Learning to code can be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding decisions a person can make. The world around us is changing at a rapid pace, primarily because of our technological advances.
Everything around us is connected in some way, to the internet and has a built in processor which means there are opportunities for those who know how to code. That being said, learning to code is no easy feat. It’s challenging, often confusing and there is so much you need to learn if you want to get proficient as a coder.
I’m a freelance web developer who focuses on creating custom WordPress Websites. I don’t have a computer science degree, I didn’t start learning to code when I was a kid. I didn’t have a mentor and I am completely self taught coder who has made a ton of mistakes along the way.
My goal in this article is to help others learn how to code faster by avoiding some of the mistakes I made. I also embedded a video from my channel PixemWeb on YouTube where I cover the topics I’m writing about here.
Here are some of my tips for new developers and coders.
Learn By Doing
One thing I recommend is that you become an active learner and not a passive learner.
What is a passive learner?
This is when a person simply buys a book and reads it as if it were a regular novel or watches a YouTube Video on coding as if they were watching a TV show.
Passive learning is a poor learning strategy since you are not actively participating in the learning process. you will have a difficult time remembering the information you’re reading or watching if you don’t actually start implementing it immediately.
What is an Active Learner?
This simply means that instead of just passively learning the material, you’re actually coding while you’re learning. You’re implementing the concepts from the book or video you’re reading or watching. You’re reading the code and figuring out what it’s doing.
Active learning also means that you’re trying to see if you can get the code to do something different. Making mistakes and learning along the way. The act of implementing what you learn will dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for you to learn to code.
For instance, when I teach people how to code WordPress themes I demonstrate a general approach. I recommend people try to first understand what I’m doing, and then take it further or in a different direction.
Eliminate Distractions – No Multi-Tasking
Let’s face it, we live in a very distracted world. We are tethered to our smart phones as if they’re a part of our bodies. This means we spend a significant amount of time checking our emails, text messages, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, FaceBook, Snapchat and taking selfies.
We get notifications every few minutes and we don’t realize how much time we spend on non-productive activities. This will greatly diminish your ability to retain any information you’re attempting to learn. That’s why I recommend putting your phone, tablet, computer etc, on Do Not Disturb mode. It might be hard at first but if you’re serious about learning, then you have to reduce distractions.
This also means that you should try to find a quiet place to study and practice code. It goes without saying that an environment that’s overly busy and noisy, might not be conducive to learning.
Start Chunking Your Learning Process
Chunking, what is that? This basically means that you’re maximizing your learning by splitting your study time into smaller segments. Let’s say you’re ambitious and want to study code for 3 hours a day. This is great because you’ll be studying for 21 hours a week, 84 hours a month and an estimated 1,008 hours per year. Give or take a few hours.
But there’s a difference between sitting down for 3 hours straight and splitting the 3 hours throughout the day. Your brain can only absorb but so much information before it starts drowning out the info and reducing your ability to retain what you’re studying.
My recommendation is to study for an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon and an hour during the evening. This will enable you to take breaks in between studying and ensure your brain is refreshed.
Old School Learning Strategies
While we may live in a very technological society where we have apps and software for almost everything you might need to do, including taking notes, I recommend spending a few dollars on index cards and notepads.
Index Cards aka Flashcards for Coding
Using this simple technique, you can right down the name of a function on the from of the card, along with an example and description on the back of the card. This will make it easy for you to carry the cards around with you and to quiz yourself at random times throughout the day.
This is a technique I used very early on and has helped me big time while learning to code. I recommend getting two sizes of index cards. Smaller ones which are easier to carry around and larger ones for you to write down more detailed information.
Notepads for Coding
This is similar to the index card strategy. The act of writing down code examples, definitions and taking notes will help to reinforce the process of learning to code.
I buy notepads in bulk and I go through them fast. Yes, I do use OneNote by Microsoft and it’s very helpful. But actually writing down notes and code examples is a great way to learn. That’s why you will often hear of Doctors, Lawyers, Scientist’s and others who use this strategy.
Learn The Fundamentals of Coding
With the exception of html which is a markup language and css which is a styling language, most programming/coding languages use similar concepts, albeit in different ways.
- Variable – which are often values that can vary based on conditions. Example: in php, you can have a variable $firstName which can be assigned the value of a database query.
- Control Structures – which can also be considered, Code Logic. This can be in the form of an if else statement, a switch statement, the ternary operator etc. This can set some conditions to execute based on what’s being requested from the server.
- Data Structures – which is information that’s stored in a database like MySQL. You would have the table structure, how they relate to each other, how the database interacts with your program or website etc.
- Code Syntax – This means you focus on the core structure of the language you’re using. How do you open a php tag and close it off? How do you echo out a string to a webpage? What are the key concepts of the coding language you’re using? The list goes on.
- Your Code Toolset – This can be the computer you use, the text editor you code with and the browser you use etc. Learning how to use your tools inside and out is vital to your ability to maximize your time and learning. Learn the keyboard shortcuts.
Never Give up
Coding is hard. It takes a serious amount of time and effort in order to master a coding language and learn how to best utilize what you know to create websites and programs.
People often start off strong. They are motivated in the beginning and might go all in for a short amount of time. But as the challenges start to arise and the concepts get more complex, people start to slowly give up on learning to code.
Don’t let this happen to you. Find a way to keep your level of motivation high. I often tell people to have reminders of why they wanted to learn to code in the first place. Create a dream-board of your goals and look at it daily.
Set Realistic Goals but be Un-Realistic
Confusing right? Good. The point is to realize that you can’t master coding in a matter of weeks. It takes years. Instead, create a program for yourself where you study daily and continuously push yourself to learn more.
But be un-realistic in the sense that don’t follow what other people say or believe when it comes to limitations. Self limiting beliefs will keep you grounded and that’s not good.
Is it realistic that planes can fly in the air? Is it realistic that we have visited the moon and soon, Mars? Is it realistic that we can communicate with virtually anyone around the world just by picking up a phone or using facetime?
Learning to code is hard but if you study daily, practice what you learn and are committed, you can learn to code fast. Hopefully you found this article helpful and took a few minutes to watch the video on Learning to Code Fast. If you found it helpful, subscribe to this website and YouTube Channel. Also, share this article with others.
As always, thanks for reading.