As a self-taught developer, I create my own curriculum, meaning I also choose my own pace.
Sometimes, I’m in a flow state and code for days, 8 hours a day, with few breaks in between. And sometimes, I sit at my computer feeling uninspired, like I’m in a rut and have hit a plateau. But, it’s an uphill journey, there’s always something new to learn or skills to improve on!
I often meet with bootcamp grads and self-taught software engineers to hear about their journey, seek advice, and also just get to know them. After hearing their stories, each conversation leaves me inspired and motivated. With the inspiration fresh, I usually log in a few hours of deep project work the next time I'm at my computer.
Yes, I know, don’t get into tutorial hell! But, tutorials are helpful (in small doses). To get out of a rut and learn something new, I follow a short tutorial on a new topic I have no practice in. Recently, I followed Brad Traversy’s API tutorial step-by-step because it was my first time working with an API and didn’t know how to build the project from scratch. After finishing that project, I got a sense of accomplishment, a new skill in development, and the knowledge to start a similar project with my own twists.
By small project, I mean really small. I usually browse CodePen for inspiration; here is one example and another. A small project for me will likely be different for you, and that's ok! Scope a project that you can finish in under four hours. The feeling of satisfaction in completing a project keeps me going onto the next bigger project, which usually incorporates the small project feature I just worked on!
For me, I keep track of unfamiliar topics and terms when I read technical blogs, tutorials, etc. When I’m stuck in a rut or don’t know where to start, I Google a few of these topics. This usually leads me to many “aha!” moments, a new learning relevant to projects I’ve been working on, or a general feeling of satisfaction from my newfound knowledge that satiated my curiosity. Completing this small task helps me get started on my day and keeps the momentum going.
Flow state, aka “being in the zone”, is a mental state where you feel so energized and motivated by your activity at hand that you start losing track of time. I often find my flow state when I’m working on something new yet challenging, but also have the tools and skills to solve any problems that arise. For example, I held off learning Bootstrap because I wanted to first become fully proficient in my CSS abilities since frameworks come and go. With my strong CSS foundation built, once I started learning Bootstrap, I was floored by the easy to use responsive templates, especially the grids. I spent the next two days heads down, working on this cookbook project. Find out what gets you in your flow state. Tap into that feeling and/or environment next time you’re in a rut.