Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice Makes Perfect

I was sent a link to this article as a followup to my post about learning to program over a long period of time.  The article isn't about programming but rather about comedian Jerry Seinfeld.  When he was young and working to be a comic, he had a particular technique for learning that applies to the act of learning to program.  Jerry knew that to be a good comedian, he had to practice a lot.  The more he practiced writing comedy, the better he would become.  Similarly, the more you practice programming, the better programmer you'll become.  Jerry employed a technique for reminding him to practice.  He kept a calendar and every day he practiced, he would mark that day off the calendar.  After a while he would have a long streak with no breaks.  Then the incentive to not slack off but instead to continue the streak was high.  This technique can be employed in programming.  While you don't necessarily need to program every day (although that wouldn't hurt), you do need to practice regularly.  Pick a program you want to work on.  Now break that up into small steps each taking a few hours or perhaps a day to accomplish.  After you have the list, it is just a matter of ensuring that every day (or two or some other regular basis), you accomplish one.  Don't just program when you feel like it.  Force yourself to do it regularly.  If you wait until you get the urge, you may have long gaps and your growth will be slow.


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  2. Chuck Knox, former Bills and Seahawks head coach, used to say, "Practice doesn't make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  Perfect practice makes perfect."
    The point being that if you work every day but do not improve over time your hard work will only result in in-grained bad habits.

  3. That's a very good point Greg.  You have to make sure you practice the right things.  I have a few posts in the queue which touch on that topic.