When you join a coding bootcamp you’re signing on for a lot of time and commitment for the foreseeable future. Students can spend up to 70 hours a week on campus, making it seem like a home away from home. In order to make those long hours seem less daunting, here’s a list of tips to bring with you to your bootcamp to keep you comfortable and ready to learn!
Exercise Your Body and Brain
Whether you run, bike, play basketball, or just get out for a walk around the block, exercise is important for a developer. In a coding bootcamp a student will spend hours sitting in front of a computer which can affect your physical and mental health.
The most obvious reasons to exercise are for general health, but it also improves your mental health and capacity as well. There’s research that suggests those who exercise consistently have more volume in areas of the brain that control thinking and memory. And for those that don’t exercise, not only do you miss these benefits, but you also experience the many negative physical effects. In regard to bootcamp life, students who aren’t accustomed to sitting for hours at a time, in front of a computer, often suffer from chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Regardless of how in shape you are coming into the program, your body will need to stay active during your bootcamp time. It’s easy to get caught up in the intensive learning, but don’t forget to balance this with your own physical and mental health. It’s better for you long-term, and will actually help you achieve more as you head towards graduation and into the working world.
Take Notes like a Boss
During lectures it is recommended that students have a notebook for note taking as well as project planning. Any designer, developer or person who works in the digital space will share the importance of planning and drawing out ideas before working on them. The cost of drawing out wireframes on paper is much less than dedicating a developer’s time to fix an issue that could have been avoided. Draw your “map”, before you start on your journey, for a more efficient project.
A good amount of research has shown that taking notes with pen and paper will help students retain complex ideas—better than typing on a computer. At Coding Dojo, we put this concept into practice on a daily basis. We rely heavily on white boarding to help students work through algorithms or encourage students to work in notebooks.
Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of Princeton famously documented research related to this very concept. Their research question? Which is more effective for learning: the ol’ pen and paper or a computer? "When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," says Mueller. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefitted them."
Bottom line: Buy a notebook. You’ll retain more, learn more deeply and write a lot less!
Prepare for Delicious Success
Preparing meals for the week can save you money and give your brain the food it needs to succeed. Most students in our onsite camp are not working, so money can be tight while attending the program. Consider this: a lunch bought averages $10. Multiply that by the 14 weeks (5 days a week) and lunch suddenly costs you a whopping $700. In comparison, the majority of meals through food prep guides average around $6. That’s almost $300 in savings.
Beyond the budget, preparing and eating particular foods can help boost your brain’s synaptic plasticity. This allows the brain to stretch and shape itself to hold more information, learn new theories, and retain information better. Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has studied the effects of food on the brain mentions the ingredient that can help promote plasticity. “Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses.” Gómez-Pinilla continues, “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function.” Omega-3 fatty acids can be found most abundantly in salmon, walnuts, spinach, and eggs. Save your wallet and feed your brain by prepping your meals with healthy foods.
Plug in and Get Work Done
A great pair of noise-canceling headphones can do wonders for your productivity. Most bootcamps, including Coding Dojo, are set up to be an open workspace that mirrors your future work environment. Invest in a nice pair of headphones because these will be the same ones that follow you to your next, and very likely, open office work environment.
Roughly 70% of US offices are open offices, and that isn’t always great news for those trying to be productive. As a Wall Street Journal article cites on the topic of open offices, “All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees' eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee's field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.” Removing audio distraction is one small step towards immense productivity improvement.
Now that you have a nice pair of headphones, it’s important to choose the right music! There is a strong correlation between concentration and musical stylings. Studies out of the University of Birmingham, England, show that music is helpful in raising efficiency in repetitive work — so if you're mindlessly working on hundreds of lines of code, a beat can keep you moving. At times, coding can be quite repetitive and music can help get you through long hours. Try to choose music without lyrics, that also incorporate natural sounds for an extra boost. The Guardian says, “Music is a very useful tool in such situations. It provides non-invasive noise and pleasurable feelings, to effectively neutralize the unconscious attention system’s ability to distract us.”
Need a place to start? Here are a few study playlists that we know will help:
Whether its music or improving your mental health, it all adds up. Don't just think about the learning process, but who you are as you try to learn. The way you feel matters! Pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you to make sure coding is a happy and healthy journey.
This piece was sponsored by Coding Dojo.