8 Ways to Improve Motivation in Programming

Do you struggle for motivation for your programming career sometimes? I know the feeling. I’ve listed a few ways on how to improve your motivation for programming in this article.

Sometimes it can be hard to get motivated to program. Going to a job and doing the same thing over and over again, while feeling the pressure from your boss and others in the company, being told to do things that don’t make sense.

How do we become more motivated to write code? Let’s have a look at a few things we can remember that may improve our motivation.

1. Remember You Are Creating Something From Nothing

An important point to remember is that when you write code, you are creating something from nothing. You’re typing instructions into a computer, which then causes the computer to do something. This could be any number of things, depending on what you’re writing code for:

  • Displaying a web page
  • Reading or writing some data to a database
  • Communicating with other systems

These actions, and many others, are a result of the work that you do, and it comes from nowhere.

My first exposure to programming was back in high school.

My friend had discovered how to write programs in Visual Basic, and he had written a program that displays biographies of TV characters, and pictures, on the program, depending on what button you pressed.

Sure, it was a simple program (and was actually pretty badly written when I look back on it), but it actually blew my mind. The fact that we could write some code, to make a program, to do whatever we wanted, was incredible to me.

I learnt the basics (no pun intended) of this language from him, and then looked up how to learn it myself (this was in the late 90s so there were limited web-based tutorials, and it was even before Google became mainstream). Ever since then, I was writing code for all kinds of things.

The point of this story is to realise that what you’re writing is created from nothing, and the result is actually something that works and does a task. This, I found, was quite incredible.

2. Think About What It’s Going To Do To Help

Applications and web sites that companies build are all about helping people to do one task or another. A web page may be built to help sales, educate customers, provide information, or capture input. Applications for companies may be built to process transactions, help with data entry, or direct traffic from other systems.

When I get low on motivation, I take a moment and think about what I’m doing and how it’s going to help people. This can help me get motivated to continue developing the code. Some ways that programming helps people are:

  • Websites that educate customers about products, services, or advice in general
  • Web pages that capture data and update it in the back-end system, which saves time for the user and reduces the need for manual work by a company
  • Applications that process transactions faster or more efficiently, ensuring customers get feedback quicker
  • Applications that improve the interfaces between systems, to ensure that data integrity is improved and the process is faster

I can’t actually think of any projects that I’ve done that don’t help people in one way or another. Even if you’re doing maintenance and bug fixing on a middleware system, there is a way that it helps users, even if it is indirectly.

3. Remember Why You Started Programming In The First Place

Sometimes it can help to cast your mind back and remember why you started programming in the first place.

Was it a hobby you enjoyed in school or college? Did you have fun writing programs when you were younger? Did you find that you spent a lot of time learning and writing code?

For me, it was the ability to help users get things done more effectively. I didn’t like doing manual data entry and thought that software was a way to get around that. Writing software to help other people from doing less manual work was the main reason I got into programming. We get to improve the way people interact with computers, and their lives, by writing software. This gives me the motivation to continue to code. I actually wanted to be a lawyer up until the time I discovered programming, and looking back, I’m glad I found programming and that I’m not a lawyer!

Why did you get started in programming? What was the reason you started it?

4. Think Of How Good A Well Designed Program Is

Surely, working in the IT industry as a programmer has meant you’ve seen some poorly-designed programs. Programs where the code is a mess, it’s not commented, variables are confusing, the logic is all over the place, and it’s just inefficient.

I’ve seen plenty of these. My first role in IT was doing application support on a database, and as my major in university was Oracle SQL, I was doing development in that. I could not understand why the code was so inefficient and why the database was not normalise. I could not get my head around how bad some parts of it were.

But this just gave me the motivation to improve it. Every time I was tasked with fixing a bug or making an improvement, I would investigate the code and make that small part the best it could be.

The thought of a well-designed program gave me the motivation to get it done.

How about you? Surely you have seen, or written, some code that was so well-designed and well-written that it just amazed you. It got the job done in a spectacular way, it was scalable, easy to read, and efficient. I’m sure these kinds of programs are a dream to work with!

5. Take a Holiday

These next few tips are a little different from the tips above.

A holiday is a great way to recharge and find the motivation again to continue to work as a programmer and to prevent getting burnt out. If you’re really exhausted and lacking motivation, then a holiday is a great way to feel more refreshed.

At the end of every year, all of the clients I’ve worked with encourage us to take a few weeks over Christmas to relax, unwind and enjoy the time. This means we’re more refreshed when we return to the office in early January.

Taking a holiday or some time away is a great way to improve your motivation. You can take a long weekend, a few days out of town with family or friends. This can be enough of a break sometimes to feel better.

If that won’t do it, then you can take a longer trip. A few weeks away can often help. I’ve done this a few times in my life and I’ve felt better about returning to work at the end of it.

6. Change Projects

Another way to improve your motivation for programming is to try a different project. Sometimes if you’re on the same project for some time, it can be quite boring. It can be easy to lose motivation if you’re doing the same thing day in day out.

A good way to resolve this is to try to move to a different project. Different projects will have different people, different requirements, and maybe different systems. This can be enough of a change to improve your motivation for programming.

If this is something you’re interested in, speak to your team leader and let them know how you feel. Ask if there are any projects you would be suitable on. Ideally you’ll be able to stay in the same desk and just work with a new project, but it may require a move to a different desk. This would depend on how your projects are run in your company.

Working on a different project can give you some more interesting work, enhance your knowledge of the business and the systems related to it, and ideally give you more motivation.

7. Move Teams

A bigger step to improve your motivation for programming is to actually move teams. Changing to a different team within your company will mean you will get to work on different projects, work with different people, and maybe even have a different desk and location.

You will probably need to learn more about the systems and projects that they are doing, as you might not have worked on them before. You’ll be working with different people, even if you know them, you’ll now be in their team so it’s from a different perspective.

Making a move to a different team like this can really help with the motivation. It can give you some fresh work to do, and if it’s an area you don’t know much about, you’ll need to learn from the start again, which can be a great way to make things interesting again.

Often a lack of motivation comes from the fact we’re doing the same work all the time. Moving teams is a good way to change this.

8. Move Companies

The final, and most extreme tip from this list, is to actually move companies.

Yes, if you’re lacking the motivation for programming, a way to improve it is to find a job somewhere else.

You could be sick of the industry, sick of the company, the people there, the work you’re doing, or the systems you’re on. To get away from this, you can change companies.

This is a big move in itself and more than I can cover in this post, but if you’re interested in making a move, it can help with your motivation. Having a completely new environment to work in, new projects, new team members, a new way of working and new software to work with can all help to improve motivation.

It’s more extreme because it takes longer and is a bigger career move, so can’t be done every time you lose motivation, but it’s something to consider every now and then. Start by deciding what kind of work you are able to do, find some job roles, update your resume, apply for the jobs, get the interview, and hopefully get the job!

Well, hopefully these tips have helped you consider ways to improve your motivation. How do you handle times when your motivation for programming is low? Share your thoughts in the comments below.