I've been powerlifting for about 2 years now, and one of the things that I love about it is how easy it is to track my own progress. I know how much my lifts are right now compared to my lifts a week ago, compared to a month ago, and even compared to a year ago. I just write it down on an Excel sheet, and I'm Gucci.
The goal is pretty simple: get stronger.
With programming, things are not as clear-cut; it's really not a progression that goes straight from point A to point B. Yes, people do start somewhere: you could've started off learning things at school or at a bootcamp or at an online course. But after that, you're pretty much on your own when it comes to figuring out what you want to do next.
I don't think there is such a thing as a map that you can use on your journey, but here are some guidelines that I use for myself. I hope it helps!
1. Figure out why you want to learn something.
As a frontend engineer, I've always been curious as to what the decision-making process is behind the designs that I get. So right now I'm learning design because I want to know how people come up with usable and beautiful interfaces. Also, it looks fun!
2. Figure out how something will benefit you.
The truth is that you can't learn everything. So the next best thing that you can do is to prioritize the things that are actually going to benefit you. Are you learning this for a project? Can you use this for your freelance gig? Is this skill transferable to other projects? For example, learning about accessibility is something that is useful in web development because it affects a lot of people who access (or can't access) your website.
3. Figure out if you're actually going to use it.
I used to want to learn everything—especially the ones that were being hyped up in the tech industry. I would find myself buying books and taking courses all the time. But because I didn't actually use these skills in real life, I would quickly forget about them. So if you're going to learn something, make it stick. Use them!
Oh, one last thing: you're not in a race! The goal here is to make yourself better that's all. 😊