If 20+ years of software development has taught me anything, it is to never stop learning.

The rate of churn and advancement in this profession, especially in the web development sphere, means you can never switch off for too long.

Fortunately I love learning – even if do sometimes fantasise of having a job where you could just do a 9-to-5 and switch off.

How I keep learning:

30m of technical web videos per day.

There’s so many quality tutorials and talks on Youtube alone to keep inspiring me.

As ever, the challenge is in managing what to focus on next as I’m approaching a situation, much like with written articles (see below) where I have a huge backlog of videos but not enough minutes left in my lifetime to view them.

30m of tech reading per day.

I always have one technical book on the go – I usually alternate between reading a book related to technologies I’m working with now, and then a technology I’m keen to learn more on, I find this gives a good balance of levelling up my current skills without getting tunnel vision around a single topic.

Having an O’Reilly learning subscription (think of it as a Netflix for technical books) helps with this as I’m not paralysed by the choice of purchasing a book only for it to be a dud or not what I expected, with a subscription I’m more prone to choose books on topics far outside my comfort zone.

2h of Pocket backlog reading per week.

I have somehow accumulated more than 5k articles in my ‘to read’ queue so I spend one hour on a Tuesday evening reading the latest items added to my list and one hour on a Friday evening reading random Pocket articles using the ‘Random Pocket Article’ feature of the Chrome extension AcceleReader.

These 5k unread articles are gnawing away at me though. Whilst it’s nice to know I’ll never be short of something to read I do wonder what gems I haven’t discovered yet which could influence how I work.

I’ve even started tracking in a spreadsheet the number of unread articles I have left so I can gauge if I’m making a dent in the backlog. Unfortunately it only seems to be increasing at a rate of around thirty per week so I’m just going have to accept that, bar spending more time on them (which ultimately I’d rather use on creating/making things), or limiting my inputs for new articles, that I “can’t read all the books in the library”.

3h of a side-project on weekends.

Now that my children are teenagers I can reclaim some of my weekends and indulge myself on a personal project and test out some of the ideas I’ve been learning all week.

Tips on how to keep learning:

  • make learning a habit. Have a set time / trigger for when the learning should happen.
  • try combining learning platforms simultaneously. Some of my biggest breakthroughs have been whilst having the same technology focused, e.g. watching videos on technology XYZ whilst also going through a book on XYZ around the same time, which I’ve found can greatly accelerate learning.
  • revisit topics you already think you have a good handle on – it’s easy to think you ‘know’ CSS or Javascript because you have spent years working with them, only find to find out they have moved on, e.g. ES2016, CSS3, and your are way behind the curve on modern usage

…but ultimately, never stop.

Always Be Learning

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