learning computer programming easily and faster

15 Mental Tricks And Techniques to Learn Programming Faster and More Effectively

Self Improvement

Understanding the idea behind every piece of code we write, being good at debugging, and doing lots of practice are what majorly contribute to becoming an expert developer.

Debugging and practice are less stressful since they are rooted in how well we understand the programming language we are working with and how things work generally with the language.

When it comes to debugging, we just need to know why our code is not working the way we want it to and this is heavily influenced by how well we have grasped the fundamentals of the language. As for practice, we only need to create more time to constantly apply our understanding of the programming language we are using on different projects and solve programming challenges and quizzes.

That being the case, it is evidently clear that understanding the programming language syntax and semantics and successfully applying it, is the biggest and toughest part. And here we will go through some of the best mind-based techniques that can help us absorb programming concepts much faster and master them well.

Mental Tricks and Techniques to Learn Programming Faster And More Effectively

1. Visualization – This is a mental health improvement technique that is used to improve our level of mindfulness and for relaxation. Here, we get to see in our minds different sceneries such as beaches or seashores, high up a mountain where you can see the world down there, or a high place in a forest where there are only natural sounds of wind, birds, and other sounds that make us relax. The same idea can be applied to programming to help us with an easy understanding of the concepts we learn. The approach to this technique is to first learn exhaustively about the concept you wish to know about. Once we have learned, we sit back on our chairs, close our eyes and make the learning visual in our minds. We get to see that concept live and go through all the details we have learned and how they fit in, in the bigger picture.

For example, if we learn about selectors in CSS, we can begin by visualizing the whole idea of it, what selectors are and what they do. From there we go deeper into the types of selectors we have, which are classes, IDs, and tags. And then we can go further by seeing how each is used as a selector. And we can keep going like that so that we understand the topic in a general way as well as the tiny details about it. By visualizing what we learn down to the smallest detail, we create a lasting impression in our minds which makes it easy for us to fully grasp the concept and remember it effortlessly. It also helps us be more relaxed.

2. The Feynman Technique – This is a good way to trick the brain to be keen when learning. Imagine you are a teacher of the programming language you are learning. And after learning, you have to explain the concepts and code to your students who have no idea and have never heard before about what you are teaching them. This means you will need to pay attention to the nitty-gritty details of the programming topics and then break them down in your mind into their simplest forms so it’s easier to explain to your students. After learning, you can even assume a teaching role in your mind and start explaining things to yourself. You can also use a whiteboard or a piece of paper to teach yourself out loud, as the student as if you were actually teaching someone. Or you can simply carry with you a rubber duck and use the Rubber Duck technique, where you explain to the duck what you have learned.

3. Use Analogies – Analogies are pretty much comparisons to other things in significant respects. We get to relate things we want to understand properly with the things we already know well so that we can use the links and relations to better comprehend what we are learning. In programming, analogies go a long way as they help us break down code and make it easy to make out its meaning and how we should use it. For example, we can think of functions as a robot we have created for it to help us do things we are supposed to do regularly such as going to the shop in the morning to buy milk.

The functions with inputs and outputs can be seen as a fully functional robot to which you give instructions and money to go buy milk and get it to calculate the balance the shopkeeper should give from the money we give it after getting the milk and paying for it. And every time we need to buy milk we call the robot to do that for us.

These simple relations make programming fun and the code easy to decipher.

Whenever we learn something, we are encouraged to look for things we know are similar in appearance and functionality to what we have learned and make connections for us to remember those concepts when we see the things we related them to.

4. The Fundamentals Technique – When learning a new language from scratch, this technique can be quite rewarding. Angela Yu, a well-known programming instructor at the App Brewery in London, highly recommends it. The idea here is to approach knowledge or what you are learning as this huge semantic tree with the main trunk, branches, and leaves. And we should first seek to handle the trunk which refers to the fundamental aspects of that topic, and then move on to the secondary aspects which are the branches and leaves. When we first define the most important areas we ought to cover, we get to lay the foundation we need so we can build the other aspects on top of it in a good way that will make the whole learning process wholesome and effective for us. Doing this also makes our minds comprehend and focus on the things that are crucial and how they relate with the rest of the aspects, which makes for tactical learning.

