Everybody struggles: how I got stuck and unstuck this week and what I learned from it

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I’ve been an Outreachy documentation intern for LibreHealth almost a full month now (you can read about how I got the internship here) and I have been enjoying it greatly. That doesn’t mean that it has been all smooth and easy.

When I got the email from Outreachy on this week’s topic, I couldn’t believe how relatable it was. It’s like they were reading my mind. I was struggling for sure, with different aspects of my work. But struggles are the best learning experiences.

The adaptation period

The first few days were hard. I felt lost and useless, I didn’t know what to do and I was struggling to understand what was asked of me because I wasn’t familiarized with many things about the project.

This is totally normal. The key is asking a bunch of questions. If there aren’t any mentors around, make a note and ask later. Ask for clarification anytime you’re unsure about something.

And ask for help if there’s something you feel is beyond your current skill set: this is what will help you learn and grow.

Unforeseen circumstances

During the application process, we were working with a stable demo. After the internship application period ended, they took the stable demo down. The bleeding edge has all the functionality but it looked ugly, so Toni, my mentor, and I spent a couple days trying to make it prettier.

After that, I had finished writing new docs in English so we decided I could start translating some docs that were not translated yet. So when I logged in into the Spanish version I found that many tags were mistranslated, not translated at all, and some were even in Greek!

This is a big problem when it comes to taking screenshots for the docs.

My mentor and I started trying to get help to fix it, but we couldn’t get ahold of the people in charge of localization, and the Holidays were coming up so a lot of people weren’t working. So I was officially stuck!

Don’t bang yourself again the wall: find a hole in it

After a few frustrating days trying to fix the labels myself without success, I decided on an alternative plan: I can do text-only translations for a while, and then put in the screenshots once the labels were fixed.

My thought was: instead of focusing on what I CAN’T do, why don’t I try to see what I CAN do? That thought changed my entire perspective on the situation.

After that, I was able to be productive again, and once my creative juices were flowing I realized that some of the docs could be finished after all, screenshots and all. Not all the labels were off, and for some of the docs I was translating, all the labels were perfectly translated!

The takeaway

If you’re stuck, it’s okay! It happens to everybody. Don’t beat yourself up and try some of the following strategies. These are the ones that worked for me, but if you have any other techniques to get unstuck that work for you, please share them in the comments!

  • Ask questions and clarifications as often as you need it. There aren’t stupid questions. Make notes so you don’t forget to ask something that you’re unsure about.
  • Get creative: if you can’t continue on one track, find an alternative path that will work for now. This way you do something productive with your time instead of being idle and demotivated.

Once you get started getting yourself unstuck, you will notice that things start flowing. Remember that nothing ever runs perfectly smoothly, and the bumps on the road are the ones that will help you deal with obstacles in a better way in the future.

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