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My problem is that whenever I try to learn a new programming language such as Java, I start and give it up after 2-3 days. If I think about starting to practice programming I feel it's a very boring task. Again after a few days I feel that I should learn Android app development and I start a little and I give it up after 2-3 days. I feel that I lack motivation.

Also I feel that I should have updated software and language documentation/tutorials but still I can't start the actual task. If I start somehow I waste my time by surfing the Internet. This has been happening for almost a year and I can't concentrate on one thing. I can't stick to one thing for a long time. I can't control myself. Please help me overcome this. What should I do to remain creative and focused on tasks? Also I'm so addicted to the Internet, please help me with this as well.

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I had similar problem long back. I used to begin a task, work on it regularly for 2-3 days and then give up. Like I began learning keyboard playing. I bought a keyboard and a book. I practiced everyday for one hour for two weeks. Then I had to go for a trip and once returned, I never touched the keyboard again.

I found that this happened when you decisions are based on instant emotions. Once that emotion is gone, your priorities changes and you are not motivated enough to finish the task.

The solution that I implemented, and it worked for me, was to divide the tasks into smaller tasks (say 20 to 30 minutes) and then make a list of these tasks. Whenever, you have free time, read through the list, pick one task and just do it. Initially I used a notebook, then excel sheet and now a GTD tool. But excel was not much effective.

Another important factor is to talk about your achievements. It doesn't matter if its a big achievement or a small one. What matters is that let others know about it. For example,If you are learning a new language, tell people about it. Tell them you learned how to say Good Morning in that language. This will make the task more important to your subconscious mind.

BTW, I never learned keyboard. By the time I found the solution, I had no time to learn music.

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Thank you. I'd like to tell you that I also play keyboard as hobby and I learned it on my own. I feel good whenever I play it. – M S Sep 27 '13 at 15:02

From your question it seems you generally suffer from apathy, not just when it comes to learning programming.

If you believe that your plans won't work, or have lost faith in yourself, apathy often results. This leads to procrastination and sometimes depression.

Your behavior here is controlled by your subconscious mind, which directs you with emotions. You need to be creative and come up with possibly a fresh plan that your subconscious mind can accept. It will require discipline and hard work. But eventually the negative emotions will be withdrawn.

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Yeah sometimes I feel depressed. – M S Sep 27 '13 at 8:55
@M S: The obvious recommendation to you is to consult your doctor to make a quick depression evaluation test. There are very effective treatments readily available. – Gruber Sep 27 '13 at 9:23
Thanx for your help. – M S Sep 27 '13 at 9:44
If you feel depressed, lack energy/motivation or any other type of undue fatigue, definitely consult a doctor. You can also try physical stimulation which will promote endorphins and also give a sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, there are numerous psychological or physical causes for this, but it's not something you can't fix. – Raystafarian Sep 27 '13 at 10:48

If you lack motivation, you should maybe not work so many hours a day in the beginning. Find the balance between motivation and forcing yourself to do something. Maybe you should start more slowly on the task. Try to force yourself to work, for instance, 1 hour the first days, then increase the work load as you feel for it. The motivation may come after some weeks.. If you are lucky :)

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Thnax. I'll try the technique you mentioned. – M S Sep 27 '13 at 9:45

I actually think this is fairly normal behavior that stems from choice of tasks that are too vague ("learn Java") with no real goal or endpoint in sight. You lack motivation because there are no real significant motivators for you to continue. This isn't necessarily negative behavior.

Why do you want to learn Java? What is the real goal of that activity and is it something you really want or not?

What does excite you? What gives you satisfaction and a feeling of purpose? You need to find your intrinsic motivators. If learning java is a mere hurdle between you and something you really want, then the journey will not feel like a chore, but it will feel like progress that draws you forward as you see your goal coming closer.

If learning java is not something that stands between you and your goals for which you are intrinsically motivated, perhaps learning it wasn't that important in the first place.

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I've had the same problem for a long time. For me the best thing is to set daily goals - whatever they might be. If you are learning from an online source, class or book - figure out a way to break the learning down into small chunks (like, Day I'll get through Chapter 1 and 2) and keep a list of how you've broken it all you can see your progress visually (online tools are good for this). Then just check things off as you go. Not a perfect system but helps me big time!

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Upfront I'll tell you I don't know the answer. This is something I'm still in a process of figuring out.

Some ideas (and many that don't address your exact question):

  • Before you see a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist, try a few other things first. Do you live healthily? Eat healthy food? Sleep regularly? There are many conditions that could drain your energy levels and therefore your motivation. Try exercising, sleeping enough etc. I probably don't need to tell you this but healthy lifestyle could help in itself.

  • As you say, you lack motivation. Many people don't need vision and long term goals to be happy, but some of us do. Try thinking about your life's goals. Each day, take some time to think about what fulfills you. It may take days, weeks or months until you realize what's really driving you, but when you do, it's so much easier to start working toward your true passion rather than on some flimsy interest you didn't want to do in a first place.

  • That being sad, don't expect to attain happiness by achieving some ultimate goal, whatever it may be. Small achievements are good, they propel your forward, but remember to enjoy the path, not the end goal. That won't make you happy. This is caused by something called hedonic adaptation

  • Learn more about yourself. Read a lot of books. Not necessarily self-help books, they won't make you change yourself. Read about cognitive science and biases... This will help you in formulating your vision. Most of all, it will help your grow. Kahneman is good. Ariely too. (Random suggestions)

  • Learn to grow. I've found that stagnation is your worst enemy.

  • Study rationality skills. Read the sequences on lesswrong. If you don't want to buy the books above. If you like fiction, you can start by reading this. It's free.

  • Once you have your vision (or even if you don't), set up small, concrete, and specific goals. That way, you'll be more likely to finish them and move forward.

  • Some other ideas on happiness and procrastination. And until you fend it off, you can procrastinate more effectively

  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and ideas. Don't forget to read it once in a while and act on what you wrote.

  • Regularly check on what you've done so far. Keep looking at the big picture, where you're headed and how far you've gone.

  • To change yourself, you need to build habits. Start low. You have time, don't try to rush it.

Remember, it's not a fight to win in a day.

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