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I am a computer science student currently in my 2nd year of bachelors. My problem is pretty straight forward yet still so far has not been self-resolvable. It is simply is that I am tired of programming. I don't know why but it just happened.

When I started my first course in c++ I was very excited. So excited that I finished two heavy c++ books within 2 months and was way ahead of my class and my own expectations. It was like I can easily develop algorithms and code them. I explored C++ a lot,

but for the past 2 semesters I am pretty much not into coding and I have lost a great amount of interest or passion for it.

I love programming as well my CS degree.But even with that i am not able to set things up. Kindly tell me what to do? I have started C# and XNA Game development on my own but still it's like I am pushing myself. Can anyone give give suggestions to wake up the coder inside of me?

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Find another interest? –  SLaks Jul 7 '11 at 18:25
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What do you want to do now? –  Marcelo Jul 7 '11 at 20:17
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You need DEADLINES, and a good project manager. Fortunately those exist in academia too. –  user1249 Jul 7 '11 at 21:14
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I started programming when I was 8. Productivity peaked when I was around 18. At 25, I'm completely burnt out. So now I'm stuck in undergrad learning other things. I keep up with all the news and trends and dabble here and there, but all I see of programming these days is the sickening politics. –  Rei Miyasaka Jul 17 '11 at 10:00
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Your inner self is telling you to either take a break or do something else. –  James Poulson Sep 9 '11 at 12:55
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14 Answers

I think you need to see some results from programming. In other words, go and make a simple project that you or others would use. The excitement from actually developping an application from start to finish might rekindle your interest in programming.

Something else you could try is to explore a different domain of programming (Web, Mobile, Scripting, etc...). Different languages are also interesting to explore (functional, scripting, etc...)

You could also try taking a stab at contributing/helping on some opensource projects.

Additionally, as some comments have said: "You might have another passion/interest that you want to follow". If you find that you have a high interest in something, see if you can apply programming to it. It might be possible to synthesis your other interest with programming.

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I couldn't agree more with that. The OP mentioned getting into C# and XNA that was actually what I did to get fast results. Pretty soon I got my interest back. Just get something on the screen and start messing with it. –  Bryan Harrington Jul 7 '11 at 19:10
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I've hit this scenario a couple of times in my 22-year career as a developer so far. My respite in these times is to turn to reading books about how others do things. I recently read "Coders at Work" to fend off some of the doldrums that we all hit. A long time ago I read Cliff Stoll's "The Cuckoo's Egg" book to reconnect with my inner problem solver. Remember that, if nothing else, you are a problem solver, not a code monkey. Look for things that need solving and try to read about it, and/or apply yourself to solve the problem.

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I am a EE by degree and only recently got into programming. But when I was in school I would routinely get burnt out on engineering. I thought I was getting tired of being an engineer, when really I was getting tired of school's version of engineering. Getting some hands-on experience with internships and practical projects would always reignite my passion. My last burnout was resolved when I got into programming. This was like a whole new world for me to explore that was still very similar (from the problem solving/approach perspective) to the things I already knew. Maybe you can see if there is another interest in your life that you can apply your programming know-how to.

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+1 "when really I was getting tired of school's version of engineering." I think this is something a lot of students are struggling with. –  Oliver Weiler Jul 7 '11 at 20:43
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Don't take medical advice from the Internet, but you might want to talk to a doctor. If you were intensely interested for a few months, and now have to push yourself to do it, there may be an underlying physiological cause.

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That seems like quite a leap, based on what's detailed in the question.... –  Nick Jul 7 '11 at 20:44
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I'm not diagnosing anything, I'm saying the possibility should be considered. "I was interested in this thing and now I'm not even though I want to be" sounds like it could be a sign of something. Or maybe nothing. Which is why I said talk to a doctor. –  benzado Jul 7 '11 at 20:50
    
That's cool. I was just voicing an opinion. Nothing personal. :-) –  Nick Jul 7 '11 at 20:53
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Programming in school is very different from programming in the real world. School is all about learning and not as much about using. I agree with the previous poster that a good project might make a difference. Here are some options to check into off the top of my head:

  • Do as suggested by Kevin a create a program that you and/or your friends would use. Ask around and see if there is an iPad or iPhone app you could build.
  • Do as Joe suggested and expand your book collection to include books about programming that isn't a new language.
  • Build yourself a website to use as a portfolio. This would be something that you can use once you are done with school regardless of what you end up doing.
  • Look into open source projects that you might be able to help contribute to.
  • Instead of learning a new language spend some time researching the different career paths you could take in the software world. For example, Windows vs Web vs Mac Os, C# vs Ruby vs Java vs PHP.
  • Look for an internship and see what programming in the real world is like.
  • Do some volunteer work for a local church, school, or local childrens organization either working with kids interested in technology or building web applications for them.
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Looks like someone's facing some burnout a bit early in the game, but it happens.

