Here's some advice (aimed at total beginners) in how to take the first step towards learning to code. The resources here are, where possible, free, or free to try, and they were selected for their accessibility to beginners and usefulness for real work.

It's not exhaustive - there are tons of resources available online - but if you want to learn to code this could be a good first step. 

Work with data...

If you're thinking of working with large or complex databases, and taking a jump up from the spreadsheets you're used to, SQL is in high demand with large companies and there is a lot of work for skilled SQL-ers. (I'm told, disappointingly, it's not pronounced squeal, but sequel.) 

Here's a basic explanation of SQL:

W3 Schools, Codeacademy and Khan Academy have (free) courses on SQL. W3 Schools is like a reference book you can dive in and out of, with interactive lessons, while the other two are structured more like courses. I find W3 Schools suits my haphazard, distracted learning style - but you may prefer the others.

For maths and statistics work, such as the kind done by data journalists, think tanks or academics, Python and R tend to be the most popular languages, but you can also use Javascript and libraries (add-ons to the main language), particularly D3. 

Code Academy and Khan Academy have Python lessons, and there's also an interactive tutorial from Learn Python here.

Beginners who want to learn Javascript can do so with W3 schools, where you can learn hands on, without installing anything, and you can learn D3 with Dashing D3 (I found this easier) or Interactive Data Visualisation for the web, also free. (If the link to the latest version of d3 is dead, get it on this page). 

Before learning either, you'd be advised to learn a bit about web page structure, HTML and CSS (on W3 Schools, say) but you don't need to learn any other Javascript before D3.

Here's a visual introduction to D3 and the kinds of things you can do with it:

Many people have recommended R to me, as it has very specific functions for stats and data, but I've also been told it has a very steep learning curve and Python has a simpler syntax. If you want to learn R, Data Camp has free intro lessons.

Automate your work...

Automation can help you cut down time spent doing boring and repetitive tasks, whether for work or personal use. Automation can be something as simple as turning on your computer and automatically opening all the tabs and apps you need to get started working. Or say your work involves regularly looking up certain search terms plus another word - you could automate that process. 

It's not so much about getting robots to replace your job, as much as it is identifying where you're repeatedly using a programmable tool to do the same thing - and teaching that tool to do it for you.

Father Ted
Let a machine do it for you - or maybe, like Mrs Doyle, you actually like the misery or making tea?

One way to get started automating Windows tasks is AutoHotKey, which is free and open source. This is a tool that at its simplest just creates hotkeys - much like Ctrl + C is a hotkey for copy, and a classic hotkey prank used to be telling people to press Alt + F4.

But you can expand on this to create much more complicated strings of actions, saving you much more impressive amounts of time. Hooray! 

If you're using Mac, Hammerspoon looks like a similar alternative. Both have excellent help files and tutorials to get you started (AutoHotKey's here, Hammerspoon's here).

You could also use Python - there are plenty of lessons around (see the section above on data for more) but this site has a non-threatening intro to Python, aimed at automation.