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Tips To Make Learning Programming Easy

Tips To Make Learning Programming Easy

Learning to code is challenging. It’s especially difficult if you try to learn programming on your own without the guidance of a university or a coding bootcamp. Both kinds of programs are extremely helpful because they provide a structured approach, but self-taught programmers have to figure it out on their own. Fortunately, anyone can learn programming for free and avoid the many traps and pitfalls if they follow the principles outlined below:

Commit to one programming language

When someone decides to learn how to code, the first thing they will naturally do is figure out what language they should learn. It’s a common mistake to pick a language only to ditch it for a new language a couple weeks later. I personally repeated this process four or five times before settling on a language that I was committed to. My reasons for switching varied from not being able to find good tutorials, to someone on the internet bashing my language of choice. Over a year passed before I had actually settled on something and stuck with it.

The reality is that it doesn’t matter what language you pick to learn in programming, as long as you learn it well enough to understand the overall principles of web development and software engineering, and that it can build what you’re trying to create. If you don’t take time to develop your skills and learn how all the pieces fit together in one language you’ll essentially start over every time you switch. Learning the language’s syntax is the easy part. The challenging part is learning how to engineer a product and understand the overall structure of a program. These are the skills that carryover from language to language.

You also want to move fast and make progress in order to stay motivated. If you keep switching languages you’ll never build an awesome product or reach any of your goals. I highly encourage you to experiment with new technologies, but before you do that you should build a solid foundation so you can make money and have a couple significant projects under your belt.

For your first programming language there’s only a few important qualities I recommend and they have nothing to do with whether they are “single-threaded” or “statically typed” or anything like that. The qualities I recommend finding in a language are maturity, potential use cases and current popularity. There are many good languages, but two stand out for people trying to learn programming.

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Java

Java was released in 1995 and took the world by storm. It is and always has been extremely popular. Just take a look at any job board and you’ll see far more job openings in Java than any other language, second only to SQL (a database language). The number of jobs is important for job security, but it’s not the best metric to go by because this metric goes up and down. There are other important considerations that make Java a great choice.

This language is very mature. It’s been used by colleges for years as the standard language for teaching, and it has an almost infinite amount of tutorials and books to help you learn. With around 9 million Java developers you’ll have answers to almost every question imaginable. Java is boring because it’s not the “new kid” on the block, but for a first time programmer you want mature and boring. The endless supply of free tutorials, books and documentation ensure that you can learn programming.

Java is also extremely flexible, which is what really makes the language a great choice. You can build server-side applications, enterprise apps, fully functional web applications, and even mobile apps. This gives you a wide variety of programs to build, jobs to have, or markets to take your product all with this one language. No other language will give you this amount of freedom. People who want to learn programming often don’t know what language to pick, and because Java is so flexible it’s hard to go wrong.

PHP

Yes, I said it. PHP is a great language for first timers. If you didn’t know, PHP is loathed in the programming community. If you admit to being a PHP programmer you might as well admit you have leprosy. They say it’s a poorly designed language that is full of problems, but I still believe there are several incredible benefits to learning PHP.

First of all, PHP is incredibly popular. In 2013 there were over 240 million websites using PHP, and according to W3Techs over 80% of the sites whose server-side language they know uses PHP. This popularity ensures you’ll have an endless supply of free tutorials and books to learn with. It’s also a very flexible language and beginner friendly, making it easy to learn. PHP also has powerful frameworks, like Laravel, to speed up your web development. You cannot build mobile applications with PHP, but it has something else just as good–WordPress.

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WordPress is an immensely powerful content management system written in PHP. It’s perfect for the typical small business owner and blogger all the way up to massive sites, like Fortune magazine and Time Inc. WordPress is completely customizable with the use of “plugins” which add features like E-commerce, photo galleries, and anything else you can imagine.

It’s estimated that over 20% of the entire web is using WordPress to run their site. Because many of these sites are small businesses and bloggers, it is perfect for a wide variety of jobs from freelancing to Fortune 500 companies and everything in between.

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    Photo by PicJumbo

    I’ve no doubt ruffled some feathers by recommending Java and PHP. There is a group of haters for every language. If you have a reason for choosing something else then do what you think is best, but PHP or Java will cover almost any first time developer needs, and they have an almost unlimited supply of jobs and developers. That’s why I recommend one of them as a first language. Whatever you do, pick something and stick with it. Check out other languages you can use to learn programming with this infographic.

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    Break your learning into smaller goals

    Now that you’ve chosen your language and made a commitment, you are ready to start learning. If you want to learn programming for free, then you’ll have to be tactful with your approach. The best way I’ve found is to break down the learning process into small parts and focus.

    HTML/CSS

    Just about every web language will utilize HTML/CSS, which is the “markup language”. I recommend spending at least a couple of days getting familiar with HTML and CSS. Find some beginner tutorials and read the documentation. A lot of this part will be learn as you go, so don’t be afraid to jump into the next step when you feel like you understand the main idea of HTML and CSS.