What you need to do is find a way to have a school-life balance. Also rediscovering why you enjoy engineering is helpful. Small side projects to work on are always fun...

But remember, you work to live not live to work. These feelings come and go over the course of your life. Everyone here has had the burnout at least once

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+1: read through the other answers and didn't find one mentioning burnout. @OP: Take some time off - it does wonders for you. –  Demian Brecht Jul 7 '11 at 20:12
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this is good advice, been coding for 5 years and im on the second (am I doing the right thing) cycle! –  Pete2k Jul 8 '11 at 16:16
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You don't have to be a programmer if you have a CS degree. I have gone through the same issue as you, and so have some of my CS buddies. You need to find your niche. CS is a broad topic, which includes everything from high-level concepts (think formal algorithms, discrete mathematics, NP-complete problems, etc.) to low-level design (computer architecture, assembly language, etc.) with programming in the middle of the two. Most people go with programming, but as a student, you should explore research opportunities. I personally took an internship when I was feeling this way. Programming was getting more frustrating than anything, and I was thinking about changing my major. After doing the internship, I found my inspiration again and I really enjoy the prospect of a career doing this. As others have said, having a project that produces results is very rewarding, and that might relight your programming flame.

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Programming in a vacume is fun for a while, but what's missing is the feedback loop.

When your solving something that makes a difference to someone it really puts things in perspective.

But, there are definitely some code bases out there that make you want to stop programming.

My best tip is probably to cut the author of the code your looking at some slack - all code looks bad when you look back after 6 weeks or more. There's always another seemingly better

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Unless you're a non-traditional student**, you're what, 20 or 21 years old? I was CONVINCED I would be a history professor when I was that age. I didn't start coding until 28, and that was largely an accident. Point is: not everyone knows exactly what they want to do until well beyond where you are now. If programming doesn't do it for you, don't be afraid to let it go and move on to something else.


I should add that it's not always easy to make big changes like that. I had more than a few sleepless nights before I reached the decision to drop out of grad school (studying history) to pursue a career in software development instead.

** Uh, if you're a lot older than I'm guessing, please advise so I may delete this answer as it will obviously be not applicable to your situation. :D

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I went through a major burnout from the horrible time i had working in Web Development. I thought I wanted to be a web developer and after a year of trying it, i ended up hating it and could not bring myself to write anymore boring HTML/CSS and Javascript at all. 3 years later I still hate web design but I have always loved programming. So after a long think and talking with people, I got into Software development and I really love that. Been learning Java and really enjoy it. Going to college for my Software Engineering degree and programming a lot in my spare time. I had to force myself to do the web design. Software wise, I can not wait to get going and I am normally always thinking of new ways to try things. Coming on this site, gets my blood pumping and gets me wanting to just go develop something or learn a new technology. So many avenues in this industry. I looked into the main sectors, like networking, computer engineering etc but my mind always comes back to software.

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Burned out huh? Not feeling that "vibe" you first had when you saw printf("Hello World!"); for the first time? I started programming when I was 14, and when I finally took some college programming classes my senior year of high school, the classes literally bored the life out of me because I was so far ahead already. I was ready to write real-world applications and solve complex problems, but I was trapped in a horrifying vortex of introductory lessons I felt were aimed towards people who can't tie their shoes. It was literally killing my interest. I'm not saying this is the same scenario for you, but I often feel that programming classes often kill your interest and the "pi'zaz" that makes programming actually interesting.

To me: Being taught and learning are two completely different things.

Codeburn. Then there was codeburn. I learned so much so fast, and spent so much time doing programming that I didn't do anything else. I simply got burned out. You need to make sure that it's most certainly not the only thing you do.

The Plateau. There was a point where I really didn't know what else to learn. I learned the basics, I learned some advanced subjects, but past that I was like "Okay, what now". You really need to either start your own project (preferably large), or definitely get involved in some projects out there. You won't find yourself learning new things if you don't venture out and explore a bit.

I'm still completely obsessed with programming though. The best programmers I know are the ones that even though get codeburn, or maybe even hit a plateau, are the ones that still push on forward. Afterall, when you are in the real world, you can't just stop development on a product because you get slightly burned out or hit a plateau. Business and real-world software development just don't work that way. Today I never really get codeburn or hit plateau's. I often set my projects down and play a game for 30 minutes to "release my mind", then return to my projects. I do things outside the realm of computers to keep me balanced. I involve myself in answering things on SO to keep me keen and sharp, and I also read new books and read up on cool new technologies.

