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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 October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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