For every coding boot camp, there is a corresponding blog post about how to succeed in that program.
I can summarize these posts in a sentence: become so obsessed with programming that you’ve already taught yourself most relevant topics by the first day of class, forsake all social interactions and romantic relationships for the duration of the program, and try to eat enough calories to power the explosion of synapses about to occur during your 17-hour-per-day coding sessions.
This genre of self-gratification posing as advice piece was nearly responsible for turning me off learning coding completely.
Luckily, I found Launch Code’s LC101 course. They’re not that kind of boot camp, and this isn’t that kind of advice article.
I’m two weeks into LC101’s four-month class, and I’ve got an idea what is going to make me successful. It isn’t sexy. It doesn’t require monastic devotion. And it definitely won’t make me sound like a latent coding genius.
It’s sane time management.
Too many boot camp bloggers – even those attending part-time programs like LC101 — clock their daily coding time at 4 hours or more. That’s 24 hours per week, not assuming extra time spent on the weekends (which these authors of course recommend).
Now, learning to code is work, of course. Learning anything requires a certain amount of sweat equity.
But having a life, maintaining relationships and fostering hobbies – those are necessary too, if for no other reason than they will prevent you from burning out on coding before you’ve even got a portfolio on Github. I enrolled in LC101 because I’m interested in coding over the long haul, which means it’s got to be a sustainable – read: sane – part of my life.
With that in mind, here’s a week in my life as an LC101 student, which I like to call:
How I code, hold a full-time job, and do a hobby – at the same time!
9 a.m. It’s the day before class, which means it’s time to finish my prep work. It’s also meal prep day and beautiful outside. So, I write a grocery list and head to the store. I’ve already got my biking clothes on so that once everything’s in the fridge I can load my bike up and leave for the trail.
1:30 p.m. We’re back from the bike ride and showered. Definitely needed the dirt therapy. I always come back from rides feeling like I conquered something – even though I’m still very much in the beginner category.
Next, it’s either cook or code and I’m dreading coding a little bit, so I choose to tackle that first (or else I never will). We’re on for loops, which is a little tedious to me. But I know that once I jump in I’ll probably find some flow with it. Time to grind!
3 p.m. Just finished taking notes on the chapter and dipped a toe in some of the exercises. My brain felt fried so I came up for air to find my boyfriend prepping veggies for our stir fry. That’s like, ten boyfriend points or something!
5:30 p.m. Headed to the bowling league we do every week with my boyfriend’s parents. I average about 125 – have handicap, will travel.
8:45 p.m. We’re back from bowling and I open my laptop to mess with this week’s assignment. We’re supposed to draw a certain pattern using the Turtle module and I’m just not getting it. Sensing that it’s about bedtime and I’m probably not getting any further with it, I call it a night.
Coding time spent: 2 hours
6:50 a.m. I’ve snoozed my alarm a few times and now I’d better get ready for work. I do marketing for a small automotive repair company. It’s a decent first job out of college – super flexible vacation time, lots of self-direction, and every once in a while they buy Chipotle for us.
But I know I won’t be here forever, which is why I signed up for LC101. I’m hoping to learn some skills that can build on my marketing experience and build me a bridge to front-end web development. Here’s hoping!
12 p.m. I take my lunch break in the training room at the office and work on my homework problem the whole time. Finally, an hour later, it works! I submit it and head back to my desk.
4:30 p.m. My hours are normally strictly 8-5. That’s because in addition to my marketing duties, I’m also a receptionist/office admin (one of the less joyful parts of working for a small company – my job includes a lot of grunt work). But I’ve worked it out with my boss that on Mondays and Thursdays I leave a half-hour early to get a jump on rush hour. At this time of day, it’ll take me 40 minutes to get to class.
6 p.m. Time for lecture. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling prepared. Now, I just need to stay awake after they dim the lights (it’s a struggle).
8 p.m. Lecture went quickly tonight, probably because I spent a lot of it (forgive me) reading articles about Chris McCandless, my passing obsession of the week.
When it comes to lectures, I’ll be honest — after the third piece of information sails way over my head, I check out a little. A source of frustration: how can I understand everything in the prep work and the homework, and then get to lecture and be totally out of my depth?? I resolve to listen better next lecture to hopefully absorb at least some of it.
10 p.m. Home, showered, dead. These days are long, and I’m just glad that there’s a fairly close end-goal in sight. Come on, January!
Time spent coding: 1 on my own, 3 in class
6:50 a.m. Ahhh, sweet sleeping in (crying emoji here).
12 p.m. Before I started LC101, my plan was to use all my lunch breaks as study time. Well – easier said than done.
My mom is out of town and asked that I go check on their dogs today. Gonna grab a cheese and crackers plate from the grocery store, let the dogs out and that’ll be my hour.
