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Bryan Corrêa
Bryan Corrêa

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How am I studying to be a web developer? My thoughts and my study process.

Students at library

Source: Unsplash

Se você é brasileiro e quiser ler este texto em PT-BR, clique aqui!

Table of content

Introduction

Presentation and problem statement

Tips

My studying process

Conclusion

Introduction

Studying can be very difficult, but it is rewarding as well. It is not simple to understand what works for a person when it comes to "studying". Some people learn better by reading, or watching videos, or through illustrations, or in other ways. The thing is that a many people struggle when they try to study, because they don't know what to do. I firmly believe that this is a reflection of the lack of self-knowledge and the the short amount of time that people spend trying to get to know themselves and think things through.

With this problem in mind, I'm writing this document trying to help people with some tips about "how to study" and to show what I do in my learning process.

Warning: The techniques and processes that I will talk about and show in this text work very well with me, but it is not guaranteed that they will work with you too. So watch out to the first tip that will be given later.

Presentation and problem statement

Personal presentation
Source: Unsplash

Hello, World! My name is Bryan. I'm a newly graduated Biochemical Engineer and I'm learning front-end web development. It been 13 days so far and I'm really enjoying studying HTML, CSS and JS, as well as making a project too.

I have always enjoyed studying. I learned to read at age 4 because I liked comics. I got my first book at age 6, and since then I'm always reading something. I have been working since I was 10 because I wanted to buy my own comics and books (I'm from Brazil and here the reality is a little different here). So, I took with me to elementary and high school this pleasure for reading, and it was visible since my earlier years in elementary school that I liked to learn new things. But it was not simple to figure out what worked for me to potencialize and improve my study time.

I believe that for most people is not that simple to understand what works to them when we are talking about studying or learning new things. I also think that we are living in dark times where people think it is a waste of time if you stop a while to think about your own life. Generally, they are concerned of be labeled as "nerdy" or "boring person" if they put some time to think, to get to know themselves better, and I firmly believe that the lack of self-knowledge is one of the core problems in the construction of modern society.

Well, I'm not a motivational coach or anything like that, but I have some news for you: You are an amazing person who is capable of amazing things! You just need to know yourself better, accept who you are and always work to be a better person every day of your life. You should not compare yourself to other person(s). It's not fair with you because you don't know what that person has done to achieve what they have achieved or to be who that person is. Your story will almost always be very different from other people's story, your path will almost always be different from other people's path, and that is what makes every human being unique. You need to focus on being a better person today than you were yesterday. That's all! And that's what will help you, not comparing yourself with other people.

That said, let's start with some tips that I think that might be important.

Tips

Tips
Source: Unsplash

As I said before, studying is a process (in my opinion, at least). I don't believe in non-active study. So I use some techniques that I used in my undergrad, and that was very good for me. Again, as I said before, this process worked for me, but it is not a guarantee that it will work for you. So feel free to test it out with yourself and make whatever changes you want that work for you.

Note: here, all examples will be about web development, because it is what I'm studying. However, as I said above, I used this same steps while I was doing my Biochemical Engineering undergrad. So, you can try to reproduce it to any subject that you want. Of course, some things will change accordingly to your context.

  1. Try to get to know yourself better! I believe you saw that one coming, hehe. What can you do for that? You can start the habit of writing at the end of the day about important things that happened in your day, how you feel about specific situations, and so on. Or you can simply invest 10 minutes every day to organize your thoughts, to notice what is happening around you, to think about your feelings. You need to keep in mind that there is no "right way" to do this. Do you need to know yourself better? Or do you already have a good knowledge about yourself? Well, let's see... Ask yourself these questions: Do I know what kind of things I like? Do I know my favorite color? Do I know what I like to study? Or read? Or watching? How I felt when I saw that embarrassing situation? What do I think about myself? What do I think other people think about me? What is my main weakness? Again, there are no right questions or answers. Just think about questions that can show you whether you know yourself well or not. Even if you conclude that you know yourself well, always invest some time each day to think about what is going on around you.