    Language basics

    Spend some time learning the basics of your language. Use a combination of tutorials and documentation to learn about things like booleans, strings, arrays, etc. You will also want to get familiar with functions and object oriented programming. Sites like CodeCademy.com are great for learning the basics of your language, but any free tutorial should help you get started. It’s one thing to learn the syntax, but the real challenge is applying these skills to real projects.

    The best way to learn programming is to build simple projects with what you are learning. Build things like “Fizz Buzz”, tic-tac-toe, blackjack, or loan calculators. Search the internet for programming exercises and complete them. Some are math intensive, but you should be able to find all kinds of exercises. Don’t feel bad if it takes you a long time to complete exercises you find. They are meant to challenge and improve your thinking abilities. Try to add extra features to the project and build more complex apps each time. Once you feel comfortable, move onto the next stage where everything comes together.

    Web framework

    This is where you tie in the database to build a fully functioning application that can store data, like usernames and user data. All the building blocks of an application are wrapped together in a neat package called a “framework”. Just like with picking a language it’s important to stick with one framework at first so you can focus your efforts and successfully learn programming. I recommend the most widely used framework for each language because it likely has the most documentation and most tutorials. This will be the most challenging part because web frameworks can feel pretty complex at first. If you’re really struggling with this, try spending more time brushing up on Object Oriented Programming before trying again. Don’t give up!

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    If you break the framework down as much as you can and learn each part individually then you’ll soon be able to put it all together to build your idea. Just like with the basics you should be focusing on one thing at a time. You might do a lot of fumbling around trying to figure it out, but if you stay committed to one framework and keep trying the various tutorials and reading the documentation you’ll soon find yourself building simple apps, and eventually things you are truly proud of. Baby steps are the key to success when you try to learn programming. This is also a good time to do more programming challenges or exercises inside of a web framework. Start small and work your way up. Build the same tic-tac-toe, blackjack, and loan calculators inside the framework using its design philosophies.

    While frameworks are important, I don’t recommend spending all your time using them. It’s important to learn how the language works on a deeper level by understanding what’s going on “under the hood”. Writing code without the help of a framework can give you a different perspective.

    Using tutorials efficiently

    Going through random tutorials on the internet isn’t the most efficient way to learn programming, and downloadable books range in quality from amazing to “Wow, this is really bad”, but with a little effort on your part you can learn programming for free almost as quickly as if you were to pay for a programming course. Here are some key points I wish I would have known when I started learning programming.

    Read the documentation religiously. The better you learn to read the docs, the better programmer you will become. Documentation is not meant to be read like a regular book or article. You have to read slowly, stop often, and have a text editor open so you can try the examples out if it doesn’t make sense. Reading the docs is hard but it’s necessary if you want to learn programming. With every tutorial you go through make sure you’re looking up everything in the documentation that you don’t understand.

    You will be guaranteed to run into problems when following along with tutorials. When you encounter problems it’s a good idea to embrace the tutorial as your own project. When you get errors, use Google to search them and fix the error. If the instructions aren’t specific enough, try a couple things you think will work. Do whatever it takes to figure the problem out and keep going with the tutorial. Do not mindlessly copy and paste code and throw it out at the slightest problem. If all else fails then go ahead and try another tutorial. There are plenty out there to use, just give it your best shot before you move on.

    Learning to code does not have to be hard. If you make a commitment, break things down, and make a little progress each day then you’ll be building any and every type of program you can think of sooner than you think. The trick is to keep at it, keep learning, and never give up on your goals.

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    Last Updated on August 21, 2018

    18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2018 Updated)

    18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2018 Updated)

    No one can dispute the countless benefits technology has brought us. It’s undoubtedly allowed us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources beyond what was once imaginable.

    If you’re not taking advantage of one of the hundreds of time management apps and tools out there, you’re definitely missing a trick.

    But with so many apps to choose from, how do you know which ones to use? Well, this will depend on your needs, but we’ve put together a list of 18 of the very best time management apps that can help you with the most common time management challenges.

    Let’s dive straight into the list…

    1. Rescue Time — Use your time wisely

      If you have doubts that you’re using your time sensibly, this app will send you weekly reports to indicate what things are stealing your time. You may be shocked to discover how much time you’re actually wasting.

      Download Rescue Time

      2. Remember The Milk — Keep on top of all your tasks

        If you’re struggling to manage everything you have to do, and you work with many different devices, then this is the app for you. It’s a great free tool which is compatible with your mobile, computer, Gmail, Outlook, etc. It helps you to manage your tasks easily, and reminds you of them – wherever you are.