One of the things I hate most about this job are the rigid hours. If I had a two-hour break every day I may be able to accomplish the amount of homework, errands, shopping, doctor’s appointments, favors for my parents and relaxation time that I’d like, and that would be pushing it. If LC101 helps me land a job with flexible hours and the possibility of working remotely, it would be completely worth it.
5 p.m. I’m the first one out the door, as usual. I run home, change clothes and grab the bike. I’ve got to move my legs and breathe some non-re-circulated air into my lungs. Let’s go.
7 p.m. Bike ride left me energized, which I capitalize on by pulling out my homework as soon as I get home, I don’t even wait to shower. An hour and a half later I’ve made notes, asked some questions in Slack and even started working on the homework. Hell yeah! Now, time to wash the stank off.
Time spent coding: 1.5 hours
8 a.m. Let the work day begin. I’m going to take some time this morning to beef up my SEO knowledge, starting by reading the Yoast blog. Considering I’ve already put SEO as one of my skills on my LinkedIn, it’s probably time I started earning it.
12 p.m. I’m torn: should I use my lunch break to grocery shop and avoid the post-work rush?
Or use the time for more Launch Code prep work?
The over-achiever in me feels obligated to stay and do as much homework as possible.
But the recovering over-achiever in me wins out. I got plenty of work done last night, I’m in good shape for class tomorrow, and I want to be able to cook some food tonight. Although I always think I’ve prepped enough on Sundays, I’m learning that there is literally never enough to feed a full-grown 20-something man (and yes, that is my nickname for the boyfriend).
6 p.m. Speaking of the boyfriend, he’s come down with a sinus infection and he feels like absolute crap. My original plan for the evening was to 1) bike, walk or go to the gym; 2) shower and begin cooking; 3) code til bedtime.
Instead, I heat up some soup and veg with Will on the couch. We watch Ironman 3 and he’s fast asleep by the time it’s over.
Although I’d rather just pass out as well, I get my laptop and finish up the work for tomorrow’s class. This chapter is all about conditionals and I feel like I get it, but also like I might not get it if the homework was a degree or two more complicated. I feel like that a lot with this stuff. It’s all just practice, practice, practice.
Time spent coding: 1.5 hours
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. It’s the same old. Work is a mix of phone answering, finessing my boss’ calendar (did I mention my executive assistant duties as well?), doing paperwork and working up some blog posts for the website. Over my lunch break I go to Will’s to eat lunch and check on him. Glad I finished up my homework early, it’s nice to take it easy over a lunch break for a change. Poor boyfriend, he’s got a sinus infection.
6 p.m. At class. So, more on these lectures. Our lecturer is so smart, you guys. Just, obviously knows his stuff so well. He’s very much like some of the violin teachers I had growing up: they just effortlessly toss off these exquisite phrases like nothing and go, Your turn, and you’re like, But I’m mortal???
Likewise, our lecturer just does shit in the command line – which I only even know what it is because I took a one-day DjangoGirls workshop – and he does it quickly and all of a sudden bam a function just happened and I don’t know why, how, or what my name is anymore.
These are the moments when Pinterest calls my name most strongly but I resist, and I let the information and incomprehensible words wash over me. Don’t say I didn’t do my scholarly duty.
6:50 a.m. Snooze, snooze, snooze, bolt awake when I realize it’s 7:20.
12 p.m. I would normally take the day off homework — hello, Friyay — but I’m going on a day trip with a friend tomorrow. We’re headed to Two Rivers Bike Park in Springfield. I’m stoked to practice on their bad ass downhill line (and not think about homework all day!). Which means it’s time to knuckle down and do some prep work. Thus, it begins again. I spend my lunch hour taking diligent notes with three colors of pen and one highlighter.
5 p.m. I haven’t been to the gym all week so I’m going now, dammit. Every other week day the gym is crowded right after work, but Fridays it’s a ghost town. I wouldn’t go (Fridays are for fucking off) except I don’t want to lose these baby biceps of mine. I’m up to twelve grown-man pushups at a time and I’m proud of it.
7 p.m. I’ll be honest, the last thing I want to do right now is homework. Will is playing with the dog outside and setting up his slackline and I want to be there. But if I get a good chunk done I’ll be able to put LC101 completely out of my mind tomorrow, and that will be worth it. I grind out the homework.
Coding time spent: 2.5 hours
All day: Out of town, no time for coding, all the time for biking. Ugh it’s so rad. I love these days spent biking, breaking in the shade for a snack, biking, snacking, etc. until we’re pooped and dirty and earned the biggest Chipotle burrito they’ve got.
I’m working hard at establishing a career so I can have more time for stuff like this, and it feels very worth it today.
Time spent coding: Gladly spent 0 hours.
Total hours spent coding this week: 11.5 hours.