There’s busy and then there’s stretched-so-thin-you-can’t-think — neither mindset is ideal, especially when you’re trying to learn a new skill like coding. But this is the reality for lots of people who are balancing learning with other responsibilities like a full-time job, childcare, and a social life.
It’s true that learning to code takes discipline, but fortunately Codecademy provides flexibility to create your own schedule, determine realistic weekly targets, and set aspirational (but totally achievable) goals. The question is, how do you actually make time when you feel like you have none to begin with?
In truth, the best time to learn is whenever you can. For some learners, that might mean adjusting your morning routine to squeeze in a module, while many folks can only learn at night after work ends or once their kids go to bed.
If you need some extra motivation, here are some legit, research-backed tips that will help you optimize your learning schedule and habits so that you retain information and feel empowered to take on what’s next in your learning journey.
Space out your sessions
As anyone who’s attempted to cram for a test can relate, research has shown that spreading out study sessions over a long period of time improves your long-term memory of a subject better than trying to lump all of your study sessions together.
It sounds counterintuitive, but when you give yourself time to forget the material and then revisit it later, it helps solidify new knowledge in your brain. And luckily, there’s no such thing as going too long between sessions: "Most of us space far too little,” psychologist Nate Kornell told the American Psychological Association.
Not sure how to pace yourself productively? We recently launched personalized practice packs for Codecademy Pro learners, which automatically surfaces practice questions based on what you recently learned and when you learned it. It’s an easy way to implement this spacing strategy without having to think about it.
Sleep on it
Research shows that sleep is essential for retaining information and learning. During sleep, your brain sorts through memories and decides what’s important to keep and what can be discarded or forgotten, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sleep’s memory-building power really comes into play when you’re mastering certain skills, like playing an instrument or speaking a new language. That’s because as you sleep, your brain cements certain information and memories, so these areas are more effective when you wake up. Your performance in any subject or activity that involves pairing, conditioning, and associations tends to improve as you sleep.
So, while there haven’t been any studies that specifically looked at the effect of sleep after coding, consider this an excuse to get some well-needed shut-eye.
Move a little
We get it: You barely have time to work out. But plenty of studies point to the cognitive benefits of exercise, particularly when it comes to memory — and you don’t have to jog several miles or take an indoor cycling class to notice the benefits.
One study found that just 10 minutes of mild physical activity (like yoga or walking) is enough to improve connections in the areas of the brain that handle memory processing. Another showed that two minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity activity boosted learning memory, planning, problem-solving, and concentration in young adults.
Choose the right time of day
Some sleep experts posit that there are specific times of day when your brain is primed to take on information, known as the “acquisition” phase. For most people, the prime time to learn is between 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m. and then again from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Of course, everyone is different and you have to be mindful of your schedule and personal preferences — if you know you experience a 5 p.m. slump, for example, it’s probably not the best time to be productive.
Read out loud
Studies suggest that you can remember information better when you read it out loud versus reading silently or listening to someone else read the text. The reason: When you physically have to say words, it makes them more distinct in your memory (even if you feel weird talking to yourself at your computer).
Ultimately, even with all of these strategies in place, the amount of time it takes someone to learn how to code depends entirely upon their goals. Someone who wants to change careers, for example, would need to log more hours a week than someone who’s just learning for fun. While it’s nice to keep your eye on a long-term goal, there are lots of smaller coding milestones to celebrate along the way, like adding another programming language to your tech stack or completing your first project. And keep in mind, developers never really stop learning how to code — perpetual learning is part of what makes it so rewarding.