One of the difficulties I face in learning coding was dealing with time management. With so many languages, software, and terminologies to learn it is easy to get distracted.
The work from home movement just worsened my concentration levels. There is always something more interesting to do: chat with family, grab a coffee, or pet the dog - not to mention all the notifications from slack channels and social media popping up on the screen.
“The more I learn, the more I get confused”
Despite the challenge to manage time properly, many times I felt overwhelmed with the amount of complexity that it is behind the software development world. Constant updates and new languages coming up all the time only increased my stress levels.
What can we do to avoid burnout?
To avoid burnout while I was learning to program, I realized that I needed to improve my time management skills. For that, I started to adopt some easy strategies.
These strategies have helped me to increase my concentration and productivity levels making it easier to learn how to code. I compiled them in small actions that you can implement and adapt easily to your own routine.
Plan your day
The first strategy is to plan your day ahead. Before starting to dig into coding, spend some time planning which language or software you will be studying on that specific day. Then, write down a short to-do list prioritizing the tasks that will enable you to achieve your learning goal.
This prevented me from procrastinating throughout the day because having the tasks laid out in front of me, I didn't have to stress about them in my head anymore. It was also useful because I avoided forgetting about important things I needed to do.
So if you finally decided to create a list for yourself, try to keep your records as detailed as possible. This will help you to know exactly what you need to do in each task without losing time.
Cut out distractions
As hard as it is to cut out distractions at this time whether it be family, the news, or maybe just social media and games, it is necessary to be able to focus your energy on the task at hand.
Getting disrupted and distracted can be very discouraging and sometimes frustrating. Every time we are interrupted, it takes around 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on the flow of studying. If you get distracted every hour, those 23 minutes will sum up to a lot of wasted time.
My suggestion is to turn off all the notifications from web applications and leave your cell phone in another room. If you cannot resist playing games like me, try to put all of them in a folder. This worked for me as I would often get distracted just by looking at the icons on the toolbar. Especially when I was stuck or had studied for a longer period.
Another strategy to try is to track the amount of time it takes to study or practice a certain programming language. Time yourself from beginning to finish and set it as your record. The next time you will have a better estimation of how long a similar practice will take to complete.
Coding and multitasking don’t go hand-in-hand. During my learning journey, I discovered that developers need to enter a state called “flow” in which our focus is 100% directed to a certain task.
Jumping from one topic to another doesn’t only waste your time - remember those 23 minutes - but also decrease your overall productivity. If you keep multitasking, by the end of the day you won’t be able to finish writing code or fully understand a new programming language.
Break down projects into smaller chunks
Break down projects in smaller mini-projects to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For example, If you are practicing to build a new algorithm, the massive amount of work it takes can make us feel anxious, causing us to lock for shortcuts like "which one is easier" or "which one will take less time".
Dividing big practices into smaller chunks of an hour or two per day will prevent you from having feelings of failure or exhaustion from not completing the practice.
Plan smart breaks
I know I said it is important to get into the flow and have full attention to the task you are working on. But it is also important to have smart breaks like having time to have a proper lunch or an afternoon coffee.
Planning your breaks beforehand increases your productivity levels. Our brain is a powerful tool to deal with a high amount of information but It has a limit.
Try to cultivate the discipline of switching off from studying at night, allocate some time for entertainment, and ensure you have a good night's sleep.
This will allow your brain to retain information better and restart fresh the following day.
Organize your studying area
You cannot control everything, especially during these times of chaos. However, we can organize your studying area to free from distractions by taking some easy preventive measures.
The first measure is trying to find a quiet and comfortable area to not be interrupted. Having a secluded area for work is a luxury during this time. If you have it, take advantage of it.
The second one is cleaning your workspace. Remove everything that doesn’t need to be on your desk (you can leave your cup of coffee, of course). Having a decluttered environment to study will help you focus on the task at hand and not on the mess around you.
The last one is turning off background noise. Background noise can be a bigger distraction than you realize. If you are unable to turn it off, put on your headphones and listen to some music or white noises, which can easily be streamed from Youtube.
Time Management For Better Learning
Improving your time management skills can make it easier to learn to code. Planning your day the night before and having a to-do list will give you clear directions towards achieving your main goal. Try to cut distractions and avoid multitasking to keep your concentration levels optimal.
Break down projects into small chunks and plan smart breaks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Lastly, try to have control of your study area to better focus on your studying. Following these small, easy to replicate actions, will help you better manage your time, ensuring you are learning and retaining new information.