5. Hand Coding – The availability of many coding tools and resources has made it easy to write code on computers and mobile devices by typing it all out. However, this comes with a downside as it makes it hard to fully get it when it comes to topics like “let vs const” in JavaScript, semicolons in C, and spaces in pug. These tiny details are what make or break our code and we can spend quite some time figuring out why our code is not working when we have missed a period or a comma. By making an effort of coding by hand, we get to familiarize ourselves with the full writing of the code which helps us even ace interview questions that are offered on a piece of paper.

6. The 2D Approach – The 2-dimensional approach in programming is where we learn to work with the technical side of coding while still having the end result in mind. As we write the code for a project like a calculator app, we aim to type out the code as we see the final product in our mind before us even as we work towards it. There is a provision offered by most development environments where we get to see the live project on one side and the code we are writing on the other side. SwiftUI in the Swift iOS programming language is one of these provisions. This helps too but having that skill in our minds and being able to use it to account for the results we are aiming for allows us to get much better at programming in the long run. It makes it easy to trace our journey, that is, where we have come from, where we are and where we are headed and it makes a handy skill for debugging as well.

7. The “Don’t cram” Rule – More often than not, we get tempted to cram the code syntax of any languages we learn, and this is not good. Programmers should not cram anything. They should seek to understand what a certain piece of code does and then they get to master the syntax through endless practice. In all honesty, most of us forget how exactly we should write code for functions, structures, and classes a few days after learning them for the first time, and that is okay. However, the problem comes in when we don’t revisit these areas and do immense practice on them since that makes us forget completely about them. And when we come back to it, we have to learn from scratch again to understand what they do and how they do what they do. After learning, we should look for quizzes around those topics and work on them so that we write the code often and make it stick within us. We should also go back to these topics a few weeks later and keep coming back to them quite often through creating our projects or by doing more programming challenges.

8. The 20 Minutes Approach – This one is for helping us overcome temptations to procrastinate. It is also a sort of way to trick our brains into getting started with a coding session we had planned for. Assuming you have a strong desire to sleep, watch movies, chat with your friends on social media apps, or anything else you may have in mind at that moment, which is not programming based, you can tell yourself that you’re only going to spend 20 minutes on programming and after that, you are going to do what you have the desire for. The idea is, when you get started, you will build the focus, energy, and motivation that will keep you going for more than the 20 minutes you had set for yourself, and eventually, you might find that you have gone for an hour or more. And even if you stop at the 20-minute mark, you will still have achieved something substantial.

9. The Positive Mindset – Almost everyone can admit that programming can get intimidating at times, mostly when learning advanced concepts like topics that involve a lot of nesting and functional programming in JavaScript, React, and other programming areas. And if we came with the mindset of “programming is very difficult”, we can get frustrated very fast. To solve this problem, we should first change our mindset from negative thoughts and being always pessimistic to positivity by always keeping in mind the phrase, “I will eventually hack it”. And when we get to learning and fail to understand what we have learned, we can remember the phrase, give ourselves some time and then go back to the same topic and re-read it after a while. Sometimes, we may have to give ourselves a break for a day, two days, or even a week before revisiting the topic. And when we do, we get to notice that it becomes easy to comprehend over time. This attitude converts well to how good we perform in programming.

10. Using Anticipation For Code-Along Learning – This technique works well for learners who use videos to learn. If you have an instructor teaching through videos you can pause, and when they are revisiting an old topic or using concepts from a topic you learned just recently to create a project as part of the training, anticipation can be a good way to jog your memory. What you should do is, pause the video when they get to the point where they are about to use the concept you learned, and then you should try to anticipate in your mind what they are going to do when you hit the play button. After you have done that, you go ahead and press play and see if what you had anticipated was correct. When you make use of this technique consistently, remembering the idea behind a certain block of code or the syntax becomes less difficult.

11. Mental Digestion Breaks – Our brains need some time off to process the information we have taken in. When learning programming concepts that are demanding, we need to let the brain digest them well by taking long well-deserved breaks. This could range between 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the person and their mental capabilities. For those of us who are learning more than one programming language in a day, we should space out our periods of learning hours apart. This allows for understanding and crystallization of topics in our brains without mixing things up. A good approach is to learn one programming language early in the morning and the other one in the late evenings if you can.

12. Practicing Information Retrieval Often – Absorbing information is easy because we are just taking in information without using it but when we go to create our projects, later on, we feel like we know nothing about programming. A good way to overcome this feeling is to continuously practice pulling the information we have gained from our learning through programming exercises. After learning a programming concept, we should target to do as many exercises that are focused around that concept. Also, after we are done learning the curriculum of the programming language, we should go for challenges that test different topics and aspects of it to help us get better at all of them. We can also make up challenges and quizzes for ourselves based on different variations of those concepts we learn to take things to the next level for us.

