The first step is acknowledging that you won’t ever be able to know everything. So set your sights a little lower and focus on knowing just enough to be dangerous. That is, you should be able to hold a conversation about a new technology, and more importantly, identify when it may be appropriate to start learning more about it in earnest.
Start by following tech bloggers and thought leaders on social media, and work up to attending meetups and conferences. Those steps alone can help lead you to the next one: finding a great mentor.
A mentor can help you learn about new technologies, and more importantly, provide guidance on when it may be appropriate to start learning more about them.
It’s a lesson that Gabe Greenberg, G2i’s Founder and CEO, learned in the early days of the company, when a mentor of his suggested that G2i developers should use a different technology than they had used before — and afterward, the developers agreed that it worked better not just for that project, but for future ones too.
Take your development into your own hands.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you when it’s time to learn something new. You can also be proactive and dedicate some time each week to learning. This can be as simple as…
- Reading articles or blog posts (we’ve got a few for you here!)
- Subscribing to newsletters (such as This Week in React and React Native Newsletter)
- Watching conference talks or webinars (Techyaks and DZone are great sources)
- Doing online courses (Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, Egghead.io … and YouTube!)
- Experimenting with new technologies in your day-to-day work
These strategies have worked for developers like Tejas, who started studying at home to improve after feeling like he wasn’t performing well enough at work. The important thing is to find a balance that works for you, and to be consistent with your learning.
Adopt scheduling and productivity tools.
If you have trouble making time to learn new things, consider implementing some simple scheduling and productivity tools to help you out. Many of them are free, while others may require a small cost upfront but could prove invaluable.
Calendly makes it easier than ever for people to schedule time with you, and can be integrated across all of your various calendaring apps and accounts, so that you aren’t accidentally overbooked.
Toggl makes time tracking easy, so your work life can be more efficient. It provides an overview of your billable time and team progress, and even features a timer using the Pomodoro Technique to remind you to take periodic breaks.
If you find you’re taking too many breaks, Freedom blocks distractions so you can focus better. It can be used across devices to block whatever you want, whenever you want, so you’re free to focus on the things that matter most to you.
Buy back your time!
Many developers make significant income from their day job, and, when it comes to their education, they aren’t as worried about how much it will cost as they are about how to make the time for it.
A key part of managing your own personal wellbeing and happiness is to use your earnings to buy back your time.
As developers, many of us are familiar with automation tools that increase our ability to do more with less … in fact, we’re often the ones creating those tools. Why don’t we do it for ourselves?
Ask yourself which tasks take up most of your time, yet could be done by someone else.
Do you spend significant time managing your own invoicing and books each week, when you could pay an accountant to, freeing you to do more meaningful (and, potentially, more profitable) work?
Do you work at home, and now spend an inordinate time cleaning because you’re simply making more mess than you used to? Perhaps it’s time to hire a maid or a laundry service.
Some people are so dedicated to buying their time back that they’ll even pay for their barber to drive to THEM when they need a cut.
There’s no reason why you can’t trim a bit off your schedule too.
Take on side projects.
Now, what to do with all that free time you’ve purchased for yourself?
If you want to really dive deep into learning a new technology, there’s no better way than to try building something with it.
Whether it’s a new feature for your app or a completely separate project, side projects are a great way to learn new skills and keep your development skills sharp.
Not only will you have the opportunity to try out new technologies, but you’ll also get to practice your coding skills and hone your problem-solving abilities.
Doing so is about more than simply getting practice. By working on side projects, you are also likely to interact with other developers and clients working in spaces that you aren’t as familiar with.
For instance, a number of G2i community members are engaged in intriguing projects:
- Salvatore Aiello: Despite being a hands-on CTO, Salvatore has also built a fully web based 3D multiplayer game engine in React, allowing you to make, share and play those games right in your browser. Read his blog post about the game engine to learn more.
- Kareem Philip-Jackson: Kareem is currently working on a CRM for remote entrepreneurs, nomads, and freelancers to help them manage life, travel, work, and finances.
By getting introduced to new industries, markets, or products, you might find yourself encountering new challenges — as well as discovering new ways to solve those challenges.
That gives you another tool in your toolbox. And you might find that your work on the side actually causes you to be faster and better at your day job too!
You may be familiar with the old phrase “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
For developers, perhaps we need another phrase: “what use is it to earn money, build cool products and learn new things, if you never get to enjoy any of it all?”
You’ve got to emphasize your health — not just because you’ll feel better, but also because you’ll learn better. Research shows high-quality rest is essential for memory consolidation and synaptic plasticity, two vital components of learning.
“Good sleep is so relevant for our well-being: sleep helps maintain our ability to form new memories — a capacity that is crucial for successful navigation in an ever-changing world,” the study’s researchers concluded.
Harry Gandhi, an advisor to the 1517 Fund and venture partner at Amplify Capital, regularly uses self-reflection and meditation to protect his mental health, as he recently told G2i.
Treat your body well, and it will treat you well in return. You need to take care of your mind too. Be sure to set aside some time for relaxation and recreation, even if it’s just an hour or two a day.
According to Vercel Founder Guillermo Rauch, making time for yourself enhances your professional life, rather than taking away from it.
“Founders tend to become super obsessive about their companies, but creating different spaces for developing yourself and developing your family will make the company better. These things are not at odds. They complement each other really well,” Rauch told GV (formerly Google Ventures) in 2020.
At G2i, we’re committed to supporting the mental, physical and emotional well-being of developers by providing continued resources and guidance through our Developer Health mission.
After all, if it’s good enough for Olympic athletes, it’s probably good enough for you too.