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How to deal with deadlines when you're still learning

flippedcoding profile image Milecia McG Updated on ・3 min read

After you get your first job as a web developer, you'll realize there's so much more to it than you initially thought. There will be a learning curve and depending on the size of the company you work at it could be pretty steep. Even though you'll be learning a lot, you'll still have to deal with deadlines.

It can feel overwhelming to have deadlines looming over your head when you don't completely understand what you're doing. While there's no way around this newbie dilemma, there are a few things you can do to get through it and come out a better developer.

Don't goof off (at least in the beginning)

Looking at projects and task lists, it doesn't seem like anything will be that difficult. You know how to add an option to a select dropdown so you blow it off until later. Then you eventually start working on it and you realize that you have to update the database to include the new option.

You also need to do some data binding to get the rest of the page to update when you choose this new option. Oh, don't forget that you need to do validation for that option too. The point is that those "easy" tasks can turn into something more complicated than anyone expected.

Falling into the "this is a quick fix" mentality will make your job harder and more stressful than it has to be because this mentality leads to you starting later than you should. When you log onto your computer in the morning, make sure you get through at least a few tasks before you do anything else. No YouTube, no Reddit, no nothing. Do work first.

If you get stuck, go get help

Experienced developers will tell you to work on a problem for at least 30 minutes, but push it out to about an hour. I mean really do your Google searching, dig through documentation, and crawl through forums. By the time you get to another developer you should have tried so much that you recognize the websites the other developers go to.

Don't sit there and wait until the deadline gets too close. You can jump to another task but you'll have to come back to this one and finish it regardless. Go ahead and ask for help so you can get it out of the way.

Odds are strong that some of the tasks they assign you are hard and they know it. Sometimes it's a test to see what you can do and how you handle problems. That's why it's important to do as much as you can before you ask for help. You learn how to be a better developer by digging because you'll know how to ask better questions.

Re-prioritize your tasks every morning

This could be as simple as literally re-prioritizing your list in the morning to match any updated deadlines or new tasks. Check in with your manager or any clients you work with to make sure that you are all on the same page and they still have the same requirements.

It might seem like a lot to do this every day when you already know your deadlines and requirements but it helps keep you focused on what needs your attention versus what you want to pay attention to. Plus it's a way to keep track of your deadlines with lower stress. Nothing will get a chance to sneak up on you because you know exactly what you need to get done for the day to stay on track.

I know it can be stressful learning how to do new stuff while people are expecting you to do the stuff you don't know. You can take comfort in knowing that your fellow developers will help you through it. Especially when they know you're a junior developer.

Do any senior devs have advice for new developers concerning those looming deadlines? It takes a village to train a new developer.


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Milecia McG

@flippedcoding

Starting classes soon! | Software/Hardware Engineer | International tech speaker | Random inventor and slightly mad scientist with extra sauce

Discussion

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Great advice, and I like this point especially:

If you get stuck, go get help

One of the most common issues I've seen when working with junior developers is when they sometimes spend WAY too long trying to figure out a problem on their own without asking anyone for help. And then the stress just starts compounding as the deadline gets closer.

Often the obstacle is the fact that the codebase has idiosyncracies or the project documentation is unclear. That's when a quick conversation can clear things up almost instantly.

 

Yes! I think they're just nervous about looking like they don't know what they are doing.

 

Beginner devs: One thing to keep in mind is that you will get stressed. So when you do try and do something that is productive but also will help you get organised. Such as:

  • Write a to-do list. Or prioritise the one you're on.
  • Write out (using a pen/pencil) the problem you are having in basic language. Sometimes that helps with understanding the problem in a slightly different way.
  • Rubber duck to another dev/or whoever. If you can explain the problem to someone, sometimes that is enough to find the answer.

Other than that just remember: You are capable of finding the answer, but that doesn't mean help isn't the wrong way to go.

 

Good point with this article! Since I'm not a professional developer and only a few weeks ago I started applying for some jobs this is the exact thing that concerns me the most. How should I deal with pressure and deadlines when I'm not fully ready to perform the task?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

 

I'm really glad it helped! Good luck! Just try not to let the stress get to you.

 

Great article this is what i have been through when i was a junior dev, procrastination is bad for junior dev as they don't have full idea how that work will scale and later on the practical part they get to know that it's at-least lengthy if not challenging.

 

How do you estimate the time to completion for those iceberg tasks like the select option while you are new?

 

Here's a few ideas:

  • look up codepen examples because that can help you see about how much code you'll be writing
  • Stack overflow is always a good place to look for questions you might have about a task when you get into those details
  • ask your coworkers because they'll be able to help you figure out those trickier task estimates
 

Thank you, the Codepen idea sounds like an exceptionally good idea.

 

Thank you very much for this great article.
I have a question about my situation: I'm the only developer in my workplace and specially lately I get struck very often with the new project based on new framework/language that I just start to learn.
In this case what is the best strategy to avoid to get struck?

 

I am in the same boat and feel for you. I find it easiest to go straight to reading the documentation compared to Dev/Medium tutorials or stack overflow.

I find Dev/Medium tutorials always give me environment issues or, stack overflow too, will get me started on the wrong foot in an unseen way.

 

As a junior Dev myself I'm going through this EXACT thing and haven't found out how to deal with it.. But this helps a lot ! Much appreciated 😊

 

This is something everyone needs to hear. Thanks so much!