Last year, I shared a post in the Treehouse Community about how I keep myself motivated while learning to code, which received a lot of positive feedback. I’ve been a Treehouse student and moderator for four years and now work full-time in the tech industry, so I have some valuable advice to share that I picked up along the way. What has added to my experience though, is that I have a learning disability called Dyspraxia, which gives me a unique perspective on how to overcome different degrees of challenges and build confidence when learning to code.
Today, I’d like to expand on that forum post to help spread more encouragement to aspiring developers. Below is a list of 5 things I remind myself while learning to keep myself motivated and improve my coding. I hope they can help you too.
1. Make every effort to learn the code from memory and apply it to a project
I’m not always good at learning code and then taking the time to practice by applying it to a project. With my brain, I’m not always organized enough to stick to a plan. Instead, I can find myself jumping from one topic to another, reasoning that I can go back to the previous topic later… but ultimately I end up moving on again and losing focus.
To avoid this, try to commit code to memory as best you can while you’re learning. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming as there’s so much to learn, but try to keep your focus. Even set a learning goal and remind yourself why you set it to motivate you to achieve it. And if you need to adjust that goal, don’t worry, at least you can tell yourself you did all you could on your own.
2. Keep code snippets. Ask yourself what are they for? Where can they be used in your projects?
Throughout my years learning with Treehouse and following the courses, I like to supplement my learning by taking notes of what I think are the most relevant and important points. That also includes writing code snippets so I can go back to them when I need to. Take the time to write the code, note why you’ll need it and where to put it in your projects. You’ll also need to look up documentation and code references whenever you get stuck, but don’t worry, even the pros do that! With time and practice, you’ll be able to write code without constantly referencing back, but you’ll need to build that foundation of knowledge first.
In a way, I think of it as an extension of the Bootstrap concept. The Bootstrap documentation is packed full of useful code snippets for you to pull into your own projects and customize to your needs or those of your clients. We’re in a creative industry and there are so many different ways for us to solve problems. Do what works for you.
3. Even if you don’t remember the code, remember the concepts
I find I remember concepts more than I remember the specific code. I’ve been learning code long enough to know that most, if not all, languages have variables, arrays, functions, and object-oriented approaches. Understanding the structure is important, so when you don’t remember the specifics of a piece of code, you can make sure you know what you’re looking for and how to find the answers.
If you get downhearted (I know I frequently do), it’s good to remember that being a developer is also about knowing how to search for problems and solutions, looking up documentation or even asking other developers to help you find the answer. It is absolutely not cheating and a skill in its own right in the coding world.
4. Remember in the tech industry it is okay to ask for help when you needed & not an admission of failure
It’s okay to ask for help, it’s how we all learn from one another and share knowledge. If you can find yourself a coding mentor that can be especially helpful when you’re new to programming. But if not, asking for help either in person or even online from your peers is a great way to learn. In the same respect, don’t worry when you do make mistakes, it will only magnify your learning potential. Try to remember that when it comes to coding, it’s okay to break things, everyone does. Even if I’m initially overwhelmed that I caused a problem in the first place, I have a lot of fun solving it.
5. Take the time to practice
This is the most difficult thing for me. Having the guts to go out and practice coding on my own project. However, practice is essential to growing your coding skills and over time those skills will make your ideas and aspirations a reality.
I may not be at the level I want to be quite yet, but I’ve already learned new skills I never thought possible in my time with Treehouse. I don’t think I’d have come as far as I have with WordPress without it, and I’ve been able to work on client projects thanks to those skills and the time I put into building on them.
I hope these help and encouraged you, and if there are other ways that you self-motivate, please share them with us in the comments below! Lastly, if you suffer from a learning disability, please don’t ever feel discouraged. If you have the drive and determination to succeed in something you love doing that’s all the ammunition you need to achieve your dreams.