Programming is hard. There is a seemingly infinite amount of things to learn and new technologies are being released all the time. This can be incredibly overwhelming, especially when you are first starting out, so in this article I will breakdown five tips you can use to become a better developer and breakthrough the overwhelm.
If you prefer to learn visually, check out the video version of this article.
1. Challenge Yourself With New Things
Your job as a programmer is to solve problems. These can be any form of problem from how to design a UI to how to structure a database schema, but ultimately they are all problems you must solve. This is why by far the most important skill to improve as a developer is problem solving. Improving your problem solving skills is tough, though, since it requires you to constantly be putting yourself in new and unfamiliar positions.
This is why I recommend you challenge yourself constantly with new and exciting problems. This can be anything such as trying your hand at backend development if you normally only do frontend. Another great way to challenge yourself is to use a new programming language or technology to build a project. This will force you to solve familiar problems in a new and refreshing way which is perfect for getting better at problem solving. It also helps with managing the overwhelm of learning new languages and frameworks since you can use learning them as an excuse to improve your problem solving skills.
2. Create Projects That Interest You
The best way to stick with a project and learn a new technology or language is to create a project you are interested in. If you like football for example the you should create a project that revolves around football. This will make you much more likely to stick with the project. Also, I highly recommend combining the creation of projects you like with step one by creating a project using a framework or language you are unfamiliar with. This will help increase your skills as a developer drastically.
3. Research Advanced Programming Topics
Once you start to get familiar with your first language and framework you may notice that parts of your code are messy or not performant enough. This is when you need to start researching advanced programming topics such as refactoring, clean code, testing, deployment, and so much more.
These advanced topics are generally more theoretical and require a deeper understanding of what is going on conceptually. This is why I recommend watching YouTube videos or reading blog articles on these topics in order to familiarize yourself with these ideas. This is a quick way to determine if this topic is worth devoting more research to.
It is also important that after you do your research you actually implement the topic as well. This can be as simple as researching clean code for example and then using the clean code principles you learned to refactor an old project into a newer nicer codebase.
4. Never Stop Learning
When everyone starts programming they are very aggressive about learning the newest technologies and keeping up to date with everything. Once they land their first job, though, all that goes out the window and they stop learning new technologies as they get used to their way of doing things. Now there is nothing terribly wrong with slowing down your learning once you have a full time job, but it is important to not stop learning completely.
Technology is a bit of an interesting industry since it is advancing so quickly. What was popular ten years ago may be completely obsolete now, so it is important to keep up with technology changes so that your skills do not become obsolete. On top of that you may find that you enjoy new technology or languages more than what you are currently using which is the perfect way to lead yourself into your next job.
If you only ever do what you are used to eventually your skills will grow out of date and you will be stuck back at square one trying to relearn everything new that has happened.
5. Do Other Things Besides Programming
Yes you read that right. The final way to become a better developer is to spend less time programming. This may sound counterintuitive, but if you spend too much time focused on just development you will eventually burnout. You will begin to hate the time you spend programming and that will suck away your enjoyment of your job and hobbies.
Because of this, I find it crucial that everyone has hobbies outside of programming that they can commit to in order to make sure that programming is always fun. For me this includes things, such as, lifting weights, playing the guitar, and biking, but for you it could be anything you enjoy.
On top of making sure you do not burn out, taking breaks from programming will actually make you a more productive programmer. With breaks you are able to give your mind time to reset and this will cause you to learn quicker and make better decisions. Essentially you can get more work done by working less which sounds awesome to me.
In conclusion the best way to improve your development skills is to ensure you constantly challenge yourself with new and exciting technologies that you apply to projects you are passionate about. It is also important that you take breaks from programming to pursue your other passions.