How to Stay Motivated While Learning to Program

Don’t feel like programming today? What’s the code to motivation? Sorry for that. The older I get the less I can resist the puns.

Programming takes practice, and practice can be difficult and boring. Trust me, I get it. It’s easy to give up when you hit a roadblock.  Luckily, I have some tips and best practices for how you can avoid letting frustration get the best of you and how to stay motivated.

Ask yourself, what’s your “why?”

Why do you want to be a programmer? If you find yourself becoming discouraged, remember to ask yourself why you’re trying to learn. Do you have a goal in mind? Are you trying to land a specific job? Do you have a software idea in mind that you plan on building or starting up?  By constantly reminding yourself what your motivation is to learn programming, you will encourage yourself to keep going.  If you don’t have a reason to be motivated, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Don’t get overwhelmed by thinking about where you’ll be in a year.  Set realistic goals at first for a day or a week at a time.  Writing myself sticky notes with reminders on my progress and the outcome I want to reach helped me to stay motivated while I was first programming.

Keep it simple and focused. Pick 3 main reasons why you want to learn… why you want to get better. Write them down and put it next to your mirror so you read it every morning while you brush your teeth. Set a reminder on your phone. Put a post-it note on your computer screen. Just make sure each day you read your “why” first thing… and you’ll be ready to crush your daily goals.

Choose the best path for yourself and stay focused

When you’re first starting out programming, all the different languages can seem overwhelming. Try to visualize what you want long term. What fascinates you? Pick one particular language or area and do it until you fee comfortable writing from scratch.

Narrow it down to some of the basic languages based off what you picture yourself doing, such as JavaScript, Python, or SQL. Focus on learning the fundamentals of the language you pick, then start doing your own projects. Build something, share it with others. Get involved with the online community.

I found myself easily getting distracted by how much I had to learn instead of just figuring out the problem in front of me. Stay the course and trust that, if you put in the work, you WILL get to your goal.

Schedule specific times to practice

This is crucial… especially if you’re self taught like me and not following a formal class. Once you choose what you want to learn, figure out the best routine for you to fit regular practice into your schedule.

If you’re anything like me, sitting in front of the computer for three hours watching modules gets old quick. Set aside time daily for smaller period increments if you know you lose focus when your forced to practice for hours on end.  Try splitting your training up into 30 or 60 minutes here and there. Making a habit to set aside time to code (just like brushing your teeth is part of your daily routine), will eventually make learning feel more like a natural part of your day.

If you find yourself getting frustrated with what you’re coding then pause and work on something else. Taking a break can help prevent coding fatigue. Sometimes taking a break and coming back to a problem the next day with a clear mindset can help you overcome the issue.

Make sure that you streamline what you want to focus on, so that the time you spend learning and practicing is effective. For instance, if you choose to focus on learning SQL, don’t start browsing tutorials on HTML at the same time. Hold yourself accountable to what you planned on learning and accomplishing with each session.  Remember – the end goal here is to get into IT.

I recommend reading books or breaking things up into modules. Modules are great because they allow you to focus on one specific topic at a time. Try to code as you learn and go along with the module.  It helps me pick up the concept better when I experiment with the code I am learning as I go.

Find Resources

There are a lot of people out there charging boatloads of money for courses and tutorials.  When you’re just starting out, I recommend learning by watching free videos on YouTube.  This will suffice for the basic concepts you’re trying to learn. There are plenty of other free options out there, and I will be sharing those on this site in the future.

Focus on projects that you find interesting

Try to pick up projects to help you practice that seem appealing to you. For instance, I recommend finding side gigs on upwork.com. Picking up a side gig has perks by motivating you to work for money while also allowing you to practice coding at the same time. What matters at first is having a project you enjoy and a goal to work towards.

Don’t aim to build anything complex at first.  You don’t want to fail and become discouraged. There are a decent amount of projects out there that newer programmers could work on… it just may take a bit to get the first project. We’ll examine side-gigs more in future articles, but keep that in mind.

Work with others

Find a coding buddy. I find that working with friends or creating a club helps me to commit to a scheduled time I plan on programming. It also makes things more fun and allows for creativity and innovation among the group.

Finding a mentor is also a great resource to help you learn while staying motivated. Having someone that you can speak with and that can help advise you when issues arise can help limit your frustration. Being able to ask someone with experience for help can go a long way.

Connect with and reach out to people on LinkedIn. People are often more than willing to help out and be a resource. You’d be surprised. Also, look up meetups in your area and network.

Remember that lack of motivation has affected most programmers out there at some point.  You’re not alone.  You’re in charge of your future and the only thing stopping you from becoming a great programmer is your work ethic and determination.