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HOW TO BALANCE LIFE, WORK, FAMILY, LEARNING CODE...AND EVERYTHING ELSE!

HOW TO BALANCE LIFE, WORK, FAMILY, LEARNING CODE…AND EVERYTHING ELSE?!

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“How do you balance EVERYTHING?!”. Let’s suppose you have a full-time job, busy family life (or soon to be, congratulations by the way), a hobby, friends and you know, the usual “life stuff”. But, now you want to LEARN CODE! Is it even possible?

The short answer is…YES. Although, it won’t be easy and you will often feel like you are walking a tightrope.

DISCLAIMER: Walking the tightrope is HARD

businessman walking on tightrope

Make no mistake, achieving BALANCE is surprisingly hard.

Now I myself am no master. In fact, when I first became a dad, and I was trying to juggle life with a newborn, whilst learning to code, building a blog, working full-time, you better believe I was sooo unbalanced!

It was kinda comical really how bad I was. But luckily over time, I seemed to get the hang of it.

One of the first things you need to realize is you don’t just wake up one day and balance your life, you LEARN to balance your life.

You learn to balance life the same way you learn to balance on a bike, with time and practice. In the beginning, it’s going to be hard. Things are going to be a bit ropey but hang in there, the scraps and bumps are worth it.

I am telling you this at the start because I don’t want to create a false impression that achieving a balanced life is easy.

It takes TIME, it takes PRACTICE, it takes DISCIPLINE. And most importantly, it takes PERSEVERANCE because you will slip and have to regain your balance, most likely numerous times.

Another thing to note is that you can always have better balance. While my balance has drastically improved since the early days, it’s still not perfect. And I don’t know of anyone who claims to have the perfectly balanced life. If you know, leave a comment because I would love to talk to them.

What does balance mean to you?

It sounds strange but balance isn’t the same for everyone. We all have different views on what balance means, and what a balanced life looks like.

For you, balance may mean spending more time with your family and less time at work. For someone else, it may mean spending less time with their family and more time at work.

Hey, I am not here to judge. I don’t know their story. Maybe their family is driving them crazy? Who knows…

The point is that balance is unique to our own set of priorities. So first, you need to figure out what your priorities are. Starting with your main priority.

Is your main priority health? Wealth? Family? Code? Or something else? Once you deiced you can start sorting through the list and begin to develop a little hierarchy of priorities.

Having a hierarchy of priorities dictates the order in which you take care of business. Remember, first things first as Stephen R. Covey writes in his book, 7 habits of highly successful people.

To help you achieve balance you need to know how to arrange and organize your life. This ensures you spend your time wisely.

Often the reason we feel unbalanced simply comes down to one thing. Not being able to do the things we want.

Whether you’re not able to spend as much time with your family, pursue a passion, or meet a deadline. There’s always something/s we’re not able to do, which leaves us with this feeling of imbalance.

Maybe, it’s because our priorities are out of whack? And…Maybe, we’re just investing our time in the wrong places!

So, let’s ask the question again…what does balance mean to you? Where do your priorities lie?

Free up time by Re-Prioritizing and importantly…Cut out the CRAP

opening background with scissors cutting a ribbon with a ribbonI know this post is titled “HOW TO BALANCE LIFE, WORK, FAMILY, LEARNING CODE…AND EVERYTHING ELSE?!”. However, more often than not we are wasting our time on unnecessary things.

Hoarding is a terrible scourge which weighs us down. Unfortunately, it’s a nasty habit that many of us share, including me.

Normally hoarding relates to physical objects, but in this context, I am referring to the things we do. The obligations, tasks, activities, rituals, and habits we indulge in every day.

One of the first proactive things we can do is to evaluate where we spend our time, then prioritize.

What are my priorities? What’s essential? And what can be cut in order to lighten the load? These are the first questions we need to ask ourselves.

Ideally, we should spend the majority of our time doing things that bring us value and saying no to the things that don’t. What you cut is up to you, but if you can’t cut anything, make sure it’s because everything is necessary. Don’t be a closet hoarder.

One thing we can all defiantly do without are bad habits!

We all have them. Mine biggest one is binge-watching YouTube videos. I can easily waste hours of my life on YouTube.

