6 Tips For Getting Out Of A Coding Rut

When teaching ourselves web development, it can be difficult at times to keep the momentum going. Life arises, things happen, and falling off the horse doesn’t seem like a big deal… until 3 weeks have passed, and you think you’ve forgotten how to write a function. Fortunately, there are ways to get out of a coding rut.

For those times when you really need to re-ignite the flame for web development, here are some tried-and-true hacks that developers have been using to get themselves out of ruts for as long as programming has existed.

You may find them some work for you, and some don’t. Maybe a combination of a few. Feel free to adapt this advice to suit your own needs!

1. Get curious

Curiosity drives everything that we do, and it’s a particular effective way to get out of a coding rut. Especially as students: if we’re not engaged, we’re likely not learning. Sometimes, the initial flames of passion we felt when we saw “Hello, world!” need some fanning, and curiosity does the trick very nicely.

If you’re having difficulty channeling your curiosity, try drawing it out with questions. Start big! Your brain will naturally come up with new questions as offshoots.

  • Why are you a web developer?
  • What do web developers even do?
  • What makes the difference between a good developer and a bad one?
  • How many different kinds of languages are there, anyway?
  • Who wrote the first program? What did it do?

Hit up Google, and give yourself 20–30 minutes to let your curiosity take the wheel. If you’re finding some dead ends, move onto something that personally interests you, like a piece of software you actually use.

What you’re actually doing here is tricking your brain into wanting to learn again. Apart from being stoked to start coding again, another great benefit of curiosity-driven learning is improved memory retention. It’s a win-win!

2. Start learning a new language from scratch

Especially if you’ve already learned one language to a beginner level (you can start a project with some guidance), you’ll benefit greatly from starting from scratch with a brand new language to help you get out of a coding rut.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon your original language!Remember, this is just to get you back in the groove of things. If you were working on projects, you may want to at least try to revisit them before deciding to shelve them and move onto something new.

I personally recommend signing up for a 7-day trial of Treehouse, and beginning one of their tracks in WordPress DevelopmentFull-Stack JavaScriptPHP DevelopmentRubyPython, and more. When I hit a rut with advanced JavaScript when first was learning to code, I switched to Ruby for a while, and found the differences quite refreshing. When I finally did come back to JavaScript (I actually ended up finishing the Ruby track!), I had a more solid understanding of another language, which made JavaScript much easier.

In short, newbies should take note: there’s no rule that says you need to stick with something you don’t enjoy. If what you’re learning, or the project you’re working on, doesn’t really ring your bell, just know that there are plenty of other technologies out there. Most technologies have their own dedicated jobs out there, that you may fall in love with!

3. Do some coding for 3 minutes, right now

If this were truly as obvious as some might think it is, I wouldn’t have to suggest it! Simply forcing yourself to write some code is an easy way to get out of a coding rut.

Open up CodePen, and flesh out a simple website with a header, body, footer, some basic CSS. Or if you use an cloud-based development environment (or IDE) like Cloud9, and build a quick app that doesn’t require a lot of environment setup.

The key is that you know how to code, and for some people, just making yourself do it for a short period of time is enough to make you want more. It doesn’t have to be attached to a larger project. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to work — but it’s always really nice when it works. It just has to come from your brain and fingertips.

4. Read a book, or listen to a podcast about coding

Listening to other people talk about programming really makes me want to program. Most times, the host or their guests don’t even have to finish spelling out the name of some framework they plugged, and I’m already searching for it on my phone. Occasionally,

If you’re a bookworm, this doesn’t even require actually purchasing books, either. (I’m so cheap, can’t you tell?) Make an afternoon trip to Barnes and Noble with a cup of coffee, and go through books in the Programming and Computer Science sections.

Better yet, bring your laptop and experiment with technologies you find in the books, so you don’t have to rush home to code when the urge becomes too strong.

5. Write something that’s not code

You can even write about web development, if you like. And pssst, this would be an excellent time to start a blog. If you feel up to it, try writing about a problem you’ve faced, and outline some steps to solving it. Or, write about something that you wish you could do more efficiently than you currently do.

Writing creatively and strategically invokes the same mental process used when you write code, though with less logic (usually, but I’d love to read your logical non-fiction piece). In other words, you may begin writing about a problem you are facing, and find yourself at #1, ready to solve problems with programming.

6. Chat with other developers

Has it been a while since you checked in with friend pal working in Silicon Valley? That badass developer you met at a hackathon last summer, added on LinkedIn, then never chatted with again?

Set up a Skype/Hangouts call, or just message them over morning coffee to see what they’re up to. Learning about others’ projects may lead you to be naturally curious about their approach, which leads to questions. Questions can very quickly get you engaged, and ultimately help pull you out of a coding rut.

Chances are, they’ve also been where you are, and can offer some more valuable advice. I’d love to hear it if you get any!

If all else fails, just have an honest conversation with yourself. What was the last thing you worked on that turned you off from coding? Was there a way you could have approached the topic or project differently, to align yourself for a better outcome? Every experience with learning is valuable, and failure is simply a part of the process.

Do you have go-to techniques for getting yourself into the coding mood? I’d love to hear them! Tweet me at @lavie_encode, and join the Facebook community today to continue the discussion. Happy coding!

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