There are tonnes of great resources on the internet to help you improve your life. Most are completely free. It’s one of the best things about living in the 21st century. This article is a run-down of my 12 favourite resources.
I can’t yet claim this website is the only resource you need to improve your life. The following websites, podcasts, newsletters and forums are the ones I’ve got the most value out of over the past 15+ years. And I’d still recommend all 12 of them. There’s a mix of resources aimed at beginners to nerds, across the whole range of topics, from the science of wellbeing, to saving money.
James Clear’s blog (obviously)
If there’s anyone at all all interested in self-improvement that hasn’t heard of James Clear, I’d be amazed. His website is full of well-written stories that bring out interesting aspects of self-improvement. And his bestselling book, Atomic Habits is well worth a read – even if you’ve read everything on his blog, like I have.
If I were to summarise his ideas in a few words, I’d say: systems are more important than goals; setting up your environment is the best way to better habits; habits happen through cue, craving, response and reward (and you can manipulate those); start with small habits, then build up.
Ali Abdaal’s YouTube channel
Ali Abdaal is the younger, more human face of productivity. His humility and normality is endearing, and the videos are well made. Plus he covers some important topics that will improve your life.
His earlier videos like this one on spaced repetition genuinely add a lot of value, and are exactly what I aspire to. Recently he’s doing more of the productivity/earning money pron, which if anything will inspire you, rather than teach you – but of course that stuff is hugely popular.
I also enjoy the Not Overthinking podcast he does with his brother Taimur, partly because Taimur challenges Ali in a way you suspect he isn’t usually challenged.
Tiago Forte’s blog (some articles behind subscription)
>> Visit Praxis
There are all sort of other articles on there too. My favourites are where he takes a concept from another field – such as cooking – and applies it to productivity. The new frame with which to view things is helpful and memorable.
Cal Newport’s blog
Newport is a deep thinker (pun intended) about the world of work, who shares my dislike of social media. His big ideas are a) to block out chunks in our calendars for ‘deep work’ i.e. focused work on substantial tasks without distractions, and b) that to be productive in today’s world, we need to escape the ‘hyperactive hive mind’ of constant communication via email and other messaging channels.
He also writes a column for the New Yorker – I particularly enjoyed this look at the history of productivity – and makes the excellent Deep Questions podcast, where he answers listeners’ productivity queries.
Mr Money Mustache
>> Visit MMM
This blog is about how to achieve ‘financial independence’ and ‘retire’ early (aka the ‘FIRE’ movement) without having a huge income. Despite the awful name, it’s a must-read, even for those who aren’t aspiring to those goals. It’s a healthy reminder that most of us can live just as happily – if not more so – on much lower budgets. There’s also solid investment advice for the layperson.
Tim Harford’s blog
Tim Harford is insanely productive. Even consuming all his excellent work – More or Less, Cautionary Tales, his books, and his constant stream of blog posts – is a lot to keep up with. But you can’t not do, because it’s so good.
In a time of fake news and misleading statistics, Harford is the person you need to help you understand what’s going on. Oh, and he seems to think the current UK government are a bunch of dangerous clowns, which makes me like him even more.
The Tim Ferriss podcast
The Tim Ferriss podcast provides tonnes of ideas to try out that might improve your life. Some of the stuff seems to be extrapolating from his own personal case (or those of his podcasts guests), but you should take any advice with a pinch of salt, anyway.
Ferriss was onto a lot of things before they were popular, such as: ‘lifestyle design’ (a term he coined), outsourcing, minimalism, psychedelics, the ‘minimum effective dose’, speed learning, drop shipping, ‘batching’ tasks like email, templating, using routines, stoicism, and digital nomading. You can even argue he significantly shaped podcasting by popularising the long-form interview. So fair play to him!
Another bonus of the Tim Ferriss podcast is that it brings you into contact with loads of other interesting people, whose ideas you might want to go deeper into. I definitely came across other places on this list through Tim.
The podcast is worth subscribing to, but for a quicker run through of his ideas, try the start here page on his blog.
Money Saving Expert (for people in the UK)
>> Visit MSE
MSE is the best UK resource for saving/gaining money on anything you’re going to spend a significant sum on, or put your money into. I don’t use it for that many transactions, but if I’m thinking of changing bank accounts, buying insurance, getting a new credit card, or trying to save money on expensive hotel accommodation, I try to check here first to make sure I’m getting a good deal. Over the years, it’s saved or made me thousands of pounds.
The Song Exploder podcast
I mentioned this podcast in my article about How to find good new music. Each episode has the artist breaking down the song and explaining what they were doing.
It might not improve your life massively, but if you spend a lot of time listening to music, like I do, then it’s worth learning to appreciate it from the artist’s perspective. Don’t just listen to the ones about songs you already know.
My favourite episodes: Heat Waves by Glass Animals, Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend, Everything I Wanted by Billie Eilish, Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, Levitating by Dua Lipa, Colors by Black Pumas, In Cold Blood by Alt-J, And It’s Still Alright by Nathaniel Rateliff and So Afraid by Janelle Monae.
The Happiness Lab podcast
Some good episodes:
The No Stupid Questions podcast
>> Visit NSQ
A dive into questions in psychology with Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth, of Freakonomics and Grit fame, respectively. Some favourite episodes are:
I got into this through the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which is even better, but less about topics that can improve your life.
Reddit + keyword
Stuff on Reddit is a jumble of everything from brilliant insight to unhinged nonsense. I definitely don’t recommend spending all your time there. But if you want to know what people think about a topic – especially very niche ones – then googling Reddit + whatever keyword you’re interested in is a good place to start.
The Self Improvement Reddit is the most relevant to improving your life, and you’ll find plenty of branches off there.
If there are any great resources I’ve missed, I’d love to hear about them, so let me know.