Getting out of a programming slump

23 Feb 2019

Stuck

I recently found myself well and truly stuck. Programming wasn’t fun anymore, it was something I almost dreaded having to do. I had completely lost the interest and as someone who is almost done with my computer science degree, I was questioning my career choices.

Usually this kind of feeling is associated with having to work through some difficult problem or understanding a new technology, but not in this case. I felt done with programming. This feeling completely snuck up on me, a few months before I was happily programming away and taking initiative and yet here I was. Spoiler alert, it didn’t last and as of right now, I’m feeling more interested and in love with programming than I have in a long time.

I hope by sharing my experiences and reflections that I can help someone out who might be feeling the same way.

Looking back, my decline into the hole started a few months ago. That is around the time I stopped programming for me, all my time was spent either on school or freelance projects. I didn’t feel the need to justify programming applications I wanted to make, since the freelance projects were cool and I was still learning a lot, it didn’t really matter. However, as time progressed and the projects got to the stage where you’re not building and learning but figuring out annoying bugs and pulling your hair out from trying to deploy it. In essence, I had completely ruined the experience for myself by making working with my code a headache and deploying it a nightmare. Jumping over where the fence is lowest does not work out in the long run! I cannot stress enough how big of an impact the environment I was in had on my interest in programming. Not only was the app I working on difficult to deal with, my operating system was not working for me either (I am now a big fan of Unix) and my text editor wasn’t making my life easier.

So if you find yourself stuck, have a good look at your environment. What’s holding you back? Are there processes you dread having to do and are your tools actually aiding you or are they causing friction? Find ways to make your life easier, learn shortcuts for your editor or switch to another one and look into ways you can automate your processes. Taking extra time up front to set up your environment will pay back a 100 times later. Plus it’s valuable knowledge to have for other projects and it will become easier the more you do it. Maybe you can even find a way to automate that too!

It might not even be your environment as such, but maybe you’re moving too fast without really understanding what’s happening and you need to take a step back. Go back over some tutorials, look into other ways of doing it and try to see if somebody else already has solved your problem (or maybe there’s a javascript framework for it ;) )

Another thing I found, was that I had stopped exploring and experimenting. I was constantly trying to find the solutions to my problems on Stack Overflow without taking the time to really understand how something worked. Which meant having code I didn’t fully understand and a quick fix to my problems. Sometimes you just need to fiddle around with your code and try to break things. See what happens if you use this function, look at the documentation for cool functionality and play with it. Allow yourself to have some fun and explore this amazing magical world of programming. Maybe even try a completely new thing like shell scripting or some build tools, the world is your oyster.

If you feel stuck and are considering quitting programming, try making some changes first. Have a look at what is actually causing the problem and try to do something different. Talk to different people, try new things and allow yourself some play time and maybe the passion will come back.

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