13. Fresh-Mind Only – Programming is more interesting when the mind is fresh. Most programmers have attested to learning programming in the morning and keeping the information they learn during that time for a long period. When we learn to program when our minds are filled with other demanding things that come from different areas of our lives through the day, concentrating and understanding become hard, and frustrations and disappointment are the fruits born from that. To avoid this, we should take it upon ourselves to only learn when our minds are fresh. For most people, morning hours work well but since we are all different, you can play around with different hours of the day and see what works for you as an individual. If you decide to work with other hours of the day mostly in the evening, you can consider taking a long break and showering before you begin your learning sessions.

14. Learn Bite-Sized Code – This is where the phrase “Bite what you can chew” applies. Based on how we know our minds, individually, we can determine how much information we can take in over a given period. Some people can learn continuously for hours and make every second count while others get distracted from an hour upwards. Now using the knowledge of how your brain has performed in the previous learning sessions, you can gauge how far you will go when learning and your actual learning limit. With this idea in mind, you can set your learning goals in a way you will fully utilize your learning abilities without going below that. Also, you should avoid learning too much as that can unnecessarily stretch your brain and get you so mentally exhausted that you cannot do other things you had planned for the day. Striking a good balance here is the key.

15. Using Daily Mental Cues/Triggers – This technique is for people who are trying to build the habit of learning programming daily without fail. We often find ourselves missing one learning session, and another, and then another, and eventually find ourselves having gone back a long way that we need to start things all over again. To keep that from happening, we can tag our learning sessions to activities we do daily such as brushing our teeth, pressing our clothes (if you do that daily) or another activity we know we can’t fail to do every day. By planning to learn immediately after such activities, we create mental triggers for our brains in a way that the brain goes to learning mode immediately after we have done these daily activities and so it becomes possible and natural to learn to code each day.

Conclusion

In summary, effective learning of programming consists of reducing mental and physical barriers that make it difficult for you to learn, understand, and remember what you have learned.

Using the techniques mentioned above, and executing them well, will help you get better and notice an improvement in your learning process and understanding abilities. They can also be used to help children who have a desire to learn programming understand it well and flourish even more.

And as always, remember that practice is the mother of mastery, and practice makes perfect.

I strongly encourage you to pick one technique you feel resonates with you and begin applying it from today and then when you get comfortable with it, you go ahead and pick another and do the same until you feel you are fully learning to your utmost potential.

What other techniques do you use to learn computer programming smoothly? Please share with us in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “15 Mental Tricks And Techniques to Learn Programming Faster and More Effectively

  1. Akumendoh says:

    Hi there,

    Programming has always been and sounded like something meant only for people who are very intelligent and IT inclined. Thank you for this great article which summarises and simplifies steps and tricks on how anyone can actually learn programming

    Programming is a skill that anyone should try to learn, even if it is just the basics. Hence, the positive mindset is the best of these techniques listed and summarised. Replacing the I can’t with the I can attitude

    I will be sharing this awesome article with friends and family. I hope this beautiful mindset and the mind-changing article makes a difference. Thank you

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hi there Akumendoh, 

      We totally agree with you. Programming is something people are encouraged to try and learn. The basics can really go a long way for anyone out there.

      We appreciate your kind words and you sharing the article with your friends and family.

      We encourage you to also look through our other articles. There’s also much value there. 🙂

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  2. Daniel Tshiyole says:

    I actually have a question. What is the difference between programming and coding? Is it the same thing? I have always wondered that. I have a friend who is studying programming. I will be sure to share this article with them. I am sure that they are keen to learning new things. 

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hi there Daniel,

      Thanks for contributing to this topic. 🙂

      That is actually a very common question in the programming world.

      The truth is, the two terms can be used interchangeably in some communities but in others they are totally different.

      Coding is perceived to have a much narrower scope and has a negative connotation to it compared to programming.

      Programming is about creating programs and is like the bigger picture in the technological world, while coding is simply writing pieces of code to achieve a certain objective.

      Programming is the most commonly accepted word for most programmers.

      We hope this helps.

      Thanks for sharing our article. We really appreciate it. 🙂

      Cheers,

      The IYBP Team

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