Learn to Code. Remember to Breathe.

June 2, 2019

This is an older article originally posted on March 23, 2018

Over the last couple of months, I have been working as hard and as diligently as I can to become a front-end developer. I was coming home from work, skipping the gym, having a quick bite of supper with my wife and then sitting at my computer working through every course, video, etc.… that I could get my hands on. I made a good bit of progress that first week or two but then the amount of information I was absorbing and retaining dropped drastically and my attention span towards my studies took a stiff drop as well, and I hated it. I wanted to learn to code, I wanted to build websites and apps and I wanted to create digital architectures of design that would stand as technological masterpieces as the Eiffel Tower and the Sistine Chapel were (I had high hopes for myself, huh?).

So, I started really looking at the schedule and habits I had been trying to maintain and develop and realized how horribly unhealthy and unattainable they were. My brain needed a break. I needed a break. More importantly, I needed to make these breaks a regular part of my routine for the sake of my happiness, ability to learn and for my marriage. Here’s a couple of things I did to help:

Realize it’s not a race and taking time away is ok

One thing that I always (and still) struggle with is that I feel like I’m doing something wrong by not spending every available minute learning to code. It’s important that you step back and realize that taking time away is ok and is actually beneficial to the learning process.

Schedule days to not even look at code

It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll just finish that ‘one thing’ and then you’ll get off of the computer and before you realize it’s time for bed and you’ve spent all day at the computer. Schedule a couple of days week where you don’t even think about code and just enjoy the day. Go for a walk. Hit the book store. Watch a few episodes of your favorite show with your significant other. If you schedule time to take a break from your studies you’re less likely to feel guilty about not having your nose in the books (screen) because the break is built in as part of the learning process.

Remind yourself that progress is progress, no matter how small

One thing I’m guilty of is being really hard on myself about not being to point x yet and that’s really unhealthy behavior. No one is going to sit down and figure out javascript in one session. No one figures out everything about front end development during their first site build and that’s ok. It’s not about making giant strides every time you touch a keyboard. It’s the tiny battles you win here and there that add up and it’s important that you teach yourself to recognize those and take pride in the victory. Over time, enough of those small wins add up to a ton of accumulated knowledge and when you’re seeing all of these small wins you’ll build your confidence in your growth as a developer and again feel less guilty when you do take breaks from your studies.

If you do anything for too long with high intensity you could easily get burnt out, lose focus or have so little strength (mental or physical) left that your efforts aren’t really adding any true benefit to the cause. Twenty pounds isn’t terribly heavy but even the strongest man can only lift it for so long before it wears on him.

The fix to this problem is easy. Give yourself time to breathe and relax in anything you do. There’s nothing wrong with working towards a goal with vigorous tenacity but the key is making sure you’re managing that vigor in a healthy way that promotes consistent progress and plenty of r & r for your mind.

Learn to code. Remember to breathe.

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