For me though, I love programming. Even if I get burned out, I keep on going. Not because I force myself to, but because I want to become an expert in C# and .NET. If you don't have a goal for yourself, you may find you really don't actually know what you want to get out of programming. Why do you program in the first place? I like to solve complex problems. I also like to create innovative solutions. I have goals that drive my passion for software development in general.

Is it for you? Maybe not. If the thought in your head is I don't like programming anymore and you really have to ask yourself and others how to get motivated to program? Maybe it's just not your niche. Find another interest. If you are young, you have time to explorer, and you can always come back to programming.

It sounds like on some level you really do enjoy it, because you are contradicting yourself by saying you have lost interest and passion, yet you love programming and your CS degree. Maybe you are losing interest, because you are not actually solving any real-world problems, and not seeing any actual use for it.

This was the problem I had with mathematics in school. You are tought math, but you are rarely tought real-world scenarios to use that math, and the answer from the teachers/professors is always the same: You just need to know it to succeed. That doesn't tell me much, and if that's the only answer you have, I don't trust your expertise and I will lose interest. I like solving real world problems, not living in theory or the ideal that I just need to know it.

Mind you this is all very subjective and is based on my own experience, but maybe you can be inspired to contemplate your issue.

Oh, and one thing that inspires me and really drives my passion, I watch a lot of Channel9 (MSDN). Behind the Code, How Things Work, etc. When you are learning from the best experts around, you learn alot, and it really inspires you to want to improve and do great things. You should also note that some of the most brilliant experts in the field, did completely unrelated things for years before they dove into programming/computer science.

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I've been going through a burnout over the past couple of years and am the author of the following thread: Burned out on programming and given up?

I'm now coming towards the end of my sabbatical and feeling a lot better about programming, so I'll chime in with some thoughts...

The key problem I faced was that I loved programming as a hobby and creative craft, but quickly got fed up with it when I had to treat it as a job - and work for someone else on some random boring business system - which I couldn't summon up any intrinsic interest in. Without realising it, this is how I went about looking for programming jobs (and doing them) all the time in my past. I was essentially always going against the grain of my own internal motivations. But it seemed normal. After all, the folk wisdom says so: "It's a job, not happy happy playtime. Harden up princess."

I don't know how this relates to your story, but I think a big part of burning out and losing interest (in any endeavor/field generally) is when you have to disconnect personal interest from extrinsic reward. Play can be turned into work and work into play once you introduce extrinsic pressures and rewards. And the modern corporate mindset and "work ethic" philosophy has a lot to answer for here. In a roundabout way - it almost says "Meh, you should hate what you do. Work sucks, but you need to harden up and stick it out.". Of course, there is nothing like forcing yourself to do something to make it feel like a grind(*), and eventually burn out. The underlying psychology is really not too different to being a slave.

So I think the key is to find problem domains (or modes of work) where you feel like what you're doing is useful, and like you are a self-directed craftsman, not just some worker bee slave.

Anyway, in your case I think it's quite possible that you're simply expecting a bit too much from programming at the moment. I went through a similar thing in uni too. You get right "into" programming, but then it feels like you're sick of it after a few semesters. I think in my case it was mainly due to being sick of toy examples and contrived problems (assignments) - I wanted to work on something bigger, something real, something that solves real problems. Finding such things is actually not as easy as it sounds. If you say you love programming, but need to force yourself to do it - chances are you're just contriving work for the sake of doing it, rather than actually solving problems that you really want to solve. This issue follows you into the workplace too, by the way. If you're working at a job where you don't really care about the final product, and think of it as some random boring business system that doesn't add anything that you deep down see as useful to the world - the same psychological mechanisms will come into play and burn you down.

(*): I don't mean to imply that there should never ever be any drudgery or unpleasant chore feeling in any job ever. No matter what we do, there are always going to be aspects to it that aren't very exciting. But one should have real intrinsic motivations for the final goal. If it feels like the release of software you're writing will truly make the world a better place, it will be orders of magnitude more rewarding and motivating than if you feel it's just some random boring business system that will make a few random suits in some business niche you don't care about slightly more happy and efficient.

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Try learning PHP and develop a web application.

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Always Try to be and work with friends or classmates to colleagues who are very active and interested in programming. Trying to be in this active communities will help you to be inspired by them and unconsciously you will gain your interest back. Maybe you are a little tired, Traveling and sporting is another option to become more interest to try to achieve your goals. because they will open your mind.

These solutions always works for me in a best way.

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