While there is a lot of valuable stuff on YouTube, you have to admit, there is also a lot of CRAP! And I end up watching most of it.

These bad habits are like leeches, draining our time like blood and giving nothing back. Parasites. Yeah…you may think that’s a bit strong, but it get’s my point across.

So recoup your time by re-evaluate, re-prioritize and re-cutting…wait no, just, cut the crap!

If kicking these bad habits seem like an impossible task can I suggest reading Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister .

Our first instinct is to SPLIT OURSELVES

Right, here’s the situation…I’ve got a report to finish at work, a family outing on Saturday, a blog post to write, a programming course to be cracking on with, a side project waiting in the wings, a run to be ran, and you know what? It would be nice to have a moment to relax with my wife.

So what do I do?

Well, being a Harry Potter fan, I decided to take a leaf out of Voldemort’s book and split myself into seven pieces. Problem solved!

Now theirs seven me, who are all doing their thing individually to keep my life in check.

Even if you don’t know what the hell I am talking about, I am sure you can still related to this desire of wanting to split yourself.

It’s a natural human impulse to segment, compartmentalize and label things. It’s how we organize the world around us, and for the most part it seems to work just fine.

However, it can cause an issue.

The minute we split and label ourselves, or indeed anything, we assign a value. This may be a value of good or bad, fun or boring, cool or uncool. Whatever the value, it’s either positive or negative.

When we do this to aspects of our life we create positive or negative connotations with that aspect.

For example, everyone loves spending time with their friends, but rarely do people like working. This is because many of us associate work with something hard and boring.

The way around this is to refrain from dividing up and labeling part’s of your life. Instead, try and take a holistic view towards life. Think of everything as low level cogs, which make up life.

At the moment we’re taking daily activities, tasks, and responsibilities, then splitting them into blocks i.e. work, family, etc, finally, we’re using those block to build our perception of life.

What I am proposing is to have one block, consisting of all your daily activities, simply labeled as LIFE.

At this point you maybe thinking…”Ok, if everything is all lumped together, how am I meant to differentiate between what I am meant to be doing and when?”.

I agree, lines need to be drawn. I know if I don’t have set times to do thing nothing gets done.

So just to clarify, you can still plan and build routines. In fact, it’s necessary to manage your time, something we will discuss later. But how you frame things makes a difference.

If you’re learning App Development in your evenings after work, don’t say, “I have to study”, say, “I get to learn this new API tonight”.

By the way, did you notice I underlined “I have to” and “I get to”. Where ever possible you should use positive language to avoid those negative associations.

Ow, and for God sake, never say work! Instead be explicit in what you are doing.

Make the most of your TIME with a good ROUTINE

time for business

Time is the real issue here, right? If only we had more time all our problems would be solved. Even better, if we could control time, that would be perfect!

Sadly this is not an option. However, there is something we can do. We can make the most of the time we have. That means implementing some SOLID ROUTINES and building some good HABITS while taming the bad ones.

I already mentioned cutting out the crap habits, so I will skip over that and onto the routines.

In order to balance our somewhat full life, we need STRUCTURE. Something to follow to ensure we are spending our time in the right way, and ultimately, getting stuff done. We need ROUTINE.

In a study, I just conducted with me, myself and I, it showed having a good routine makes you 1000% more effective.

Apologies for that garbage joke. But I probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of having a routine. You only have to look at some of the world most successful people to be convinced. You know, the Tim Cooks and Mark Zuckerburgs of the world.

No, instead, let just jump straight to the practical, and discover how to build a good routine.

To avoid sounding like a broken record, I think it’s best to direct you to this blog post, titled: How to create the PERFECT ROUTINE to learn CODE.

Set some ground RULES

Rules, why do we need rules when we have a routine? Arent they the same thing?

NO. The rules are there to provide GUIDANCE and BOUNDARIES, but also PROTECT you. Whereas a routine is there to manage your time and make you as efficient as possible.

However, the problem with a routine is on its own, it’s very ridge. It can’t always accommodate the flexibility life demands.

The reason juggling family, work, life and learning to code etc seems so hard is because it’s chaotic. Indeed, life, in general, can be chaotic.

