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14 Habits of Highly Productive Developers

Zeno Rocha

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Did you know that Zeno Rocha is the guy who made the dracula theme. He also wrote this great book.

This book is a great read for all software developers, but I highly recommend the new developers to read it. There are a lot of great insights there you may be wandering while you start your career.

5 Core Parts & 14 Habits

The habits are categorized into five categories and the book is split up to these five parts.

Part 1: Principles

  • Consistency Matters!
  • What habits do I need to cultivate in order to be effective in any programminga language?

Part 2: Learning Habits

Look for the Signals (habit1)
  • Accept the fact that you cannot learn everything you want.
  • Embrace the JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out)
Focus on the Fundamentals (habit2)
  • The fundamentals are the foundation for everything else you learn
  • Spend more time to learn and understand the fundamentals and the rest will be easier.
Teaching Equals Learning (habit3)
  • By teaching others you will find gaps in your knowledge
  • Leverage the Feynman method to help you improve your knowledge.
    • If you can describe what you are doing to a 5-year old you most likely have a good knowledge.

Part 3: Daily Habits

Be Boring (habit4)
  • There is a fine line between intensity and burnout.
  • Discipline, Consistency and Persistency are not very exciting. But they are are the key to playing infinte game
Do it for your Future Self (habit5)
  • Write good comments
  • Write good code
    • Your current self has the context, whereas your future self or your co-workers don’t have the same context.
Your 9-to-5 is not enough (habit6)
  • Spend some time on personal projects.
    • This can help you try out new technology
    • Improve your skill
  • Don’t sacrifise all of your personal life for these project
    • Don’t underestimate the compounding of 10-15 minutes per day.

Part 4: Career Habits

Master the Dark Side (habit7)
  • Get to know the business side of your company.
  • It’s good to understand their perspective of the business.
  • It can help you to translate needs and requests.
Side Projects (habit8)
  • Like mentioned earlier, side-projects are great
  • You can use them to increase your skillset and try out new things.
  • Don’t know what to do? Start with something that can improve your daily life.
Mario or Sonic (habit9)
  • A bit of a context first:
    • Mario is always jumping around between places
      • You can look at him as the software developer who changes jobs frequently
      • Mario is confident and strong but mainly he is avoiding dangerous situations.
    • Sonic is always willing to face the biggest challenges.
      • He is the developer who is always looking for the biggest problems to solve.
      • He has a high resilience.
  • It’s fine to change your job frequently but be mindful that it can harm your career.
  • It can hard to improve your skillset if you are always “starting over” in a new job.

Part 5: Team Habits

Active Listening (habit10)
  • Understanding someone is far more important than replting to someone. Listening to understand is an important skill to have. Spend more time listening to others.
Don't underestimate (habit11)
  • Take note of your estimates, refelct on them after your deadline, that can help you get better at it. And, remember to not be too optimistic.
Specialist vs Generalist (habit12)
  • There are multiple pros and cons for both Specialists and Generalists.
  • There is no correct answer on what you should aim to be.
  • In the beginning of your career it may suit you better to be a generalist
    • That doesn’t mean you have to be like that forever.

Life Habits

Control your Variables (habit13)
  • You have to understand that some things are out of your control. Focus your energy on the things you can control.
  • Stop wasting time on variables you cannot control.
Stop Waiting (habit14)
  • The best time to start was yesterday, the next-best time to start is now! Most all of our goals have some actionable tasks we can do to help us move in closer to our target.


This book has a great Todo Section after most of the habits, there are 13 Todos that you can do to help you work on each habit. Here is an example of one of the Todos in the book.

Create a list of all technologies and tools that you would like to learn. Now label each of them with a differebt priority: “This week”, “Next Month”, “Next Year”. Whenever you feel like you’re missing out on some new shiny trend, revisit this list and reorganize the priority.


This is a great book. It’s easy and fun to read. Some of the habits are things you know in the back of your head and this book might help you put more effort to build these habits. The Todos will certainly help you if you do them.

It’s always reassuring to see that the key to get better is just to put in the work, even though it is small steps every day. They will compound and over time you will improve a lot. Consistency is what matters!

This is put very well in a quote early in the book:

There is no elevator to success, you must take the stairs. Zig Ziglar

This also a “timeless” book. In my opinion these habits are fundamental building blocks to improve your career and be a better developer. You can read it, put it down and read a part of it later. This is the kind of book you can read in parts and over and over again.

Zeno Rocha has a great website, where you can see more of his writings. You can find more on his website https://zenorocha.com/

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