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How to be Consistent when Learning? Do this exercise.

Manea Adrian
Designer & developer from Romania who began his career at the age of sixteen. Currently running
・4 min read

I also made a video on this topic, so if you prefer to watch instead of reading πŸ€“

Consistency is a big problem with learning a new skill, especially programming. Here's a quote from one of my favourite books that should give you a glance and summary of what I'm going to teach you in this post

β€œMost enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person's skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

In this post I'm going to show an exercises that I do every single day that keeps my productive and consistent with my work. Before we dive into that, there's a two rules you need to know in order for this exercise to work properly.

First Rule. Don't get fooled by social media

So let's get some context. Last year I decided to make a shift in my career, I was a web designer and I wasn't quite happy with the value I was producing to my clients. Probably I had some bad client experiences but looking back, now I'm happy I did. So like any other self thought programmers we all got our motivation to learn either from a friend, colleague or (the worst case) from social media. And that's because no one will ever document (or post on instagram) the frustration behind the scenes when they can't find a bug in their software, and the reason is quite obvious. No one likes to see people mad. So why do many developers get burnt out? Well that's because you create a misleading reality of what you think normal programmers do in these positions, like solving problems and receiving their reward immediately so when you have a moment of frustration and discomfort you feel like an impostor, because you think that's not part of the package. So the zero rule (get it?) towards consistency is to find your motivation not based on others lifestyle but construct your own without restrictions and fences.

Second Rule. Don't get fooled by yourself

Ok that sounds a bit cheesy but stay with me. I've noticed something that a lot of my friends were guilty of awhile ago. We were all fooling ourselves about the time we were dedicating towards a project or learning a new technology. We were fooling ourselves that were 'grinding', we were 'hustling' but the reality was that none of were really honest with the time we've invested into that particular project. And that's not the bad part. By fooling ourselves that we invested a lot of effort into something (even tough from a full day of 'hustling' just one hour was spent in 'VSCode') we end up burning out because we don't see feedback and reward. You know that saying fake it til you make it? Well that applies too, if you tell your brain that you spent 50 hours a week learning web development without any progress it might actually believe you. And that's when frustration gets into place.

The exercise

The most practical way of documenting your progress is to journal every day progress and work. Last year I would probably label this in the 'lame' category but if you really want to see real data of your progress use technology or a pen and paper. So keep a journal using a free app called Coda in a similar way I have here:

Coda allows you to create sections into folders so I'm using this feature to organise my weekly progress. The rules are simple. I have daily documentation and at the end of the week I have weekly documentation. This technique of organising I've learned from a YouTuber called Ran Segall

Daily Documentation

This is a simple yet powerful exercise. People who do this every day make faster progress than those who don't. This is a non-negotiable step and it takes 10 minutes.

Each day, answer:

  1. What progress did you make on the projects (client work, learning, etc)
  2. What did you do well in relation with these tasks? Why? (This must be input related - not results)
  3. Where are you getting stuck with these tasks? What is impending you? How can you overcome it, and how will you stop yourself from being impeded by this in the future?
  4. How will tomorrow be better?

Weekly Documentation

At the end of every week, sit down and read over your weekly entries. What patterns are you noticing? What momentum have you built? This is how you identify the actions and mental patterns that aren't serving you in this game, and double down on the ones that are.

As you review the week, think about what made it successful, and what will make the next week even more successful. Then plan your week.

If you're serious about it, I don't even have to convince you to try this. For me it works, I have never been so data-driven about my productiveness before.

Discussion (10)

rjmoise profile image

Great idea, I've thought about doing this but never commited to it. Today is the day I start!

Can you clarify what you meant by "This must be input related - not results"? I'm not sure I understand the point you're trying to get across.


adrianmanea profile image
Manea Adrian Author

Means that it should come up in words and just write whatever comes in your mind in relation with that task.

desi profile image

We do something similar at work where at the end of the day, we post what we worked on. I've thought about doing it with my own projects/work too - maybe this is a sign I should!

areahints profile image

I do this but with trello!

adrianmanea profile image
Manea Adrian Author

Sweet! Have you noticed improvements since you are doing it?

areahints profile image
Areahints • Edited

A lot. First that the amount of time I think I'm doing something valuable for myself was way exaggerated.

Also a to do list can be a good/bad thing.. At one point I would create a todo list of 10 things, then realize that most of it was repetitive. Nowadays I only log on my todo list what I have finished doing not what I want/wish to do.

Pomodoro timers really help you put a perspective on time.

A lot of repetition occurs in daily life, finding out how long it takes to complete a repetitive process and shortening that margin is a large improvement.

tsimpson profile image
Travis Simpson

Very nice. Something I've been struggling to do is keep track of what work I do like this. I can see the purpose and benefits, just never seem to push myself to stay consistent in tracking myself.

adrianmanea profile image
Manea Adrian Author

I think it gets easier as it converts into a habit. I guess you need about two weeks of making yourself do it, after that should be easy!

tsimpson profile image
Travis Simpson

Just that initial two weeks to break through and make happen haha! But I believe you are correct in that. Thanks for the encouragement!

wendhsz profile image

I've been struggling to be consistent lately on my progress on 100DaysOfCode and I'm pretty disappointed of myself about this. Thank you for sharing this and will definitely try Coda as well.