Every year I try to be retrospective about what I’m planning to do next year to improve myself as a developer. Becoming a better developer is something I strive for every day, whether it’s working on new projects or cleaning up old ones. This year, I want to be more deliberate about everything.

Just Start

This is probably one of the most common piece of advice you’ll hear at this time of year. Things like “I’m going to start going to the gym every day and lose weight in 2013.” If you’re a developer, maybe it is “I’m going to start writing test cases for all my code this year.

The truth of the matter is you’re probably taking on too much. You’ve set the bar too high. You jump for it at first, but you quickly realize you’re not strong enough to continue for 12 months. And that’s okay, but you need to be aware of this and be deliberate about your approach.

You want to be better at testing your code? Start slow. Watch Destroy All Software if you’re a Ruby or Python developer. Start writing tests for each bug, and slowly build a test suite for your application. Becoming a better developer by writing tests is not an easy process. You have to learn how to start with bite-sized tests before you can really understand what you’re doing.

For losing weight, start with exercising for 5 minutes every day instead of an hour. You can do that and you have no excuse to spare 5 minutes anyways. Each thing grows, you begin to enjoy it, and soon you realize you’ve improved yourself.

Don’t take on too much at once so you can make it a habit.

Be vocal

I probably never would have realized how important my blog would become to me when I started it. Just discussing problems, solutions, and the battles I face as a developer is helpful for more people than just me. We all face the same problems.

It turns out that over the years my blog has grown from 5 visitors a day to over 400 visitors a day on average. That’s awesome, and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people because of it. Not only will you be able to help other people, but readers will be able to help you as well.

Start writing more about your work and your struggles publicly. It will help in ways you never could have imagined.

Be deliberate

Think about all the times you’ve attempted something casually and failed. Maybe you thought you’d start a blog or a book, so you wrote a few words and there it sits on your harddrive. You started but you never finished. You didn’t know what you wanted to get out of it.

Start being deliberate about things. You’re starting a blog to do ___. Fill in the blank. You’re starting a blog to “build a name for yourself.” You’re starting a book to “share your life experiences with other people and reflect on everything you have learned.”

Whatever you’re doing or you want to do stop and think about it for a second. What do you want to get out of it? Set some goals and work towards them. Ask yourself “if I’m starting a blog, what qualifies as success to me?” If that’s getting 1,000 visitors a month, there you go. Install analytics and start measuring.

Compare yourself to yesterday’s version of you and make sure you’re trying harder than before.

How are you becoming a better developer?

For me, I have to continuously remind myself to look at the bigger picture. I program because I want to use software to change people’s lives. I want to make a difference.

What are your goals for becoming a better developer? What things are you doing to achieve them?

comments powered by Disqus