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Actualize Blog

I Have Only One Hour a Day to Teach Myself Programming. How Should I Use It?

By Jay Wengrow, CEO of Actualize

An hour a day is actually a significant amount of time to learn something new! People assume that one needs to invest a tremendous amount of time to learn to code, and that's actually not the case. It is true that the more time you put in, the faster you'll learn, but if you're okay with a longer timeframe, an hour a day is plenty.

In fact, if you had the choice to spend ten hours learning to code over the weekend versus spending one hour each day of the week, I'd recommend the latter. There are actually two reasons for this:

1. Consistency is key. By learning and practicing something each and every day, you don't have the chance to forget stuff or get rusty.

2. Sleep is a learning tool. I've found in my own experience that after working at something one day, once I sleep at night and return to it the following day, I have a better perspective of what I was working on. There's real science behind this as well. In any case, by learning something each day, you benefit from the sleep each night to help consolidate and remember what you've learned.

In terms of what you should learn when spending just an hour a day, my recommendation isn't much different from what it would be if you had more time. The one thing about spending just an hour a day is that you presumably won't be able to attend courses or anything like that. That limits you to books and online resources.

Personally, I recommend following a tutorial that has a curriculum that you can follow. Resources like FreeCodeCamp and The Odin Project make sense to me because there's a set order to things and a logical progression. I haven't used these tools myself, but just the fact that they have a curriculum sets them apart from one-off tutorials or books.

A common trap that people fall into is that they individual topics as soon as they read somewhere that the particular topic is the "next big thing" or the "most important thing". The problem with this is that every person on the internet has a different opinion of what's important, and if you listened to everyone, you'd be spending all your time chasing phantoms. You'd start working on one topic, but before getting real traction with it, you'd abandon it to learn something else that you've just discovered is "more important."

When working through a planned-out curriculum, though, you can just stick with it and progress naturally both in the number of topics you learn as well as your depth of understanding of each topic. The trick here is to commit to a curriculum and not veer from it.

If while working through a curriculum, you're having FOMO (fear of missing out), and wondering if you're learning the right thing, know this: Once you learn a set of programming topics well, it becomes much easier to learn any new topic. Say that you're working with a curriculum that teaches you the front-end framework VueJS. Don't sweat about the fact that React may be more popular, because once you learn VueJS and a gain proficiency in the fundamental concepts of a front-end framework, you can afterwards, at any time, jump into a one-off React tutorial and learn whatever you need there.

Therefore, my advice is this: Find an online resource with a laid-out curriculum that you think looks good, and stick with it. Just commit to it, see it through, and before you know it, you'll have learned a ton!

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