  2. Try to invest some time to understand the best way for you to absorb things. Again, I believe you saw this one coming! 😄 It's not as simple as it sounds. As I said before, there are many ways in which people can assimilate new things. Some people are more visual, some are more analytical, and so on. Scientifically speaking, the best way to learn something is by stimulating all parts of your brain. So I firmly believe that we need to think that learning is a process, and not something isolated. However, you need to now what works better for you. But how can you do this? Well, my advice is: pick a simple subject and try to study it for a day in many ways. Watch some videos, read things about the subject, try to make some diagrams, draw something, and whatever you want to do. It might take a few hours, but it will be worth this time.

  3. Spend some time planning before you execute. I believe that everything in life can be easier if we plan and be prepared. Planning is stupidly easy, but being prepared needs more time than just planning. Think of it this way: planning will help you to be prepared for anything. Simple as that. I like proverbs a lot. So I will use one to show what planning and being prepared are all about: "Give me six hours to get down that mountain and I'll spend five building a sled". Don't be the person who tries to go down the mountain even without resources for it. Spend some time building your sled (reading, thinking, writing down your thoughts) before trying anything. Ten minutes spent to think of a solution can save you hours to solve the problem.

    Note: The original proverb talks about "chopping down a tree". Since we are losing a lot of trees these days, I decided to change it to a more "nature friendly" one.

  4. Always be in that place. "What the hell are you trying to say, man?"... Well, I believe in English it is called mindfulness. Your body, your soul and your mind compose who you are. They never should be in different places. If you are studying right now, your mind needs to be there too. Turn off your smartphone, disconnect from your social networks, turn off everything that might take your attention away from what you are doing. Leave your phone on only if you are facing a medical problem in your family or something like that. Anything else is not important while you are studying! Try to find a quiet place to study too. Try to avoid your room, but it is not a problem if your room is the only place you have. If you have some difficulties to focus, try listening lo-fi music while you are studying (of course, if you are not watching a video to study). Are you anxious? Try a breathing exercise: calmly inhale air through your nose while counting to 10; then hold your breath while counting to 10 again; finally, calmly exhale the breath through your mouth while counting to 10 again. Repeat it many times you want/need. Even if this exercise helps you, seek medical care to know the essence of your anxiety in order to treat it and improve your quality of life. The problem is not having some emotional or anxiety problem... the problem is not knowing what causes it and not treating your problem!

  5. The last (but not least) tip that I have for now is: time will pass anyway! Some people have a "sense of urgency" because they need to be in the job market as soon as possible. I know this because I'm facing this right now. I graduated as a Biochemical Engineer in April, and I've been looking for a job since December (when I was informed that I wouldn't be hired at my internship because they froze hiring). We are going through very hard times here in Brazil. So I need to work, but so far I have not found a job. I did two interviews, I'm participating in some selections for Trainee in big companies, but nothing yet. So I started to study web development and in the first days I thought: "man, I'm wasting my time. I should be working"... However, I didn't get any job (just some filler jobs on the weekends to survive, pay my basic bills, and have something to eat), and the time would still pass even if I didn't study. So keep this in mind: time will pass, whether you study or not. So give a break to yourself and to your mind (maybe I'm talking to myself right now, I don't know... 😁).

My studying process

Feynman Technique
Source: Kit Hindin website

As I said before, studying is a process (in my opinion, at least). I don't believe in non-active study. So I use some techniques that I used in my undergrad, and that was very good for me. Again, as I said before, this process worked for me, but it is not a guarantee that it will work for you. So feel free to test it out with yourself and make whatever changes you want that work for you.

Note: here, all examples will be about web development, because it is what I'm studying. However, as I said above, I used this same steps while I was doing my Biochemical Engineering undergrad. So, you can try to reproduce it to any subject that you want. Of course, some things will change if you

  1. Pick a time to study. It doesn't matter what time or how long you can study every day. Just study every day! Prefer the same study time every day (like 8:00-10:00 pm, e.g.) to adapt your life and mind to it, but if it's impossible for you, just study daily, whatever time you have! In my case, I'm studying 4 hours a day (7:00-11:00 pm).

  2. Pick a specific subject. "Study CSS" is a broad subject. However, "Studying CSS Flexbox" is a very specific subject. This will help you have specific goals, which will help you with the "sense of completion" and "sense of progress". It sounds silly, but it is really useful because you can see and measure your progress.

  3. Pick your study material. After choosing a time to study and a specific subject to study, it's time to see what you will use to study. This is really personal! This is where what I said before about what works to you to study comes in. I will detail what I use later in this text.

