Thoughts on Time Spent Studying/Coding

Someone who read my last blog post asked me how I would have balanced my time in preparing for the Launch School 109 assessment while keeping in mind the overall length of time given to the course. I was going to just reply directly to him, but my response ended up being longer than I expected, and I’m supposed to write a blog entry every 100 hours for the 500 hours of code in 60 days challenge anyway, so I decided just to make it into a blog post instead. (Right now I’m at 345 hours in 34 days.)

(Disclaimer: I’m not saying my approach to studying is better than anyone else’s, but this is just what works for me. Also, this post is pretty long and may or may not contain any useful information!)

Here’s my response to his question:

After starting to learn Object Oriented Programming in course 120 during the past couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling more confident that all the time I put into studying was well spent. Having a solid understanding of the basics is really helping to allow me to focus my efforts mainly on OOP related topics.

There were a few assignments in 120 related to more advanced non-OOP topics, and while reading them I realized I already understood the concepts quite well because of all the time I had spent on diving deep into the 101 material. So I may have taken extra time before, but now I think I am saving time on certain things.

It’s hard to know for sure whether I’ve gained or lost time overall, but I’m not really worried about it either way. I’m committed to learning all the material to a level of mastery, so I’m not trying to rush things.

Although it would be nice to finish the course sooner rather than later, I wouldn’t want to do that at the cost of not learning to proficiency. A while back I decided to stop worrying about any time constraints, and to resist the temptation to rush through things.

I’m currently studying full time, and I want to make the best use of my time, so I decided just to study for as many hours as I am capable of, to the extent that it is sustainable and I won’t get burnt out. Lately that’s been about 60 hours per week. Since I don’t want to rush things, I’ve been thinking that the only way for me to finish the course more quickly is by putting in more hours. I may be wrong about this though, because a Launch School instructor told me that full-time and part-time students tend to go through the course at about the same rate, which I found surprising.

Anyway, I really enjoy all the time I spend on Launch School, so for me it’s more of a fun activity than it is work. So it’s been pretty easy so far to invest all these hours, because it’s something I want to do, not something I have to force myself to do.

To answer your question about how much time I would have spent preparing for this assessment, I guess I would say that I would have spent as much time as it takes to really feel like I have everything down. That amount of time would probably be more for me than for most people, because I tend to lean towards overdoing things, so that I can be sure that I have done enough.

I don’t let myself move on from a topic until I feel like I understand it completely and have a good mental model of it, including all the edge cases. For me, although it is enjoyable, this is also a kind of compulsion. I’ve always been the type of person who had to understand why something worked, not just how it worked, or else I wouldn’t be satisfied.

For example, when I realized that I didn’t really have a good grasp on recursion, I spent quite a bit of time just studying recursion and trying to practice using it by attempting to make recursive solutions for some of the 101–109 exercises. Even though I knew it wouldn’t be covered on the assessment, I just wanted to feel like I really understood it before moving on. And it felt very rewarding once I was able to make my own recursive solutions from scratch.

So far I don’t regret all the time I spent in 101 at all. I think it will be worth it in the long run. And I couldn’t give you a percent [he asked me what percent of time I would have spent studying for 101, relative to the amount of time I expected it would take me to finish Launch School], because I have no idea how long the course will take me to finish.

I know that for me, having expectations about how long it will take just leads to stress and anxiety, which makes it harder to focus on learning. I try to just focus on the present, and on doing the best that I can right now, instead of worrying about some (possibly distant) time in the future when I will finish this course.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that I could have spent my time more efficiently if I hadn’t taken such a long break from coding last year. The good thing about it was that it allowed me to save up enough money to do Launch School full time. And it also motivated me to study even more when I started the course again, because I wasn’t sure how much I had forgotten, so I wanted to be sure I that I knew everything I needed to to move forward.

But taking that long of a break was definitely discouraging, because I knew I had forgotten a lot, which made it hard to find the motivation to get back into the routine of studying again. Now that I’ve learned my lesson, I’m going to make sure not to take any more breaks in the future.

This reply to a simple question, which turned into another long blog post, further exemplifies my attitude towards how I spend my time studying. I spent much more time writing this than I had planned to, but I wanted to give a thorough answer, and not rush through it quickly just to get it done.

I probably could have spent my time more ‘efficiently’ by continuing to work on the 120 exercises I had been doing, so that way I would progress faster through the course, but I felt compelled to write this post instead. It’s hard to say if it was time well spent, but I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing it to the best of my ability, for what that’s worth.

This is probably way too long for most people to have the patience to read, and I’m not sure if it will be of help to anyone, but I think it at least helped me to reflect on how I spend my time. Hopefully someone else will find it useful as well.