Sure, a good routine can help tame some of this chaos, but often, life will throw a spanner in your routine? I am sure any parent will tell you that kids are very good at that.

That’s why good ground rules are necessary to fall back on.

For example, it’s not uncommon for kids to get sick, and unfortunately, my little one gets sick A LOT. So it’s probably not a surprise to hear that when he is sick my routine goes out the window! At which point my rules are there for me to fall back on, especially my main rule:

Rule no. 1 – “Family first, everything else second”. This means when my son sick I focus on him and don’t stress myself with other things until I know he is ok, and believe me, you will know if he’s not.

Once I know he is fine I move onto the next thing. CODING.

Another rule of mine is to do at least “some” coding every night, and in situations like the above, “some” is the operative word. I learnt a while ago that if I can’t take care of myself, then I can’t take care of my family.

If I’ve been up and down all night with a screaming baby, then hop on the laptop to squeeze in a couple hours of code, then I’ll flame out and be no good to anyone. So guess what? I have another rule!

Rule no.267 – “Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family”. By the way, I don’t have 267 rules so don’t panic!

Hopefully, you can now see why it’s good to have rules.

Of course, no one is perfect and rules get broken. Maybe your workflow has suddenly exploded and you have to pull some late nights. In this case, I refer to the golden rule of balance…”Not too much, not too little”.

In my opinion, a period of intense overwork should be counterbalanced with some rest and recovery time. That way you recenter yourself for the next leg.

Be Hyper Aware

Unfortunately, we are always in a state of balance. Think of the man on the high wire again. He’s constantly balancing. With time and practice, he seems to have mastered it. But in reality, he still has to be conscious of every step in case he slips.

This is why I say to remain “Hyper Aware”. Now, I am sure you’re thinking…” what does that even mean?!” Sounds like BS right?

Well, I tried to think of another word to describe it but gave up, so just settled on the whole “hyper” thing.

Essentially, It just means to always remain aware of your actions and how you feel about your current situation.

It’s so easy to start well, and then slowly degrade over time without even realizing. It’s almost like sleepwalking.

One minute we feel like we’ve cracked the code, then the next, a bad choice is made, things go unchecked, and we fall into bad habits. Then we wonder, “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED”.

So try to remain in a state of “Hyper Awareness”. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you are making good choices, and more importantly, that you feel happy about the balance in your life.

Whenever I am about to make a choice that impacts my time, I just ask myself, “what’s the right thing to do?”. That question normally prompts me to make good choices.

However, try not to beat yourself up too much if you still make the wrong choices. It happens. We all slip. As long as you notice the slip you can start correcting.

Hopefully, this article has been useful and you can start taking strides toward a more balanced life. Thank you for reading.

 Feature image designed by Freepik

Hello World, let me introduce myself

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Hello World! So I started a blog…brilliant, thumbs up to me, but that raises a few questions doesn’t it? The main ones being, WHO am I? And WHY did I create a blog? Well, I thought it only made sense for my first post to answer these questions to give you a better understanding of what this blog is all about. Let’s get started.

WHO?

Hi, my name is Owen, I am 27 and I am the creator of Code Dad. I am a new programmer, new father and I currently work full-time as a Team Assistant within the Public Library Service.

That’s the boring introduction over and done with. Now let me give you some background. Don’t worry, I am not going to give you my whole life story, just some key things about me.

For the record, I have not had any formal education in Computer Science, Programming, or Software Engineering of any kind. In fact, I studied Art at A-Level and never actually made it to University because I dropped out of my foundation course.

Code Dad drawing

So yeah…I am probably not your typical picture of a programmer. It’s strange because in my younger years I had always imagined myself as an artist since I have always been fairly good at drawing. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think I am alright. However, you can be the judge.

Even though I have this artistic side, I’ve always had another side, which is more logical, with a deep interest in science and technology. Although, I never really pursued this side, until recently.

Here’s where it all begins

Towards the end of 2016, a life changing event happened, which I had been looking forward to for some time, you guessed it, I became a dad.

Thinking back, I mostly felt calm in those 9 months leading up to that magical moment. I had done a lot of reading and had a good idea of what to expect. I felt PREPARED, or so I thought.

