As programmers, we love to code! That's what we do, and it's a big part of our lives. But it's not all that we do, and it's not all that we should do as coders. Here are five things that I think everybody that writes code should do when they are not coding to keep themselves sharp and to continue learning.
Yes! Talk about code, frameworks, libraries, algorithms, anything that helps you learn more about what you are working on. I think as programmers we often get caught up in the typing of code and lose our skills in other ways to communicate about it. One of the most important skills in our toolset is being able to communicate and explain technology, code, or high level strategy that we are using when solving complex problems. Talking about code helps enforce these skills and even helps us figure out which topics we need to brush up on.
There's soooo many benefits to reading other people's code. Everybody has small little intricate differences when they write code that can be fun to explore and enhance your understanding of how the language works. You might notice some cool new functions you've never noticed before. You may stumble on a pattern that they use that you could easily implement into your project to make it cleaner or more simple. You may even find some mistakes! Reading code other people wrote is a great exercise in checking your level of understanding. It's not easy to jump into a new repository and start understanding what's going on, but by taking some time to explore unknown territory, you'll pick up on a lot!
Read a book, I dare you! You might even enjoy it! Many programmers enjoy doing what they do because it is a very focused, heavy brain-power job. If that's you, or if you simply like a good story pick up a book and give it a read. You'll find that doing a quiet solitary task can be really refreshing, especially with all the video calls we are all on constantly.
Programmers are, in general, great problem solvers. That means that they are naturally clever, creative people. Pick up a hobby that helps get that creativity out! This can be anything from learning a musical instrument, to going out and geocaching. Finding a hobby that you love can be a great way to redirect your focus away from your code and simply let your brain rest. I've met a number of people that then take those hobbies and combine them. Some examples could be writing an app that records music, making a website for your biking club, or even creating a database to keep track of your board game win/loss record with your friends!
Simply taking a break can often be the best thing you can do to keep your energy levels up, stay focused and avoid short term burnout. Personally for me, I love going on walks throughout the day. It get's my body moving and physically away from my desk creating some separation from my work. Maybe for you, reading a chapter in a book might be the best way to relax. Other's might even rather sit back and watch an episode of their favorite show. Breaks are great for hitting the "Brain Reset" button and often times when you get back to coding you can approach it from a different prospective, which can be especially useful when tracking down pesky bugs!
What do you do to stay sharp and focused when you aren't coding? Let me know in the comments!