• Tim Buchalka

Goal Setting and Planning | Programming Tip by Tim Buchalka

Let’s talk about goal setting and planning and why it’s vital for you to do both of those things in order to succeed in your quest to become a programmer.


Today, we’re talking about goal setting and planning and why they’re both very important things you need to do in order to, basically get a career kick started, to get into programming or really any aspect of most things.


You need to have a plan and some specific goals. Now, if you think about it, if you haven’t got a goal, in other words, you haven’t figured out what you’re doing, how can you measure your success?


How can you say, “Look. I’ve succeeded, I’ve managed to hit this peak, or this goal?”

You can’t, because you haven’t got a goal. So it’s very important in my opinion for you to set yourself some goals and basically review those on a monthly or quarterly basis to see whether you are achieving them.


Now, in terms of an example of a goal, well probably an obvious goal that a lot of you would have would be, I wanna become a programmer, I wanna get my first programming job. So in other words, learning the programming language is your stepping stone to getting that first programming job, because, of course, a programmer need to know how to programme. Pretty basic. But you need to be a bit more specific, or it can be a great idea for you to be a bit more specific.


What area within computing do you wanna get into? In other words, do you wanna become a mobile app developer? Do you wanna get into the Apple platform, maybe writing Mac apps or writing iOS apps? Do you wanna get onto the Android platform? Do you wanna get into game development?


All of these things need to, if you’re choosing one of those areas the type of training, that’s just one example, will change. As an obvious example, if you’re choosing to become an Apple iOS developer then you don’t wanna learn Java, because Java is generally not used at all on the Apple platform.


So your choice of programming language can be important, depending on what your goals are. So it can be a good idea to have a think about what you’re trying to do. Now, it’s a little bit harder when you’re first starting out with programming because you don’t always know what you wanna do.


And it’s pretty basic, because you’re, when you’re starting out you wanna become a programmer, but you don’t know whether you like game programming, you don’t know if you’ve got the aptitude for it. You don’t know if you wanna get into apps and so on, so generally your goals might need to be a bit more generic at the start until you get that first job, so you might decide, well, I’m just gonna get a broad range of skills and experience in perhaps one or two programming languages, get my first programming job, and from there get some experience under my belt and then I can sort of branch out and start looking into other specific areas, you know, machine learning, mobile app development, games development, or whatever it is.


But you can see by just saying that, by saying that out loud to yourself, you’re already coming up with a plan there. Your plan in this case was to learn those programming languages to get your first programming job. So this is why it’s important to self-reflect and think about what you’re trying to achieve and not just say it out loud and not just, keeping it in your mind, but writing it down.


Write down your goals, write down what you’re trying to achieve, put timelines to them. You know, I wanna learn this Python, you’ve identified you wanna learn this Python programming language, put a date to it. By the 30th June, or whatever the date is, I wanna become, or I want to have completed this course and be comfortable using Python. And then by the 30th October I wanna get my first programming job.


I mean those are arbitrary dates, but you can see that by putting that in place and starting to think about what you’re trying to achieve, you can work backwards.


So basically let’s just map this out. If, again, your goal was by the end of the year you wanted to get your first programming job and today is 1st January, you can work backwards from there. So basically 31st December, in an ideal environment, if you’ve actually succeeded and you’ve got your first programming job, what were the steps you needed to take prior to that? And if it’s 1st January today and you’ve never programmed before, then obviously you need to start thinking about learning to program. You need to buy an eBook, go through an eBook, buy a programming course or whatever it is and start the process. But you can break those down even further, those steps even further, because obviously that’s very generic.


You might decide, “Well, I wanna get a good, broad range of programming skills, so I might need to take three or four courses within the course of the next seven to eight months, and then right about August or September I wanna start looking at finding jobs that match my skills.”


So you’ve got your skills to that level and you wanna start finding a job, so you might decide to take a basic programming language course, Java or Python are two good examples. And then from there, once you’ve finished those, set yourself a time limit of, you know, X months to learn both of those, to go through the course, or the eBook, or whatever it is, but then branch out and think, “Okay, I’ve got a basic level of programming skills now with that first course, what do I need to do?”


Good other courses to get into is data structures, algorithms, design patterns. They’re three things that are used a lot in computing, in virtually all aspects of programming to some degree you’ll find those, so having a good knowledge of those areas will help you to become a better programmer.


So why not start looking at those, you know, while you’re going through the process, so that by the time you’re ready to start applying for jobs you’ve already pre-planned that, so it’s around about August you wanna start looking for a job, you’ve got those skills and maybe breaking down the plans even further, what you could do is you could say, “Well, basically now I’m going to start contributing to an open source project.”


So you go into a website like GitHub and start looking for projects that you can actually contribute to and that’s gonna help you with your resume. And I’ve talked before also about best resume tips and basically what I’m saying is you’re breaking down the steps you need to take to become a programmer.


Now, if you don’t do that, if you haven’t broken it down at all and you just sorta said, “Well, I’d love to get a programming job, or I wanna become a programmer”, you haven’t really set yourself a specific goal and you haven’t set yourself up with a plan. There isn’t a plan, you’ve just said to yourself out loud, or maybe just in your head, I wanna become a programmer.


So you can see by setting goals and being systematic, writing them down, by putting deadlines to those goals, you’re gonna set yourself up far better for a greater likelihood of actually succeeding. So I think it’s really important for you to set yourself goals, realistic goals. I mean, you don’t wanna say, like as an example with my 70 hour Java course, I’m gonna finish that in two weeks.


Now technically you could do it, in terms of the available number of hours to you, but in reality it’s gonna be extremely hard to have applied all those concepts, gone through all the code challenges and completed that in two weeks. I mean, it’s just not realistic, so set yourself realistic but challenging goals. That would be my opinion. And also make sure that you’re tracking your goals. So for example, what I mean by that is in the analogy of January starting out to become a programmer and December being the goal of getting a programming job, now each month you should be tracking your goals.


Are you on track? So if your first goal was to learn the first programming course and it’s now coming up to April, for arguments sake, and you haven’t finished that first course, are you on track?


Now, maybe you’re not, maybe you’re actually behind because for whatever reason it’s taken longer, so then you need to reassess and rechange those goals. So write them down and formulate a plan to succeed and basically it’s gonna really help you. I do that with everything I do is goal oriented in some way and I’ve got written goals and I try and track those as much as possible and, look, I’m not perfect, but I try and do that.

I would suggest you do the same. Just the process of having a goal and thinking about it and having that plan greatly increases the likelihood that you’re gonna succeed in it overall. So goals and planning are very important. Get to it and I wish you every success in your journey.


I hope that helped. If you’ve got any questions feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

© 2019 Tim Buchalka