As I already explained in my Incremental Progress over Intense Sprints blog post, I think it is much better to make steady, incremental progress rather than going super hard for short periods of time and eventually burn out. If you can combine both, perfect, but don’t confuse the initial boost of motivation that you always get when you start something new, with long term motivation. This article is mostly directed to people who learn programming on the side like I do and don’t already work or study in something programming-related, but it also applies to anyone else who feels like he isn’t improving himself consistently.
No matter if you have a full time job or still go to school, you probably don’t have much time and energy left at the end of the day to wrap your head around new programming concepts. However, do yourself a favor and do a little bit every single day of the week, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Feed your brain with some new information and let your subconsciousness work on it afterwards. Even if you don’t understand whatever you are trying to learn at that moment, your brain will try to solve the problem in the background and will form new neuronal connections (Disclaimer: I am not a scientist).
While making my Youtube videos I’ve learned, how fast I can progress if I just put in some effort on a daily basis. I am far from being a good programmer, but concepts that would overwhelm me not that many weeks ago, now come with ease and I can build on that to learn more advanced stuff. Sometimes I try to learn a concept, get frustrated because there is too much contradicting or not well explained information out there, then I put it off and forget about it. But when I then go on to learn about some other stuff, I often collect small pieces of information that relate to my first problem here and there and when I then eventually get back to this problem and try to understand it again, it often succeeds – sometimes even with ease – because all those pieces of information I picked up while working on something else, now help me. However, it was important that I had this problem in the back of my mind in the first place, otherwise I would’ve missed some subtle hints here and there.
What I want to say is: It doesn’t matter if the stuff you’re trying to learn overwhelms you, it really doesn’t. You only have to put in steady effort, remember that the frustration and the struggle means you are learning, and magic will happen. The only thing that matters is that you expose your brain to new informations and stretch yourself mentally. The rest more or less happens automatically. The next time you try to learn something new and don’t understand it, go to bed with the thought in mind that this is a great thing, because now your brain has something to work on while you rest and you will wake up a little bit smarter.
If you on the other hand spend a lot of days doing zero and then try to do a lot in a single day, you won’t have that effect. At least not to that extend. You will also get frustrated while learning (again, this is an important, inevitable part of the learning process), but the next time you work on it you will have forgotten most of it already. You can’t reach big goals without building momentum and you can’t build momentum when you get to a halt all the time. If you are busy or have massive trouble with procrastination, then set yourself tiny daily requirements. Set yourself the goal of studying just 10-15 minutes a day. If you want to stop after those 10 minutes – ok – you hit your target time, but often times you will keep going and end up doing more. What matters is that your small steps were going forward, not backwards. And these small steps help you make steady progress without getting overwhelmed by the big picture.
This post is just a reminder about the power of incremental progress. There is not much else to say about it other than that it works. A good way to get a daily dose of new information, is to watch one of my tutorial videos. They average around 10 minutes and explain a concept from start to finish. So set a bookmark to my channel in your browser and learn a little bit every day. Of course you shouldn’t rely on my videos alone and do your own research too, but the sole purpose of these videos is to help others learning in 10 minutes what i learned in hours of research. I build my own little library of knowledge to which I go back whenever I need a refresher for a topic.