Let’s say you want to become a programmer, web developer, to be precise. You’re motivated and ready to study hard. You even gathered some learning materials. That’s all great. But what you don’t have is much time.
Many of us trying to learn new skills have this same problem — daily job, some adult obligations, and stuff. How to fit all of that in your schedule? How long do you need to study daily?
You may have heard the advice that 10 minutes a day adds up quickly. But does it? To be frank — not really. Let’s do the math. To learn the basics of programming and get hired, you’ll need to study at least 300 hours. If you’re devoting to programming 10 minutes a day, every day, for a year, you’ll have 3650 minutes. That’s only 61 hours under your belt.
At that pace, you’ll be ready to start your job in about five years. In the meantime, paradigms will shift, the industry will change, new tools will be created and dropped. You’ll have to re-learn most of the stuff. That’s a bit underwhelming, isn’t it?
So, knowing that, should, you set a goal of studying 10 minutes a day?
In a perfect world, you could learn programming about 2–3 hours a day, ideally, in three or four 45 minute chunks. With brisk walks or naps in between. With that routine, you should land a junior position in 6–12 months and live happily ever after. But there are some issues with the seemingly flawless plan.
For starters, do you know anyone who has 2 or 3 hours to spare daily? Yeah, me neither. Thought of scheduling that big chunk of time every day is a bit scary. And tiresome. It’s like going to the gym day in day out, even if you partied until 5 am the night before.
The other thing is programming can be hard. Inevitably there will come moments when you’re stuck. Can you imagine thinking about the problem for three hours only to find out that you’ve done nothing? Not a single line of usable code came to existence. Firstly, welcome to the developers’ life. Secondly, that’s a real downer.
So trying to code for a long time every day will inevitably be a tedious, frustrating chore. Unless you’re incredibly motivated, have rock-solid willpower, and forgiving people around you, then chances are you’ll burn out quickly. What’s the better way?
Have you tried reading one page of the book a day? Initially, you can do it. Eventually, you haven’t read a book in months, and it’s a bit boring. But after some time, reading only one page a day becomes quite tricky.
More often than not, you get involved and want to know what will happen next. Or want to end a chapter. Once you have a habit of reading, you’ll probably read more than one page a day. It’s the same with programming. Once you make a habit out of it, it’s not that easy to stop.
So, what’s my advice to you? Schedule some minimal time for coding every day. It can be 10 minutes, or 15 or 30 — anything that feels manageable for you. Commit yourself to do it every day. But if you miss one day, try not to be too hard on yourself. Just make sure you won’t skip two days in a row. That’s sound advice, but as I mentioned earlier, it will take you years to become a developer. How to overcome that?
Make sure that you don’t have anything planned for the time after studying. The chances are when you start coding, you’ll want to continue. Ten minutes will become 30 or forty, and you’ll get involved in problem-solving or want to finish a feature.
So what you need to do is to ensure you have spare time after scheduled coding. Then if you get interested, you can continue. As a result, you’ll study much more than expected and have a higher chance of avoiding burnout.
And you know what? You can do it multiple times a day. Let’s say you have a whole Saturday just for you. Perfect time to do some coding. Even though you usually schedule 30 minutes a day for coding, this time, you feel the urge to binge straight 4 hours. Stop! Thirty minutes is enough for one sitting.
If you get stuck, you can always work on a problem a little longer. Don’t force yourself to work for many hours, unless you’re in flow (and if you’re you won’t be able to stop yourself, as the time will fly rapidly). Later you can take a walk, read a book, or do whatever you like.
But promise yourself that after having some fun you’ll sit for another 30 minutes. Maybe another 30 in the evening. Splitting your learning in smaller chunks interrupted by relaxation will give you much better results. Trust me, I’ve been there.