Anytime you find someone who is excellent at what they do, you find someone who is disciplined. Whether it’s sports, the arts, or work, discipline leads to results. Programming is no different. If you want to be an excellent Software Developer, you need skill, experience, knowledge, and discipline.
The quality improvement you can make that has the quickest return for the lowest initial investment is the Personal Software Process (PSP) developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University (SEI). PSP is essentially a set of metrics you can use to track your effectiveness as a programmer, with instructions on interpreting the results you find. By tracking your metrics you can generate a report that tells you what you need to do to improve. Once you know that, you can create an improvement plan. The same metrics will tell you whether the plan is working or not.
Just like a workout plan, there’s no magic involved. You set goals, you work hard, you track your progress, and you get results. SEI has developed a framework that helps you set your goals and track your progress. All you need to do is apply the discipline.
If you’re up for it, find out more about PSP. You can start with an overview published by SEI at http://www.sei.cmu.edu/library/abstracts/reports/00tr022.cfm.