        Download Remember the Milk

        3. Focus Booster – Boost motivation to complete tasks

          This app is based on the principles of the Pomodoro Technique, and is aimed at individuals who procrastinate and feel overwhelmed by tasks. It’s designed to enhance your focus and remove any anxiety you might have with time pressures.

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          Download Focus Booster

          4. Toggl – Keep track of time spent on projects and tasks

            This is a great alternative to time-sheets, if you need to track how much time you spend on different projects. Effective time management starts with being clear on exactly how much time you actually spend on your projects and tasks, and then through analysis, working out how you can manage them more effectively.

            Download Toggl

            5. Dropbox — Store and send large files easily

              There are many apps that allow you to transfer content from your computer to other devices – but Dropbox is free and easier to use than the others. With the Dropbox app, you can even access and share important files on the go.

              Download Dropbox

              6. Evernote — Keep all your notes in one place

                Evernote is a free productivity tool that allows you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in many different ways (e.g., with voice, notes or images).  You can even record your meetings, interviews, speeches and ideas, create lists, add voice or text attachments, and share your files with friends. You can also sync Remember The Milk with Evernote to really optimize your time.

                Download Evernote

                7. Mind42 — Focus on tasks at hand with mind mapping

                  Mind mapping is a great productivity technique, and Mind42 is the best free mind mapping app currently available. It helps you to become more organized by focusing your thoughts – thereby gaining clarity on what needs to be done.

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                  Download Mind42

                  8. SyncBackFree — Back up and sync your files effortlessly

                    This free software allows you to back up, restore and synchronize your files easily. It not only saves you time now – but also in the future. If you have never backed up your files before, you should definitely take a look at this pivotal tool.

                    Download SnycBackFree

                    9. MyLifeOrganized (MLO) — Manage your to-do lists effectively

                      Check this out if you find it difficult to manage all your tasks, to work with your to-do lists, and to organize your goals. This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives. It automatically generates to-do lists, with priority actions for your immediate attention so that you can track your progress methodically.

                      Download MyLifeOrganized (MLO)

                      10. 1Password — Have all your passwords remembered

                        This app allows you to keep all your passwords in one encrypted database, protected by one password. This saves you time when you forget your passwords and need to retrieve them. It also allows you to use various passwords for different accounts so you don’t compromise on security.

                        Download 1Password

                        11. Pocket — Keep your eye on the ball

                          When you’re surfing the web, it’s easy to get distracted by enticing and fascinating websites. Use this tool to save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a convenient time which will not impact on your immediate work.

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                          Download Pocket

                          12. Focus@Will — Boost your attention span

                            This amazing app combines neuroscience and music to boost your productivity. According to the developers, it’s possible to increase your attention span by up to 400%! Ideal for those who find it difficult to focus while studying, working or reading.

                            Download Focus@Will

                            13. Launchy — Interact with your computer in a smart way

                              This small and simple tool allows you to launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. This makes life so much easier as you don’t need to go through the start menu to access what you want.

                              Download Launchy

                              14. Forest — Boost your focus by growing a forest

                                This unique and fun app helps you stay focused and on-track. The concept is simple: whenever you want to focus, plant a virtual tree. If you stay focused, the tree will grow. If you lose focus, the tree will die. As the app’s name implies, you can grow multiple trees to create a virtual forest!

                                Download Forest

                                15. Trello — Track your projects in a highly visual way

                                  This is a hugely popular app that you may already be familiar with. It works by allowing you to create cards for tasks that you need to complete. Each card moves across the Trello board (which is typically broken into columns such as To Do, In Progress, and Completed) as your start, work on and complete the associated task.

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                                  Download Trello

                                  16. Wunderlist — Digitalize your to-do lists

                                    Purchased by Microsoft in 2015, Wunderlist is an easy to use, feature-packed to-do list app. From planning a holiday, to sharing a shopping list with a partner, or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist will keep you on top of all your tasks.

                                    Download Wunderlist

                                    17. TimeTree — Have a shared calendar with your family

                                      This app allows families or teams to share multiple calendars and appointments. So, whether you’re planning a party, or run a local sports team, Time Tree can keep everyone up-to-date with all current and upcoming activities and events.

                                      Download Time Tree

                                      18. Todoist — Capture and order all your tasks and activities easily

                                        Todoist is close to being the ultimate digital to-do list. It’s available via browsers and apps, and lets you schedule all your tasks and activities. Each item can be flagged for priority as well as given a due date. There is also a neat option to add notes to any of your tasks.

                                        Download Todoist

                                        The above list covers what we consider to be the very best time management apps and tools. And the good news is – that many of them are completely free of charge! So, what are you waiting for? Select the ones that will be the most valuable to you – and begin boosting your productivity now!

                                        Oh, and one more thing… Take a look at a couple of our other articles that will help further streamline your time management:

                                        40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone and 20 Quick Tips For Better Time Management

                                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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