It's hard to stay motivated and to continue learning in today's world of constant change in technology, languages, and frameworks. We may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options, and how far the rabbit hole goes down each one.
So I wanted to share some of the things I do to stay motivated to keep learning to code, and how I continue to enjoy it day after day, year after year.
Here is my TLDR for those who want to view this at a glance. But if you want to know more, keep reading!
- Start by setting aside only 5 minutes to learn
- Break down any learning into smaller achievable parts
- Just pick 1 thing to learn and get started on it immediately
- Enjoy the process of learning itself as part of the journey
- Keep to a routine with scheduled time set aside to learn consistently
- Avoid mindlessness of social media, etc when learning
- Do it again, continue to learn, it's not something you can fail at, only something you might temporarily put on hiatus
It doesn't seem like much. It isn't much. But it's more than not doing anything at all.
It's easy to get overwhelmed when contemplating setting aside hours of your time to learn something you might not understand.
The engagement for learning to code sometimes misses that level of entertainment you might get when playing a sport or game. But that's because that level of fun happens only once we get into the thick of things.
Setting aside 5 minutes each day or week is enough to get you started, and starting is the hardest part. Once you start coding, the rest will come more naturally.
You will enjoy and gain the motivation to want to do a little more. I've often found myself learning a lot for hours at a time after planning to have only spent 5 minutes on it.
Most thing's can be broken down into simpler and simpler parts that are easier to understand at each level. Learning to code is no different.
You are essentially building on what you learn bit by bit until you get a better understanding of the whole, and this can be only done by reducing it all into smaller components to start off with.
If you don't know yet what you want, freeCodeCamp has you covered with heaps of topics so you can just pick one or start at the top.
But if you already have a topic, don't just think about it. It's all great to read the latest articles, look at the documentation over and over, see the news of what's happening in that language, but to really get started, you need to just start.
This means if you want to learn React for example, just open up a new project right now and start working on it. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you might just be doing the Hello World getting started guide, but the goal is to stop thinking about learning, and start learning.
When you go for a run, eat some food, or go to watch a movie even, you don't think of it in terms of "I want to complete eating this dinner", or "I successfully watched that movie". Rather, you enjoy the process of what you do.
Often we forget about this in learning, we focus so hard on "Understanding the language" that we forget about "Enjoying the learning process".
The best sort of learning is done when you enjoy what you are doing. Your brain will pick it up easier and remember it longer. That's why so many people who do well are the ones already invested and happy to learn something new.
The trick is to stop thinking too much about "finishing" and more about what is fun and interesting in each topic you encounter. This way you will go further and be happier for it. When you look back, you will do so happily and when you look forward, you will want to experience more learning journeys.
It's easy to put learning last. Last thing of the day to do, last thing of the week to do. You are essentially setting it as the last object with little importance. You won't have energy by the time you get to it, and you might altogether let it lapse.
Instead, schedule it in first. First thing you might do when you wake up, or the first part of your day that you complete before going to work.
You will be setting an agenda for it that is easier to keep. You will have more energy at the start of the day so you will learn it easier. And if you schedule it in before anything else, routinely, you will over time (days and days, weeks and weeks) learn quite a lot.
It doesn't have to be for hours – when you spend just 15 minutes on a subject daily over a year, that's over 90 hours of learning!
It's easy to forget yourself or lose concentration when you have a hundred little distractions. Learning requires mental focus, and staying motivated to learn means that you should put only one focus in front of you.
With social media notifications popping up in the background, YouTube playing on the side in a picture-in-picture, and a dozen other distractions, you might feel like you are never able to learn.
The best way to stay motivated and focused on learning is to simply switch all of these things off during your learning period. Set your phone to silent or do not disturb. Close all your browser windows, and if you plan on having music, make sure it's without lyrics that might be so catchy that you find yourself singing along.
All of these affect your learning, and if you can cut them out, you will do a better job.
Continue to learn. It's not something you can fail at, only something you might temporarily put on hiatus.
If you get used to the idea of learning, it doesn't become a chore, rather, it becomes something you look forward to.
Since technologies, libraries and frameworks are changing so often, it will be something you will need to keep doing in coding. Look forward to it and take time to appreciate that things will never be stale and boring because there will always be something new on the horizon to learn and do.
These are some of the things I do personally to stay motivated to keep learning to code. I think they have helped me a lot in getting to where I am, which is a Full Stack developer who enjoys doing both Front end development and some Back end work as well.
Over the years I learnt HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, React, React Native and more. I figured out early on I enjoyed React, so I learn more in that area such as mobile applications, how to use state, and more.
As you learn more yourself, and code more, you will figure out what you enjoy learning and you can focus in on it, but you will only do so if you stay motivated to keep learning to code.