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How to be motivated to code and learn after a 9 to 5 job

Nov 20, 2023

For over 1 year now I have been working a 9 to 5 job and working on something on the side at nights and weekends. It seemed impossible to me at the beginning, but I learned a few things along the way that made it fun and made me look forward to it everyday. Hopefully they can help you too.

Consistency: The Key to Progress

Why Consistency is the most important thing you should focus on

The times when I felt like I got the most done looking back, are the times I worked on something every single day. When working on a project, consistency will get you very far, even if you just put in your goal to work only 15-25 minutes a day. That is because most of the time you end up working for longer than that. You then build an unstoppable momentum that makes it harder to stop then to keep going.

It helps to:

  • Plan what you want to work on each day
  • Keep track of what you did, and track your progress

Sleep and Exercise to Fuel the Mind

Without this you won't last long

This goes without saying, but I will say it anyways. When working on a project or learning on the side, it feels like you have less time, and you may end up not making enough time to sleep and exercise. Don't do that, for a few weeks you might be ok, but over the long haul you will crash. Before anything prioritize getting enough sleep and a few days a week to exercise, here is what helps me:

  • Set an alarm or reminder on your phone for when you need to get ready to bed (mine is at 11:15 PM). So that you have at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to unwind and get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Make a commitment to exercise 3 times a week, weekends make a great time to do this because you don't have work.

Build Things You're Passionate About

If you don't know what to build, the highest priority should be encompassing something that you are passionate about. Somethings that makes you say "yeah that would be cool!". If you build something just because you want to add it to your portfolio, you may burn out and lose interest.

I am currently building Taskventure a RPG Productivity app, incorporating my passion for productivity, video games and pixel art. If I hadn't incorporated things that I was passionate about, I would have given up by now. I severely underestimated the amount of work that it took (this happens 99% of time with coding projects).

Learning on Your Journey

If you tell me "but I don't care about building something, I just want to learn and follow a tutorial". I will tell you, the best way you will learn is by building something you think is cool, there is always a way to make a learning goal into a project. That will make you learn much faster and so much more anyways.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is crucial for maintaining motivation and progress.

  1. The best goals are ones that are challenging enough to make you think, but short enough that seems attainable. I think the sweet spot, is something you think you could complete in 3 months. Write down the date, be specific.
  2. If you don't think you can do in 3 months, break big goals into smaller, manageable tasks.
  3. When you figure it out, write it down, with pen and paper if possible. Many studies show you are more likely to complete it if you do.
  4. Don't be afraid to regularly revisit the goal you set for yourself and adjust. Goals change and evolve as you develop your skills.
  5. And don't tell everyone about it, that will make you feel good before you even did anything, let them find out when you have something to show already.

Time Management Techniques

Maximizing Every Minute

  • Plan your week with a calendar or to-do list (I am building one and its what I use)
  • Use a focus timer to tell your mind your intent to not stay distracted.
  • Turn off your phone (put in airplane mode) and put it in another room.
  • Work no more than 90 minutes of deep focus at a time, take a break after.

Learning and coding after work is hard. But as it is the same with everything else, with a little bit of practice anyone can do it.