We have touched the subject before but it is worth bringing up again – how to deal with setbacks. As you might already know I’m doing my thesis at Spotify, and the last two weeks have been really frustrating. I’ve been trying to evaluate the performance of an algorithm and the results have varied every day – with the reason why being hard to track down.
I have had to find bugs in the code, realizing I have run the right things with the wrong parameters and the other way around. And everything takes a lot of time to try out. Tuesday I was so frustrated I could feel my face turn red.
At that point it is kind of hard to take a step back and take a deep breath. But that’s exactly what you need to do. When you’re stuck on a problem it is seldom fruitful to sit and bash your head against it. Therefore I want to share a few points about what you can do!
Ask for help
If you have people around you that have the resources to help, one of the easiest and quickest ways to move forward is to ask for help. The biggest hurdle is often to dare to ask. But then think of this – what is the worst that have happened when you’ve asked for help?
Explain your problem for someone
Similar to asking for help but not the same. Sometimes you might be certain that you have understood a problem, but when you explain it to someone else you suddenly understand that you have been thinking about it in the wrong way!
You don’t even have to explain to a human being, did you know that there is an expression in the programming profession called rubber-ducking?
Another really effective strategy (that can be hard to allow yourself to do) is to sleep on it. Coming back to a problem after a night of sleep lets you attack the problem with fresh eyes, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve solved something the day after, having spent multiple hours before.
When you achieved something – regardless big or small – celebrate it. Have a glass sparkling, take a bubble bath or spend a couple of hours with your favorite game. Sometimes you focus so much on just getting to the finish line that you forget to celebrate that you made it.