Becoming a developer is a bitter-sweet thing. One minute you’re crushing it and the next you’re questioning your life choices in a pile of sleepless nights and red lines. There are days you’re there having the time of your life, witnessing the little bits of code you’ve written working. It is quite an exhilarating feeling I must say. Other days the hit backstreet boys song is playing in your head on repeat, “Tell me why??”. Like I said, bitter sweet. A beautiful mix of exhilarating and frustrating.
When you’re starting off, it’s easy to see the first bits as walks in the park. Same thing as learning a new language. You’ll gloss over the ‘Bonjour’ and glide through the ‘Arigatō’; but the deeper you get, the more the hairs on your head start thinning. You’ll find yourself taking out your frustration on your keyboard (most especially the ‘enter’ and ‘backspace’ keys). Spending hours looking for why it’s not working. Only to realize, you missed a semicolon, or put too much space before a line (yes, that’s a thing). So what do you do to keep your blood pressure steady and your eyelids less heavy? Well, here are some things that will help you stay afloat as a developer.
Understand that every programming language has its own learning curve, principles and rules. Trying to learn and grasp them all at once can get very overwhelming. Starting slow is one of the most fundamental principles when learning anything.
When a tiny human is learning how to walk, it takes a while and a number of tries before they can do it well. You’ll find them grasping a table and chairs just to be able to stand; then when they have managed to stand, they try to put one step in front of the other. At this time, their muscles are not strong enough to keep them up, so you find them falling over and over again. When they do, they get back up and try again. Building the muscle and balance they need. In the same way, we should be patient with ourselves. Find out what the basics are and start there, a day at a time. Learn to stand, then put one foot in front of the other and eventually, you’ll be running.
Remember, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Start slow, be patient with yourself.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” ~Benjamin Franklin
My friends and I have this rule: Do not go more than a week without touching code. Of course we have cheat weeks and where we take breaks and breathe a little, often in between projects. Considering the large amounts of information we have to remember to do our tasks, it’s easy to forget steps and concepts when we’re not consistently applying them. It does take a certain degree of repetition to learn a new skill (scientifically proven). It’s really important to note, however, that consistency isn’t always writing a million lines of code at a time. It can be five lines today, a file tomorrow or even just reading the documentation the day after. The most important bit is to do something, no matter how small. The smallest of efforts is still bigger than no effort at all.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but most certainly makes ‘better’. As you’re learning the basics, of whatever concept there is, do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. Practice, practice and practice. Build that discipline that will make you stare an error in the face and say “You shall not laaast”.
Breakdown your tasks
It is so easy to get discouraged when you don’t have a means to measure success. If you measure your success based on the final project milestone completed, then you’re setting yourself up for a lot of frustration.
Everything that you work on can be broken down into individual tasks which will be easier to handle. So, take a minute and evaluate the work that is ahead of you. Pick a place to write or type. This could be a paper, a notes app or an excel sheet. Write the steps that will be required for you to finish a task and start picking them off one by one; marking them as complete once they are done. This will give you the boost of confidence and feeling of accomplishment you need to keep you from throwing your computer in the garbage.
Eat the Frog
Being honest, I’m a big procrastinator. I will watch random videos for hours instead of doing a task that will take me an hour.
My dad has this saying that he loooves reminding me, and he says it like it’s the first time he’s mentioned it. He goes like, “Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘eat the frog’? Well, it generally means that when you have a number of things to do, you should start with the hardest. This will give you the motivation you need to do the other tasks because they’ll seem small and easy. Eating a frog isn’t tasty so it will make the rest of the food on your plate look extra tasty. So go eat your frog, and pour me a cup of tea while you’re at it.” I would simply shrug and reluctantly head over to do the work. It would, of course, pay off.
So yeah, eat your frog.
Give up but don’t quit
Times will come when you feel like you have reached your end when you’re tired, your brain is full or you just can’t figure out how to solve a particular problem. Pause. Take a break, give up on trying to find a solution at that given moment. This doesn’t mean that you completely abandon the thing. It just means you have stopped trying to finish it, or solve it and you can pick it up again later.
In your paused state, take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, meet a friend or even nap. Then, when your batteries are all charged up again, and your brain’s fresh as a daisy, press play. Get back to it and try again.
Give up, take a break and start again but do not quit.
- Start Slow
- Stay consistent
- Breakdown your tasks
- Eat the frog
- Give up, but don’t quit (Don’t you ever!)
PS: Remember to drink lots of water, eat healthy and exercise or at least stretch a bit. Live, love, laugh.