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Objective and subjective struggles | Effective Living Newsletter

man struggling to get work done

Dear Friend,

I hope things are going well. I generally dislike the cliche mindframe/quote/pithy saying stuff you get in most self-improvement newsletters, usually written by white dudes like me. So I hope you’ll forgive me the title of this newsletter.

This week I felt like the creativity really wasn’t coming. Everything seemed like a struggle. But come the end of the week, I saw I’d issued four more articles (plus this newsletter), another video (plus I made another one ready to go), had my first go at making an infographic, kept up with my Portuguese learning, exercise and 100-words-a-day writing habits, and even did a little reading. So objectively, it was way more productive than most weeks (sorry for the flexing 🤐).

It was a good reminder that sometimes, the struggle is all in your head. And what helped to uncover that was doing my Weekly Review. So another 👍 for that.

Writing ✍🏼

This week wrote about what I’d have made if I’d followed internet financial advice and how to do a monthly financial review if you don’t like budgeting.

I find writing about finances pretty cringe, but I like reading it elsewhere, so thought I’d take the plunge.

The results of the first piece were interesting to see, even if they’re not directly generalisable. If you need a little bit more motivation to invest or save more, it can be worth doing some calculations yourself.

The second piece is a light-touch approach to doing your finances. I’ve always felt a bit bad that I don’t budget more, but then never do it anyway, so this system can help if you’re in a similar position.

I also finished publishing my series on reviews, with one on the Daily Review, and the Difference between the reviews. I won’t go into those here, but you can check them out on the site.

Silly YouTube video 📺

My second YouTube video (feat. Provocative Title) is out: Fuck Tha (Sleep Police). It’s based on my article How much sleep do you need? The article was inspired by reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, then this damning critique. The YouTube video does a short summary of those arguments.

The even shorter version is that Walker’s book is hugely popular, but that it contains a substantial amount of misleading information. He’s also a bit shady about where he got his PhD.

What I’ve been paying attention to 👀

Deliberate practice techniques

I enjoyed this Inforium podcast on Deliberate Practice. I’ve read a few things on this semi-controversial topic, and this is a nice round-up in a relaxed style.

If you’re interested in the debate around deliberate practice versus trying out lots of different things, I’d recommend Matthew Syed’s Bounce, and David Epstein’s Range. The former gives examples of people who have triumphed by deliberately working on specific skills, while the latter looks at counter-examples of those who have been successful by trying out lots of different things. Clearly, both can be positive, but what is the best active strategy?

And doing 💪

I’ve been playing around with locking myself out of certain apps on my phone between 10am and 10pm. At this stage, if I want to use an app, I still just open it, but having to do the extra tap makes me more conscious of it, which is the first step in changing the behaviour.

Oh, and…🚍

Weirdly, I’ve been most productive this week when I’ve been a) tired and b) on a bus. What’s with that?

What’s coming up this week

This week I’m writing about my favourite other places on the internet for improving your life, including some short summaries of others’ best ideas.

As ever, I’d appreciate any feedback on this newsletter, or on the articles I’ve written this week. You can directly reply to this email, or contact me at

All the best until next week,


P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @TheTomNorth, or get a feed of my latest articles @ELivingCo.

And if you have a friend who might appreciate this newsletter, they can sign up on the website.