Do you remember the nervous excitement before the first day of school when you were a kid? You knew that the year ahead was full of new things to learn, new teachers to impress, and brand new pencils sharpened to a perfect point. But wouldn’t it have been nice to have a little study guide for the new year to know what was in store?
If you’re considering jumping into the world of coding, you may be itching for a little guidance to banish any self-doubt about your learning journey. But more importantly, you might just be looking for a few pointers to help you feel even more excited to explore coding.
This list of 10 things you should know before coding can become your pre-coding study guide so you can dive into coding with confidence and enthusiasm.
#1 Set Up Goals
Maybe in the car ride to the first day of school, your parents would ask, “Do you have any big goals for this school year?” And younger you might have said something like, “Win every game of four-square ever!” or “Qualify for the school spelling bee,” or even “Successfully free the class hamster into a hamster sanctuary.”
You might not have known the value of goal-setting as a kid, but creating achievable aspirations can be one of the best strategies for learning a new skill, especially coding.
Goal setting can…
- Boost motivation
- Instill a sense of power over your learning
- Focus your efforts and energies
Here are some tips for setting smart goals for your programming practices:
Set deadlines – If a teacher handed you an assignment and said it’s due “whenever you feel like you want to do it,” would you feel motivation to complete it? Probably not. Deadlines encourage you to constantly work towards your aspirations.
- Short-term goals vs long-term goals – You may want to explore coding to help you work toward a bigger dream, like a particular job or project you want to complete. These are long-term goals, and they help you dream big and excite you about your learning. Use short-term goals to help you work towards your dreams. You can even start with outlining the reasons why you want to learn how to code.
For example, you can create questions similar to “why should I learn to code?” or “what type of job do I want after?” If your long-term goal is to build your own website, you can use short-term goals to help you build the necessary skills. Here are just a few examples:
- Practice HTML for 30 minutes a day
- Make a list of favorite website designs and add a new one to the list every week
- Read one book a month about web design
Before you know it, your long-term goals will become the stepping stones to your long-term achievements!
#2 Practice Patience
Experts agree—programming is an exercise in patience. Coding can be difficult at times, and a lack of patience with learning this new skill can lead to frustration, lack of motivation, and possibly giving up. Practicing patience can make all the difference in how you absorb each lesson.
Here are some exercises to help you when you start to lose your patience:
- Try deep breathing – When you become frustrated, your heart rate accelerates, your breathing becomes more shallow, and it becomes harder for your brain to make decisions and internalize information. But you can reset your body—and your mind—with a few deep breaths.
- Take a break – Taking a break from a frustrating coding problem will make you feel less impatient, help you solve the problem, and work toward your long-term goals. Just ask psychology scientist Nir Eyal:
When we work, our prefrontal cortex makes every effort to help us execute our goals. But for a challenging task that requires our sustained attention, research shows briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.
#3 Pay Close Attention to the Basics
The first skills you master in coding are essential. The programming basics will come into play in a variety of projects, both complex and simple. Pay attention as you first start to learn so you can fortify the practices you’ll use for your entire coding journey.
But not all coding basics are practical lessons. For example, some lessons are a bit more philosophical and just as important:
Be a human, not a computer – Some beginning coders might think the best programming approach is to think like a computer. But instead, your job is to teach computers to be more human. Coders are a bit like translators, using programming languages to tell computers what to do for human use. But you’ll need the very human skills of creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking to explore the amazing world of coding.
- It’s okay not to know everything – Coding is a continuously-expanding field and there’s always more to learn. Don’t pressure yourself to master every little thing about every single coding language. To learn to code, after all, is to learn how to constantly learn.
#4 Practice Coding By Hand
This is recommended by almost every experienced coder out there. Learning to write code by hand will make you a better coder. Studies show that your brain has an easier time retaining information when it's written out. Additionally, if you’re looking to start a career in coding, potential employers will require you to handwrite a test code to make sure you know your stuff.
#5 Learn By Doing, Not Memorizing
Learning to code is a lot like riding a bike. It’s something you learn by doing. Although it may be intimidating at first, try to jump into as many projects and hands-on learning experiences as you can.
#6 Become Your Own Problem-Solver
The most important skill you’ll learn in coding is problem-solving. If you come across a problem you’re struggling to solve, resist the urge to look for help. Then, articulate what’s happening to your code—either out loud to yourself or written out. Follow the steps below and chances are, you’ll figure out the problem just by explaining it:
- Over-explain exactly what brought you to the problem, going step by step
- Talk about exactly what you think should be happening
- Then explain what is actually happening
- Talk about why you think it should be working differently
#7 It’s Okay to Ask for Help
You’ve given your project your best shot, you’ve tried every strategy you can think of, but you’re still stumped. Do you give up? Of course not—you just need a little help. Here are a few ways you can find coding assistance:
Choose programs with built-in mentorship – As you’re exploring ways to practice coding, look for learning programs that offer help and guidance every step of the way. But keep in mind, you may not find that in intensive boot camps or large, impersonal college courses.
Online forums – Where can you find excellent coders? Online of course! Coding and programming forums are full of information that can help you solve any problem. Always check the archives first to see if your problem has already been solved—chances are, you’ll learn some other amazing things along the way.
- Google – Your school teachers may have advised you not to look for homework answers on the internet. But coding encourages you to find resources and help using the world wide web.
#8 Make Mistakes, Then Learn from Them
One valuable lesson programmers learn is to accept the inevitability of imperfection. Your code will not always be a perfect masterpiece of computer science finesse. But here’s why that’s a good thing—every imperfection is a learning opportunity. The more mistakes you make as you start out, the more you’ll learn right away, and the fewer mistakes you’ll make down the road.
#9 Don’t Give Up
The biggest obstacle you’ll face when exploring the world of coding isn’t battling a computer virus or solving an unsolvable puzzle.
It’s the temptation to give up.
Fewer than 10% of people who start online coding courses finish them. But if you move past those moments of near-defeat, you may find that an extra push was all you needed to get back on track.
Try these strategies to encourage you throughout the learning process:
Celebrate your victories – Every win, big and small, deserves to be celebrated. With every goal you meet or every new skill you learn, try to set aside time to honor your growth. Maybe that’s getting a special celebratory cupcake, posting a humble brag on social media, or taking a fun hike. Do whatever makes you feel celebrated.
- Make a milestone journal – Keep track of every problem you solve and every goal you meet. When you’re struggling to maintain your motivation, you can flip through your journal and remember how far you’ve come.
#10 The Programming Class You Choose Does Matter
Where you learn coding is almost as important as what you learn. The best way to learn coding is to look for a learning program that meets the following requirements:
And you’ll find all of this and more, with Disney CodeIllusion.
Practice Coding with Disney Codeillusion
Disney Codeillusion turns learning to code into an adventure. This innovative program transports you into the immersive world of Disney as you practice. Disney Codeillusion gives you the freedom and flexibility to learn at your own pace and according to your own schedule.
You’ll put these skills to practice through projects in game development, web design, and media art. And if you run into a problem or get stuck, Disney Codeillusion comes equipped with detailed step-by-step guidance and helpful hints for a “no-stuck” experience.
Your coding adventure awaits! Try a free trial of Disney Codeillusion today!
Forbes. 27 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Programming. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/02/03/twenty-seven-things-i-wish-id-known-when-i-started-programming/#a30bb1763950
Psychology Today. How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers
Science Daily. Better learning through handwriting. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm