also an easy way to give existing apps a facelift. If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the perfect time. Your apps will thank you.

What are your favorite things to do on your days off? Let us know in the comments!

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