Help, I can’t learn/do something because it is boring!

Dear new developer,

Sometimes you have to learn or do something boring. I know there are times when I’ve had to schlep, whether that is data entry, learning a technology that I’m not thrilled about, or tediously manually replicating a bug many many times to try to debug it.

A couple of tips on how to deal with this:

  • Focus on the larger picture. This often helps me stay motivated. Why am I doing this? How is it connected to the larger goals of the organization? Who is this going to help when it is finished.
  • Notice the fun parts. You can’t, of course, only do the fun parts, but you can notice them and smile. For example, I am not really a front end developer. I find CSS to be a combination of both frustration and boredom, but there are times when I have to mangle it. I enjoy learning some of the basics (the difference between padding and margin). And it is often a chance to ask questions of  a member of my team with different strengths than I have, which is usually pleasant.
  • Automate what you can. Don’t go overboard, but you can do simple types of automation like creating a shell script or shell alias. Even just writing down the exact steps you are doing or the areas you’ve explored can be helpful. It’s helpful now to deal with the tedium (in two ways, both because it can be more interesting to write the automation than to do the work and because having the automation means you’re less likely to make mistakes) and helpful in the future in case this issue arises again for you or someone else.
  • Take breaks when you need to. Depending on your deadline, take periodic breaks. If there are other tasks on your todo list that you never seem to get to but have some value, take a break and do one of them. Remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Depending on how long you’ve been working on learning this technology or task, you may want to stick your head up and make sure what you are doing is still needed. That is obviously not good advice if you have only been working on this for a few hours, but if it has been a few days or weeks, sometimes other priorities will take precedence. Be prepared to answer the question “well, how long do you have left?” with some level of confidence, though.

Sometimes you have to do or learn something that you find boring. Hopefully these tips will help make it a little easier.



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