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Have you lost the passion that you once had for programming? Is it affecting your motivation to get things done? Are you falling behind on all of your projects and finding it difficult to catch up? If yes, here’s the good news: it happens to everyone at one point or another so don’t despair.
Imagine that your campfire has just died. Instead of fretting about how it went out or what you could have done differently, the best thing to do is to sit back and take a deep breath. The fire is already dead. The only thing that matters now is the process of rekindling the flame and coaxing it back to life.
It won’t be necessarily be easy, but it’s certainly possible. As long as you don’t rush it, you’ll be fine.
Read Apprenticeship Patterns Now
Allow me to repeat: you are not the first programmer to lose their fire, nor will you be the last. You are not alone in this. Millions of others have dealt with this exact problem and many of them have made it through to the other side. The best thing you can do is to learn from their experiences.
That’s why I highly recommend Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. This ebook, which is available online in HTML format free of charge, is packed full of wisdom and advice for all programmers. It walks through the phases of programming expertise from newbie to veteran and the common challenges that pop up along the way.
As far as lost motivation is concerned, the underlying reasons can differ from person to person. Were your expectations of programming different from the reality of it? Are you impatiently rushing towards mastery and being overwhelmed by it all? Do you feel like you’re stagnating, as if you’ve hit a plateau?
Depending on your answers, you should check out the sections named “Sustainable Motivations,” “The Long Road,” and “Rubbing Elbows,” respectively. In addition, you may find these other free programming books helpful along your journey.
Spend Time With Programming Peers
Misery loves company. When you’re feeling indifferent and bored, the worst thing you can do is to suffer through it on your own. If you aren’t already surrounded by like-minded peers in your field of programming, you would do well to seek some community. In-person conversations are ideal, but online contact is still better than nothing.
Let’s be clear about one thing: this has nothing to do with whether or not you’re “strong enough” to pull yourself through. Being unmotivated doesn’t mean you’re weak. It’s just important to keep yourself grounded in reality, which is hard to do if you can’t see your circumstances from the perspective of other programmers.
Remember that the goal is not to whine and complain and spread your misery to others like a disease. That’s just counterproductive and rude as you might end up snuffing out their motivation in the process. Rather, the point is to share your concerns, maybe vent a little bit, and ultimately pinpoint what might be killing your inspiration.
If your particular case of dead motivation is due to self-doubt and insecurity, you may find it beneficial to pair up with a mentor. For example, if you constantly second guess your code quality, a mentor can look it over and provide seasoned opinions. They can also act as an external force that prods you along when you feel like giving up.
Switch Topics and Learn Something New
In a lot of cases, programming burnout stems from boredom. If you’ve been slaving away as a company software developer for over a decade, you might feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job with no more opportunity for growth. Maybe the code you maintain is trivial and requires absolutely no mental stimulation.
What do you do then? You have to switch gears. Half the enjoyment of programming comes from creative problem-solving. Without that aspect of it, programming is little more than mindless busywork day in and day out – especially if you consider your day-to-day coding projects to be easy.
Depending on the flexibility of your workplace, ask your superiors if you can be transferred to another project. If you can afford the risk, it may even be worth switching to another medium or field entirely (e.g. if you’ve been writing academic software on Windows, it could be exciting to try writing a social app on the web).
At the very least, you should take a break from the humdrum.
Or maybe you can pick up a few side hobby projects that involve areas of programming that you’ve never explored. For example, try making a mobile game in your free time. When you can’t get away from your primary programming responsibilities, you’d be surprised how much energy these personal projects can stoke within you. Just make sure that the side projects are considerably different from what you normally do.
Improve Mental and Emotional Health
A lack of motivation could be a symptom of a deeper problem, which could be as simple as dehydration or as serious as depression. Sometimes a big glass of water is enough to spark a new wave of inspiration when your mind feels foggy. However, if your loss of motivation has persisted for a while, the cure may not be so straightforward.
For computer-heavy activities like programming, there are three important considerations when it comes to your health. First, you need to exercise regularly. If time is an issue, you can try exercising at your desk while you work. Second, you must take steps to minimize computer fatigue. Third, you have to reclaim proper sleeping habits.
Mental fatigue could also arise from a static environment. If you’re staring at the same four walls every single day, it could grow monotonous. Monotony leads to boredom. You can remedy this by changing your scenery, whether that means rearranging your furniture, working from a new location, or even switching up your computer’s wallpaper.
Lastly, if your lack of motivation is closely tied to issues of procrastination, one thing I’ve found extremely helpful is the Pomodoro technique. This technique breaks up your work day into alternating periods of work, rest, work, rest. Never tried it before? Give it a go for a week or two. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
I’ve been there more often than I’d like to admit. Programming is fun! Programming is boring. It’s fun again! It’s boring again. Each time is slightly different than the last, but the tips above are the kinds of actions that have proven most effective for me over the years.
One more thing that you may or may not benefit from is the idea of online programming contests. These require a certain kind of personality – one that thrives on competition – but if that describes you, it could reignite your passion overnight.
Have you ever lost your excitement for programming? What did you do to get it back? Or did you end up abandoning it altogether? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!