  4. The Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management technique invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Briefly, Pomodoro is a cyclical technique where you set a timer with a certain amount of time to stay focused on a certain activity (in this case, studying). After that time, you will have a short break to do whatever you want. In the original technique, we have 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes for a short break. Each Pomodoro cycle will have 4 Pomodoros, where three times you will have 25 minutes of focus and 5 minutes for short breaks, and after the fourth 25-minute period you will take a long break (15 minutes in the original Pomodoro). Since 25 minutes of work is really short for me, I do 3 Pomodoros with 70 minutes in each cycle, with two short 10-minute breaks and a long 20-minute break after the third Pomodoro. So I have a 4 hour and 10 minute study cycle.

    Note: I study 4 hours a day because I really enjoy studying and have all my evening time free (except for the weekend because I do some filler jobs to survive). You don't need to do the same! As I said before, study how long you want/can.

    Pomodoro sketch

    Pomodoro technique illustration by sketchplations.

  5. I watch some videos about the subject. Here you have two possibilities: buy a course (if you can)/find a free course, or find some "independent" videos (usually on YouTube) about the subject. What is the difference? A course usually follows some "curriculum", and with "independent" video you will follow your personal "curriculum" (something like a roadmap like this, e.g.). In my case, I'm following a course, but I also use some videos that I'm finding on YouTube. The important thing here is that I watch the videos as if I were in a classroom: smartphone off and taking notes of what I think is important.

  6. Reading time. As I said above, I watch the videos like I'm watching a class. So this is not my "study" per se, but an introduction. After the class (video), I read something about what I watched. Again, smartphone off and completely focused on reading (or at least trying 😁). In my case, I like illustrative materials (I can say the same about videos). I like drawings, illustrations, graphs, lots of visualization stuff. I also like to read the text carefully. Putting illustrative things and text together helps me to create analogies, to think about something real, some real application, and so on. I confess that it is very difficult to find reading materials and videos like these that I like (because 99% of these materials are "traditional"), but I always try to find them (I don't always succeed though). While I'm reading, if I read about something I'm afraid to forget, or if I see that something is too important to forget, I take some note about that (like a "key subject").

  7. Creating I: The Feynman Study Technique. Feynman was a brilliant physicist and professor. He was know by his students as "the greatest explainer". He said you can only say that you understood something if you can explain it to a child and they understand. With this in mind, a study technique was created following the principles taught by Feynman. So this 7th step is about teaching. Since I don't have someone to teach (or at least someone who wants to hear me talk about web development), I take a piece of paper and draw things out, explaining them to myself. The Feynman Technique has basically four steps:

    • Study (covered in steps 1-6);
    • Teach (here you will teach someone about what you have just studied);
    • Filling the gaps (while you are teaching someone, questions will almost always be asked. With these questions, you will see whether or not you have gaps in your learning/understanding. Even if no questions have been asked, you will probably feel when you have any gaps. Then you will go back to your material (or find something else) to study and fill in those gaps);
    • Simplifying (to a child understand a subject, you usually need to explain it with simple words and a simple way. So that is what you will try here: to summarize things in a few simple words).
  8. Creating II: Filling in the gaps. Continuing with the Feynman Technique, I can feel my gaps and doubts as I explain it to myself. So I go back to my reading material or watch some new videos about that to fill in those gaps. Simple as that...

  9. Creating III: Simplifying things. I open a text file to type, or I took a piece of paper and start writing about the subject. I try to summarize as much as I can, always using simple words. But I will improve this step by creating some videos, posts and texts that explain what I'm studying. It will help me to finish my study cycle.

  10. Creating IV: Project. After all the above steps applied to a few subjects, I create a project to practice what I have learned. In programming, just studying will not get us anywhere. Futhermore, I'm studying web development... DEVELOPMENT! So I need to develop something like I did when I created LinkHub to practice some basic HTML and CSS. In this final step, I'm free to chose whatever I want to do!

Conclusion

Phew! It was finally over! I know it was a big text, but I did it because I think I can help someone with their study process, since many people have difficulty with this and give up on learning new things.

If this can help at least one single person, I'll be very happy!

See y'all!

Note: I'm not a native speaker. If you see something wrong with my English, please let me know! Correct me and tell me why I'm wrong... It will help me to improve my English! Thanks! o/

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