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A programmer’s method of doing things

Working as a programmer, I have learned a simple yet pretty useful method of doing things and that is to ‘try first and adjust‘. You see, a piece of code is basically a set of instructions to tell the computer […]

Working as a programmer, I have learned a simple yet pretty useful method of doing things and that is to ‘try first and adjust‘.

You see, a piece of code is basically a set of instructions to tell the computer what to do. In a complicated system, there are already a million set of instructions written by other programmers. When given a task to make a change, I have to find the set of instruction to change and how it would affect any related instructions.

In a big team, a system is usually too big for a single programmer to understand every nook and crannies of the code. So, an approach that a programmer typically takes is to first find the part to change, make the change, then see if it runs.

Usually, the change won’t work. It could be because there was a mistake I typed in, or because the change I’ve made has broken other pieces of the code. So, the typical approach for a programmer is to adjust the change and try again, and again, and again… Until it works.

Big intimidating bear

Now, I am really simplifying things here because usually, a task for a programmer is not as simple as a one-step change. To tackle a large change, a good programmer will break down the task into smaller and more manageable pieces.

Smaller, manageable bears

He/she will then make the first small change and check to see if it works. The advantage of making a small change is that:

  • The probability of it working is higher. There is less chance for you to make a mistake if your change is small.
  • By making a small change, you can also keep track of your progress along the way. This will avoid the scenario where you’ve put in days of effort into the change only to find out the whole thing doesn’t work.
  • It becomes easier to manage because now you know your progress.
  • It becomes less stressful now that you know your progress and you are comforted by the small wins along the way.
  • Others can help you better when you’re stuck. You can identify more specifically which part you need help with. Instead of trying to get help for a seemingly daunting challenge, you are asking help for smaller bits of code.

It is more common than you might think that an experienced programmer can feel intimidated by a seemingly large change. However, by breaking it down into more manageable pieces, the change doesn’t seem that scary anymore.

Likewise, I have applied this method of doing things into different areas of my life. For example, if I want to learn a subject, I can break it down into smaller manageable steps. Or if I want to get fitter, I can set smaller manageable goals to help me reach the ultimate target.

Perhaps what’s stressing you out now at this minute is something else. Think about how you can break this problem that is stressing you out, into multiple smaller manageable problems and then tackle each one methodically.

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