»Become a better developer in six months.« Define 'better'. :)
(Self-)education is the first thing that comes to mind, and the majority of the tag-attack "victims" agree that reading and learning (and writing about it) directly lead to being better at development; myself included. However, the kind of literature that I consider important (in view of my current work) may have nothing or at least very little to do with software or database development. As some of you know, my principal calling is law and legal science, so if I plan on being better at SQL development at the moment then I'll have to brush up on these:
- Legal philosphy and legal theory;
- Core legal concepts in individual legal disciplines (property law, obligations, criminal law, civil and criminal procedure – to name but a few);
- Legal argumentation; and
- The institutions of law (judiciary, legislature, executive – including police and military).
But the key (IMHO) to improving the professional skill-set lies elsewhere. »Staying hungry« is an old principle that I find highly beneficial to self-development.
What am I talking about? Allow me to illustrate. Every boxing coach will work hard at keeping "the champ" fit to fight and at or near his peak. But a good coach will also keep the boxer from reaching the peak of his skills *before* the big match – for instance: stopping a practice fight before time, changing sparring partners to distract the boxer, or doing other more or less annoying things. In other words: keeping the champ "hungry" as well as fit.
Law? Hunger? Boxing? What do these have to do with development and being better at it?
All I'm really trying to say is that spending time away from the workplace, away from work, and – most importantly – away from the PC screen actually provides a distraction that might seem insignificant or even counter-productive but is in effect a great way of getting the creative juices flowing. I'm not saying the brain should be switched off – not at all! Keep your brain active, but do something different. And NO! Watching TV simply won't do.
I see Adam is thinking along the same lines.
I've mentioned before (I believe it was in one of the newsgroups) that I keep a guitar next to my desk. What do *you* do while waiting for SSMS or SSIS to finish, especially with longer operations?
I'm not going to tag anyone (I tend not to be a menace ;), but I'd still be interested in what you think or what you'd do to become better at whatever you do professionally.