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A little background. I started coding in C++ about 5 years ago. Ever since then, I was sure that I wanted a life in code :) In my last 2 semesters, I wrote quite a bit of code for varied purposes.

For the past 2-3 months though, I have not written any code. Either due to a lack of motivation or gasp, interest, I am not sure.

As discussed here, as much as all these related activities might help, they alone are not enough. I need to write programs. Its going to be internship season in a few months, and thats making me feel even worse, as none of this can actually go on a CV. Moreover, the feeling worse further demotivates me and its turned into a cycle. The more I think about it, the more I divert my attention to other stuff which in turn makes it even worse.

I am having a hard time diagnosing what the problem is. I am sure of my career choice, and I want to code, but i just cannot get myself to it.


How do I get out of this destructive loop and start working ?

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Quite often, what most people describe as a lack of motivation or being overwhelmed is just fatigue, a poor diet, or lacking sleep. A common problem is that you're lagging behind on deadlines, forcing yourself to do work and accomplishing nothing because of the lack of focus, and get less sleep and less entertainment. Are you facing this? –  Muz Jan 26 '13 at 9:30
    
@Muz This month, most of that, yes. Last two months, mostly, no. I think in my case, its more likely that everything you mention are side effects of the initial/actual problem. –  AsheeshR Jan 26 '13 at 9:59
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Here are very nice responses yet, I like advice given by Muz, and I just want to add a little bit.

You wrote:

Its going to be internship season in a few months, and thats making me feel even worse, as none of this can actually go on a CV. Moreover, the feeling worse further demotivates me and its turned into a cycle.

Don't care about what will be in CV, don't care about what you should do and don't want, just take relax and try to do what do you like. Write code because you like it, write it as your hobby, don't care about CV now, or that there is much work in front of you. Once, you get again in the flow, you will again like it, and it will go easier, so you will succeed.

Just believe in yourself, listen to your body and your mood. When you stop bother yourself you find a pleasure from coding again.

And if you like what you do, if you are good at it, it is visible so you will make good impression at interview, school, work...

The bothering about something never helped anybody to be successful. The most important thing is to give yourself time and space to do some activity. And don't think about another activities or issues in that time. You will solve them later. Now just relax and do what you like, focus on it, have a pleasure from it. Don't worry about another things, some of them you can't change, so forget them, some of them you can write down to solve later, to plan them and change the situation you don't like. But you don't need to think about it still around and bother about it.

Imagine yourself that you code and you really like it, it is very nice moment for you. Where are you sitting? How does look your working place, what is your surroundings - music, your favorite armchair, position near the window, overlook to swimming pool,... whatever you see in your thought and you are happy about it. Then go and prepare this condition for yourself and enjoy doing it in your best!

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There are quite a lot of factors to try and pinpoint here.

I would say that it's creative repression - your brain wants to release creative output, but you're being halted from it somehow. Not being able to express yourself will hit at your identity. Like a caged dog, you start by becoming restless, but eventually become demotivated and depressed after accepting the fact.

As I've mentioned in the comments, poor health can be a major demotivating factor. It's near impossible to become creative when you're exhausted. The brain needs to be free to rearrange thoughts and release creative thoughts. If it's being too overwhelmed by the warning signals of fatigue/poor diet in the body, it will have difficulty thinking. While they may be side effects, they will certainly make the problem worse.

Suggestion

Take a break. Relax completely. If you can afford it, take 3-7 days vacation and maybe a massage. If not, just make sure you have a fully relaxed weekend.

Get a lot of sleep. Try to avoid the Internet or games if possible (it's a loop most people go through). Get enough proper food and some exercise. Take care of your physical side first.

If you're drinking coffee, try to limit to around 1 cup six hours before you sleep or 2-4 cups 12 hours before sleeping. Its effects are different for different people, but the caffeine tends to make people anxious.

Try not to work past sunset if at all possible. Most people aren't really night owls, they've just got their sleep cycle thrown off track through coffee and late night/last minute coding.

Look at Getting Things Done by David Allen. It will help relieve a lot of that overwhelming feeling.

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Thanks for the response :) I try to follow the Pomodoro Technique but its not really of any use in college with classes and everything. Does GTD have different or better techniques ? –  AsheeshR Jan 30 '13 at 14:47
    
@AshRj GTD is an entirely different system. It's more like how to split your life into To Do lists. I think a programmer can relate to it well. It works similar to a bug list - store everything you want to do somewhere else and go back to it later. –  Muz Jan 31 '13 at 1:36
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It may have something to do with some recent lifestyle changes. Make sure you are eating properly, and getting enough sleep. I absolutely love to go on runs, but when I've had a bad diet week/poor amount of sleep, I don't run as much.

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As describe in Hyper Productivity Theory, you need four factors to become hyper productive: Responsiveness, Motivation, Communication, Courage. The first three are enough to bring you back to the brighter side.

  • Reponsiveness: Don't work on big piece of works, split it to several smaller tasks. More time you found that you can make them done, your motivation increase. It's boring when do something along a week, even if it success. Keep them smaller, they give you more responses.
  • Motivation: Success responses make you "Spinning Up", that is your motivation is boosted. In the other side, failure make you "Spinning Down", this is dangerous. Fast response can tell you that what direction, up or down, you are currently spinning. You must control you motivation. If you found that you spinning down, stop that task, take a break, find something that easy to be done and get it. After spinning up again, come back to work.
  • Communication: Work alone can make you spinning down easily. Find you teammate. Open your mind, communicate with him/her a lot. This is very fun.

Keep these three things in your mind. You will find out that the forgotten fun is coming back to you :)

PS Pair programming is the best way I found, especially when apply with Hyper Productivity Theory. Try it!

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can you pair with someone? If you can - do it!

Pair programming is a great fun and you'll forget about all these problems with motivation (if you don't believe me - just try it).

Same thing for your internship - look for the places with Agile culture (SCRUM, Canban, XP)

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+1 for pair programming, I love it :) –  Amp Tanawat Jan 26 '13 at 17:14
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