Unfortunately, nothing can prepare a new parent for that oh so natural feeling of FEAR. My initial thought was, “this beautiful, little, screaming, pooping human is solely dependent on us as parents”. It’s a lot of responsibility! The days of trying to keep your Tamagotchi alive doesn’t quite prepare you for this mammoth task. Sorry for the 90’s reference, but you get my point.

Don’t get me wrong. It was the happiest day of my life! I was on such a HIGH, it was unreal. Even after spending 3 nights in the hospital, worrying, with zero sleep and strapped to the world’s most uncomfortable chair.

But honestly, don’t think about me, think about my poor wife! She deserves a f***ing medal.

Code Dad hospital photo

Oh, and if you want to see what this internal emotional roller coaster looks like, well you are in luck. As you can see my facial expression does not give the game away in the slightest. Cool as anything on the surface, but absolutely crapping it on the inside.

Aside from feeling on top of the world, I still had concerns, Mainly, whether I could live up to my responsibility as a new parent.

I began to rethink a lot of things about myself and I realized that I needed to pull my figure out so to speak. You see, I had tried to learn to program before, with little success, and in all honesty had kind of given up.

My mentality changed the moment I became a real world dad. I was now a father to a little human, to whom I had to provide and be a role model for.

In a split second, I made a promise that I would do everything in my power to give him the life he deserves.

By that I don’t mean spoiling him rotten, I mean providing him with the love, support, and the financial security he needs. That last one, “financial security”, was my biggest concern. To be fair it is probably most parents as we all want to be able to provide for our children.

Time to get serious 

My first act was getting serious about learning to program. And I will explain my reasons for wanting to this in my next post.Web development programming code image

In November 2016, I embarked on my journey to become a self-taught programmer. I began with that beautiful language, know as JAVA.

The first few months I felt very confused, but slowly things started to get clearer.

I was waiting for the day things finally clicked and when they did the feeling was amazing, I felt like I really accomplished something.

My journey is not over, I still have a long way to go in terms of where I want to be as a programmer, but at least I know I can do it.

It has been HARD! I have spent many nights banging my head against the keyboard, wondering why my code doesn’t work, and to be honest I still do. However, the thing I found hardest was trying to juggle everything.

It’s not easy balancing a full-time job, keeping fit, adjusting to life with a new baby, and learning to code. However, by some miracle, I managed it.

Now, I am starting a new challenge to become a blogger as well!

WHY?

But why? Why start a blog in the first place? What does that have to do with learning to program?Code blog laptop image

There are a few reasons, although the main reason has changed somewhat since the idea first crawled into my head.

Originally the blog was designed to help me more than anything. I thought by writing down and trying to explain what I had just learned, this vomit of cryptic code on the screen might actually make sense and stick!

I had also read that learning in public can help keep you on the ball.

The idea is that when your aware your are being watched,  you will make more of a conscious effort to try harder. I am sure there is some psychology behind this, but I think it’s simply because nobody wants to appear as a failure or worse, stupid!

Learning so openly also means people can correct your mistakes when you are wrong. I know nobody likes to hear “you’re WRONG!”, but really it’s what you need when your learning. Otherwise, you may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. And who wants to deal with that frustrating headache?

So what’s the main reason for the blog?

Well, the main reason shifted when I realized that my journey and ambitions were probably very similar to many others.

The challenges I faced are not just unique to me. I am sure there are countless others who will or are going through the same thing.

As I already said earlier, I found it very difficult trying to juggle work, life, a new baby, and learning to code. But thankfully, I developed and discovered various resources, tips, strategy and routines that really helped me.

Looking back I can’t help but think my journey would have been a much easier if I had all that knowledge from the start. I guess that’s the beauty of hindsight.

So, rather than letting that experience and information go to waste, I thought, “why not use this blog to share my journey and what I have learned”, in hopes it can help others.

My MAIN aim with this blog is to help people, who want to take that leap into the programming world, but have obstacles in their way.

Whether they feel their lives are too hectic, or they just don’t have the time, or that it just seems like an impossible task.

I want to help people like myself, who want to learn to code, balance their lives, embark on personal development, or just lead a more productive life.

I genuinely hope that this blog can be of some use to someone and help them to achieve their goal.

For now, that’s me, and I will leave it there till my next post. Thanks for reading.