learning to code

Getting Stuck

 

syntax error message - you're doing it wrong

I’m sure you can picture this scenario; You’ve just finished a coding lesson – a video tutorial, a blog post, or a class – and you’re ready to apply what you’ve learned to your project.

You type your block of code and get ready to test it… and it doesn’t work.

You try again. Nope.

And again.

Reiterate until you’re completely frustrated and scratching your head.

You go back to your learning material and compare what you’ve done to the sample code. It may be a different application, but it seems like it should do essentially the same thing.

But you keep getting stuck.

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Believe me, this has happened to every single one of us. But never fear! You can overcome this!

The key to applying theory you’ve learned to a new scenario is this: Break it up into the smallest possible steps, and learn to solve each one individually (and I mean small steps – a maximum of 5-10 lines of code each). Chances are, the reason you keep getting stuck is that there is a tiny, key component that isn’t being executed correctly somewhere in your code.

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It is time-consuming, but learning each step individually will create a much deeper understanding of the concept and will enable you to achieve mastery of the theory.

One of my first big issues with this was learning how to use APIs. It’s not a terribly difficult concept, but there are many small pieces that I needed to understand before I could use an API correctly in my project. So, I broke the process down into the smallest components I could and Googled them one by one. It took awhile, but by the time I was done, I was able to go back to my code, quickly find the issue, correct it, test it, and… success!

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There can be aspects of coding that are frustrating, boring, and time-consuming… but the feeling you get when your code works makes it all worth it!

What are some of your coding challenges as you begin your tech journey? Share in the comments!

 

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For the Lazy Coder: 7 Tips to Get it Done

We’ve all been there; almost nothing feels better after a long day of work than slipping into some comfortable clothes and melting into the couch with the comforts of Netflix, Hulu, and some tasty snacks. It’s a completely natural desire to want to veg out – you earned it after working hard all day.

This desire to do nothing is exacerbated when you reach a point in your project that isn’t very interesting – finding a bug, proofreading your work, or simply working on an aspect of your project that you just don’t really enjoy. Suddenly, your whole house needs a dusting and your dishwasher requires some deep-cleaning.

For me, these tendencies sometimes build up, and suddenly I’ve completely forgotten where I am in my project after not looking at it for three weeks. It’s times like these that we need a strategy.

So, here are my 7 Tips to Get it Done:

1) Schedule it into your day.

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Decide what time of day you will be most focused on your work – your “Zone of Focus” – and actually schedule it in your phone, on a calendar, or whatever you use to schedule your day. That way, when the time comes to get to work, you will see your time blocked off and you and your brain will come prepared and ready to work.

2) Create a routine.

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Once you find your Zone of Focus, make it a habit to work at this time every single day. After you’ve done this for a week or so, your body and brain will be ready to get it done. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you are able to focus and how much more clearly you will be able to think.

3) Eliminate Distractions.

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Like I mentioned above, when you are dreading the idea of having to work on a particularly dull or challenging part of a project, it can be easy to place priority on tasks that don’t need to come first. To prevent this, get all of those distractions out of the way. You can do this by going somewhere off – site to do your work (a coffee shop, library, etc.), or you can overcome this by getting your distractions done first. However, these distractions can be used strategically (see tip #7).

4) Take a break – but keep it relevant.

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If you really don’t have the energy/brain power to do it, at least stay on topic and listen to a related podcast or read a related blog post. Sometimes, you are just too tired to get your inner genius to express that genius. But never worry – you can stay productive and continue to hone your craft by listening to a podcast, reading a blog, or watching a YouTube video related to your work. This way, it’s not time completely lost, and you are still able to relax.

5) Take a break.

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If you are really stuck and just CAN’T, give yourself a break. We all have those days; work was particularly stressful, you suddenly caught an awful cold, or maybe you took a beating during your fitness class… Some days you just can’t muster up the strength to get it done. Don’t feel down on yourself – we all need a break sometimes.

6) Move your body.

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I’m sure you’ve been there – you feel like you are on the brink of solving an issue that you’ve been ruminating on for hours, but you just can’t quite put it on paper. Step away from your work – move your body and get some blood to your brain. Stretch, go for a walk, or even just go to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of water. Not only is the physical activity good for you, but you’ll return to your work feeling refreshed, and you may just finally find the solution to your problem once you’re back and ready to focus.

7) Get away.

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Fully immerse yourself in something completely unrelated to your work. Being fully engaged in something unrelated to your work will allow you a mental break, will prevent burnout, and can spark the creativity and mental clarity needed to be totally focused once you are back at your desk. This can be as simple as the distractions from tip #3 or a personal hobby, or they can be bigger like a weekend trip or spending time with your friends. The point here is to completely focus on something that has nothing to do with your work. Once you’ve given yourself some time away, you will be able to sit down with a fresh mindset and maybe even some new ideas.

Armed with these 7 tips to keep us on track, we can get to work, get productive, and Get it Done.

What are your tips for staying focused and getting things done? Let us know in the comments!