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Enabling Good Work Habits in Software Developers through Reflective Goal-Setting

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Meyer André N., Murphy Gail C., Zimmermann Thomas, Fritz Thomas,
Project Developers' Perception and Retrospection of Productivity
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Volume (Issue) 47(9)
Page(s) 1872 - 1885
Title of proceedings IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
DOI 10.1109/tse.2019.2938525

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Software developers are generally interested in developing better habits to increase their workplace productivity and well-being, but have difficulties identifying concrete goals and actionable strategies to do so. In several areas of life, such as the physical activity and health domain, self-reflection has been shown to be successful at increasing people's awareness about a problematic behavior, motivating them to define a self-improvement goal, and fostering goal-achievement. We therefore designed a reflective goal-setting study to learn more about developers’ goals and strategies to improve or maintain good habits at work. In our study, 52 professional software developers self-reflected about their work on a daily basis during two to three weeks, which resulted in a rich set of work habit goals and actionable strategies that developers pursue at work. We also found that purposeful, continuous self-reflection not only increases developers’ awareness about productive and unproductive work habits (84.5 percent), but also leads to positive self-improvements that increase developer productivity and well-being (79.6 percent). We discuss how tools could support developers with a better trade-off between the cost and value of workplace self-reflection and increase long-term engagement.