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3 Tips on how to keep your motivation to finish an extensive project

3 Tips on how to keep your motivation to finish an extensive project

Maintaining motivation and focus is an issue for all workers, but programmers struggle with it frequently, given the difficult and sometimes repetitive nature of building software from scratch. While the brainstorming and vision phase is always exciting, as you or your team works on a project, after a while the monotony of line after line of code or the insecurity about one’s ability to finish it catches up to even the most dedicated programmer.

Fortunately, there are some easy tips to help avoid this struggle and get back on track to deliver your creation. Here are three!


1). Set Goals 

Create short-term & long-term goals, even before working on the project. Setting a goal is an incredibly useful, easy-to-botch part of any project, whether for programming or anything else in life. Learning scientists have done extensive research on how good goal-setting can turbo-charge productivity. However, unrealistic or overly ambitious goals can lead to feelings of failure or “I’ll never achieve that”, which can actually have a negative effect on motivation.

The trick is to find a balance of short-term and easily achievable milestones, coupled with longer-term goals that take more work but offer a more significant feeling of accomplishment when achieved. When you are feeling wiped out, focus on the short-term. Once you’ve finished those and gotten a “second wind”, take stock of your progress toward the long-term goals and see what steps should come next.


2). Use Reasons 

One of the oldest tricks in the book, based on actual learning science, is to use reasons to help keep up motivation even when they are tired or disinterested. Think of the old metaphor of the carrot on a stick in front of a donkey — by providing some sort of finish line (even a short-term or temporary one), someone can keep working because there is a treat dangling in front of them even when they are tired.

Whether that’s a night out on the town after finishing a deliverable, or a new purchase, or dinner and a movie after pushing through a few hours of hard coding, create incentives for yourself to push through the hard work forward. If you are managing a team of coders, consider creating incentives (like milestone bonuses or team social gatherings) to help keep your team motivated.


3). Minimize Interruptions (Disturbance) 

Much like studying for a test, good coding is best done when you can “wire in” and get into a flow without interruptions from your daily life. If you have struggled with motivation before, consider some steps to create a more productive work environment:

  • Find a dedicated “production” space, whether that’s a home office or a local coffee shop, where you know you can usually get a lot of work done. This lets you separate home life from work life (even if the space is at home) and helps you minimize distractions.
  • Create a work process for yourself for any milestone. Maybe it’s a set period to brainstorm or read helpful articles, followed by a longer set time to code, with a structured break afterwards. By creating a system, you can train your brain to follow a pattern of work that will keep you coding consistently.
  • While coding has long been thought of as the antithesis of a traditional 9-to-5 gig, having a set work schedule is another way to avoid having short mental breaks turn into long periods without production. Consider creating a few “shifts” for yourself or your team, so that the expectation for production is always there to keep everyone moving.


Conclusion: Keep Successes In Mind 

Always keep what you have accomplished in mind. All the time, whether it's screenshots of the beautiful software you've built in the past, certificates of completing coding classes, or even pictures from hackathon celebration with your dev/ design team after finishing a project or solving a problem. Having nearby mementoes of the feeling of accomplishment that comes with accomplished work can be that extra push you need to wire back in and keep coding! Go beyond your limits.

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