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Learning SQL When You Work and Have a Family

Do you want to learn SQL but feel you can’t squeeze one more thing into your jam-packed life? Here are my tips on learning SQL when you work and have kids.

You work full-time and have a family. Daily responsibilities overwhelm you. I’ve been there. Heck, I live there. I work from home and have a family. While I was writing this article, I was also waiting for a call on Zoom, doing the laundry, and cooking some pasta for my son’s dinner.

Any kind of personal development you do while working and taking care of your family is more challenging, but the good news is that it can be done.

We only have a few minutes, so let’s get right into this.

10 Tips to Help Busy People Learn SQL

1. Have a goal

Sounds pretty basic, but it’s true. To succeed in any field, you need to have a vision of what you want to do. This is not a plan (yet) – it’s the final goal, the destination. It will motivate you and support you in times of doubt.

What might this vision be? For me, it was a job change. Everything looked like I was a successful person – from the outside. I was a journalist working on news television. I earned a good amount and everyone said I had "an interesting and challenging job". What more could you want? Well, I wanted more. I wanted a change, and that became my vision. In the beginning, just a change was enough of a motivation, but later the vision became clearer. I saw the goal: a new career. And learning SQL was one of the steps leading up to it.

A goal, a vision, or whatever you call it – whatever’s at the end of your path gives you motivation. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke about having a vision in a brilliant speech that you can watch below. The guy might be known for his biceps and quadriceps, playing Conan The Barbarian and Terminator, and being the former governor of California, but for me he put the need for vision best. Be careful – these 15 minutes could change your life!

2. Create a plan

Once you have a goal, think about what you have to do to achieve it. Grab some tea, get a pen and paper, and write down how the whole process will look. What will you have to do first? Choose a teaching method, then a specific source of knowledge, then write down how much time you can devote to learning and how it can affect other responsibilities. Don't overdo it, but be honest with yourself. Bad assumptions and an unrealistic plan are the way to failure and frustration.

You probably won't have enough time to study at a university or do full-time courses. The best option is often a self-paced online SQL course. We’ve already recommended The Top 7 Platforms with the Best SQL Courses for 2020. If you want to just jump right in, try LearnSQL.com and our SQL from A to Z track. It’ll save time and frustration: everything is interactive, and everything is in the browser. You don't need to install or configure anything, just write real SQL queries and get instant feedback.

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3. Build a support network

There are two reasons why you should tell others about your plans. First, if you want your family to give you space to learn SQL, you have to tell them! What if you decide to start learning just when your partner wants you to dig the garden or do the shopping? From a tactical point of view, it’s good to warn loved ones that there will be moments when you’ll be studying and they cannot disturb you. Of course, this can't be an excuse for scrolling through Facebook or browsing YouTube. When you say you’ve set aside time to learn SQL, you have to use that time to learn SQL!

Second, if your family and friends know you’re learning SQL, they can motivate you and help you survive moments of crisis. There is nothing like some encouragement to keep you going. Are you fed up with SQL JOIN? Grab a beer with your buddy and tell them about what you are doing. They’ll ask you why you bother with it so much. You will then start telling them about your goal and you’ll start to self-motivate again. It's really that simple.

4. Create a backup plan

I do not mean ‘create an alternative plan for learning SQL’. I’m talking about building an action plan for when something suddenly happens and disrupts your original plan. Family life is full of surprises and accidents. You were supposed to do two sections of your SQL course tonight, but you have to go to your son's school for an urgent parent-teacher meeting? It's hard, I know, but it happens. Just look at your calendar and figure out when you can make up for lost time.

Don't beat yourself up if you fail to accomplish your planned goals for that day. Start worrying when interruptions happen several days in a row. This will mean you have a problem. You may need to rethink your plan. Maybe you were too ambitious? Relax – it’s allowed to adjust your plan.

5. Get organized

You can't achieve anything in chaos. To balance learning and life, you have to manage your time well. Consistency and focus are also needed. We live in the 21st century, which means that people like us have access to apps that help us be organized.

First of all, there’s the calendar. This is where you should list the days you will study. I use Google Calendar daily. It’s where I store all my plans about work and study. I can see everything clearly and I can share it with my wife so that she knows what I will be doing that day. If Google Calendar isn’t your thing, there are many Android and iOS alternatives. Check out Any.do or Evernote, which can also be used as browser add-ons.

Being organized includes making the most of the time you schedule for learning SQL. Turn off all distractions, especially devices and notifications. As another internet motivation guru, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, says – FOCUS!

6. Take your time

Try a calm approach to learning SQL. If you do a whole SQL course overnight – I know people who have – you will most likely learn little or nothing. When planning your learning process, spread it over several days or even weeks. Consistency is more important than a one-time major effort.

You’ll also need time to practice everything you learn. Keep calm and learn SQL slowly. Otherwise, you will quickly get tired and discouraged and you won’t achieve your goal.

7. Reward yourself

This is very important. Have you finished a tough section or solved a difficult SQL problem? Give yourself a reward. It doesn't have to be anything big – I allowed myself an ice cream or an episode of my favorite series – but it must be something that will give you great joy. These rewards are a motivation. At the same time, your brain will combine them with learning itself and form a positive experience. This will make it easier for you to focus and fight the next battle. After all, who doesn’t like ice cream or Friends? Just watch out for calories.

If you really reach a significant milestone, like completing an entire course, publish your triumph on social media. You’ll see a rain of praise flowing down on you. People like to see that someone succeeds. Expect a storm of likes!

8. Remember to relax

First of all, you need to sleep well. Even if your "free hours" are at night when everyone else in the household is asleep, don’t sit in front of the computer too late. I’d say you need at least six hours of sleep – that's what it takes for your body and especially your brain to recuperate. So don’t binge just before going to bed. You’ll sleep more peacefully.

“Relaxation” also means literally having to relax, i.e. doing stress-relieving activities. In my case, this is most often active: playing football, working out, going for a walk with my wife. I also like a good book. Sitting in an armchair, doing nothing at all, doesn't relax me; my brain turns off only with physical fatigue. That's why I find some relaxation in playing sports. Getting relaxed and losing a few inches around the waist is a win-win!

9. Prioritize health

When you have a good night's sleep, you take good care of your health. Also, take care of your spine, which will tire during additional hours in front of the computer. From time to time, see a doctor or do some basic research on good posture. It won't hurt. If you want to know more, read my article "How to Stay Healthy When Learning SQL". You’ll find tips on maintaining good posture at the computer, staying properly hydrated, and how yoga can be a stress-reliever.

Top SQL Learning Tip: Be Positive. Remember Your Goal.

This is probably the most important thing. Think positive. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Have a picture of what you will achieve by learning SQL, how your life will change. Imagine how this will affect your family. Maybe you will get a promotion or a job offer. Maybe you’ll start earning more and being able to afford things you can only dream about. Read the article Types of Database Jobs: Choose One of Them and Start Being Awesome and imagine getting one of these jobs.

Maybe, as I did, you will change your life and find a completely new career path. Who knows? You won't find out until you try. Make a plan and start learning today.

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