My wife and I recently took some holiday for serious DIYing. We knocked a couple of walls down, ripped our kitchen out and started installing a new one (it’s not done yet). It was expensive hard work but it was the most refreshing holiday I’ve ever had because it was productive, interesting and active. It also helped me reflect on how we learn new skills and approach projects.
After a month of destroying, building and figuring stuff out, I can add ‘Angle Grinder Wrangler’, ‘Mitre Saw Operator’, ‘Destructionista’, ‘Plasterer’, ‘Painter’, ‘Microwave Meal Chef’ and ‘Kitchen Fitter’ to my LinkedIn (junior level obviously). I didn’t start the holiday with a list of things I wanted to learn, I started with an end goal. The end goal pushed me forward, each day I would edge closer and each day I would learn at least one new thing out of necessity. If I didn’t learn how to use the angle grinder, we couldn’t remove the conduit so we couldn’t learn how to mix and pour cement to level the floor. If we didn’t learn the best way to take tiles off, we wouldn’t have taken the tiles off. If we hadn’t taken the tiles off our life would have been infinitely simpler, but we wouldn’t have learnt how to plaster (tl;dr paint the wall with PVA glue first). We had to learn to progress and it made the whole process more interesting and rewarding. Yes we made mistakes, but we learnt how to fix them. This applies directly to learning to code. Start with a project and learn enough to do it then refactor to improve using what you learnt. The last bit of plastering was 10 times better then the first.
It’s also important to have a clear path to your end goal. Due to the scale and cost of renovating the kitchen we had to plan what we wanted, how we could do it, who we needed in when to help and how much things would cost (a lot). A small project at work doesn’t always feel like it needs planning in such fine detail and it might not but it will always help. If you have a clear path and clear goals you can figure out the holes in your knowledge upfront and fill them or you can ask for help (I had to ask my dad how to remove the child safety lock from his mitre saw…).
Sometimes you swerve off the clear path, and that’s ok. The same rules still apply, fill the gaps in knowledge and ask for help. We had an overall plan and rough ideas about what would be involved, but we still had to adapt along the way and ask for help when we uncovered our flats dark history (tile directly over exposed live wires anyone?).
Everything takes time, especially when you’re learning. We wouldn’t have made any progress with our kitchen for months if we hadn’t consciously put aside the time to do it. This doesn’t just apply to the big overall task – you can’t start removing a sink without spending some time figuring out which pipe is hot and cold, where the shut-off valves are or what sized wrenches you need. If you did you’d have a flooded kitchen. Spend some time before starting a project to figure it out. It won’t prevent things going wrong, but it’ll make it a lot easier to figure out which bit went wrong and how to roll back. We attached some kitchen units to the wall without first checking it was level, because we were taking our time we reflected, removed the unit and adjusted it straight away. If we hadn’t taken the time we could have installed a wonky work surface – nobody wants their carrots rolling away.
long term effects
It’s been hard work and it isn’t finished yet. I know it won’t be finished completely for a few months. We could rush through it and patch up the horrors we’ve discovered, but ripping the rubbish out and doing it properly gives a sense of pride and also get’s us to understand out flat better. We know what to expect if we decide to rip the kitchen units down and change them. We know exactly where the stop cock is if we get a leak and even though you can’t see the amount of work it took to get the floor level, we know that it is so we don’t have any ‘what if the floor falls through’ worries. Doing It Yourself will always help you long term as long as you set an achievable end goal, be clear on how to get there and take the time to do it properly. Just like writing code.
Taking the time away from work helped me reflect and muse on my own practice, has anything helped you reflect? Has anything become clearer after spending time away from the keyboard?
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