Ah, so you’ve got the personal development itch again?
Maybe you’re looking to build better habits, or come up with a better solution for setting goals, or learn how to manage your thoughts better.
Whatever it is, today’s article will cover some of the best personal development tools that align with your current goals.
The tricky part about personal development is that there are many different strategies you can implement. As a result, it can be quite overwhelming when you start to think about which path of improvement you want to go down.
You can’t implement 4-5 different strategies at once, because you’ll burn out and not make any progress. So the alternative is to put forward massive effort on one thing that you believe will have the biggest impact on your life.
Let these personal development tools serve as inspiration. I have no doubt that no matter what your goals are, there’s bound to be a tool or two on this list that will help you achieve your goals.
What Are The Best Personal Development Tools?
There’s not one specific answer here because we’re all different – we all have different shortcomings, challenges, and inadequacies that need to be overcome.
Before we get into the list, I recommend writing down the top 3 struggles you’re currently facing when it comes to facing personal development. This will inform your decision of which tool to start implementing.
Whatever solution seems to line up with your current struggles is going to be the best personal development tool for you. At the end of the day, you know yourself best.
Take a couple minutes to write down your biggest struggles with personal development , and then as you go through this list of personal development tools, you’ll find some that resonate more than others due to your current situation.
Are There Different Types of Tools For Personal Development?
I like to separate personal development tools into two categories – offline and online.
Offline personal development tools are the ways you can improve yourself without an internet connection or access to a computer. Online tools refers to things like apps, podcasts, courses, membership sites, and more.
There’s no clear-cut answer as to which type is more effective, because when used properly both of them can help you get what you want. Choosing between the two mainly comes down to personal preference.
If you’re looking for tools that focus on education and knowledge about a particular subject, then you’ll probably get more out of your time leveraging the internet.
If you’re looking to practice mindfulness, manage your emotions better, or become more grateful, then it’s hard to practice those things while you’re staring at your laptop.
Offline Personal Development Tools
To kick off this list, we’ll be talking about offline tools first.
Tools #1 & 2: Tracking Your Habits + Habit Sizing
Who This Is For – People who struggle with consistently sticking to new habits
I remember when I used to laugh at the idea of tracking my habits. Everyone kept going on and on about how important it was to track your habits every day, but just I didn’t buy it.
In my eyes, I either did something or I didn’t do it, there was no need to record it because I consciously knew the choice that lay before me each day.
But after reading dozens of books about habits, written by people much smarter than me, my previous assumptions about tracking were incorrect. When implemented the right way, it’s a highly effective strategy for improving consistency and maintaining motivation.
And when paired with habit sizing, you’ll be able to create a systematized plan for getting the life you want. The problem is that most habit tracking and habit building strategies are black and white. You commit to doing something, and then you record it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Here’s how you take advantage of these two personal development tools and create a situation where you have multiple ways to win.
Essentially, you come up with 3 different variations of the habit you’re trying to build that correspond to a certain level of difficulty – easy, medium, and hard. This is what habit sizing refers to.
Each habit has a point value – Easy habits are worth one point when completed, medium habits are worth 3, and hard habits are worth 5. Each day, your goal is to hit one of these targets and track it by writing down the point value associated with the habit.
No matter what, your easy habit should be impossible to say no to. It should take you less than two minutes to do so that you can win the day no matter what. Your easy habit is your safety net when external factors get in the way of your motivation – and the beauty of this safety net is that you’ll never break the chain.
Each day, you’ll be tracking your progress and writing down which habit you performed and give yourself the appropriate score – one point, three points, or five points.
By the end of the month, you’ll add up all the scores from each day and you’ll be left with a total score for the month. After that point, all you really need to focus on is beating your previous monthly score.
Here’s what’s awesome about this strategy:
First off, you get a win every day. Small wins on the days you don’t feel like pushing yourself help solidify the chains of whatever your habit you’re trying to build.
Additionally, you’re more motivated to stay disciplined when you actually see signs of progress. One of the main reasons people struggle to build better habits is because they give up and retreat to old patterns after they don’t see results in a month.
Change is not a linear process, you’re not going to see tangible progress every day. Typically, you’re going to suffer through a period where everything stays the same even though you’re sticking to your habit. The quantum leaps you’re looking for don’t show up.
However, as you build daily consistency over several months, maybe even a full year, you start seeing the monumental changes that you’re looking for. Everything that you’ve been doing starts to compound and you find that you’re a completely different person.
Suffering through the first few months where nothing changes is a necessary step to seeing those breakthroughs.
That’s why habit tracking and habit sizing are the perfect antidote to the constant starting and stopping of new habits. Through the use of a point system, you’ll actually see yourself making tangible progress which will motivate you to stick to the process.
Habit tracking and habit sizing are actually two of the core strategies in my course, Build Better Habits, which you can get more information on by clicking here.
#3 – Practicing Mindfulness
Who Is This For – People who struggle to detach from their thoughts and stay focused, chronic worriers, people who tend to feel “on edge” all the time.
Another one of the most effective personal development tools out there is learning how to take control of your thoughts and be present.
The world we live in today is full of distraction, not just internally but externally. We not only have to block out ads that manipulate our psychology, and social media apps designed to hook our attention – we also have to block out the endless mental chatter that broadcasts daily inside our brain.
Mindfulness is the art of detaching from this endless mental chatter and living life in the present moment.
By staying grounded and detaching from your thoughts, you’ll actually be able to have an engaging conversation with a friend/stranger without thinking about every unfinished task on your to-do list.
You’ll be able to work efficiently because your attention isn’t constantly being pulled away from what needs to get done right now.
You’ll be less anxious because you’re not letting unnecessary, illogical thoughts about the stressors in your life take over your internal dialogue.
Mindfulness is a meta-skill – if you are able to develop it, you simultaneously improve all areas of your life.
Here are some of the best daily habits that will help you develop the skill of mindfulness:
- Daily mediation for 10 minutes (any type). Make sure to start small at 2-5 minutes and then increase the time
- Pick an activity and dedicate all of your conscious attention to it for five minutes. It can be something stupid simple, just make sure to catch yourself whenever your mind wanders.
- Do a mindfulness walk. Simply walk outside in nature and notice and observe your thoughts without getting attached to them. If you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to the present and start noticing what’s around you.
#4 – Minimizing Your Life
Who Is This For – People who feel like they have far too many distractions taking their time and attention away from the things that matter.
Minimalism is another one of those personal development tools that grew on me over time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea of minimizing, it’s essentially about removing things from your life that you don’t truly need.
There are certain things in our life that we genuinely do need – food and water, shelter, transportation, etc.
But most of the other stuff is just window dressing – gaming consoles, televisions, clothes that we don’t wear, extra bags that we don’t use, etc.
Minimizing your life is about choosing consciously when and where to focus your attention as opposed to living by default and falling victim to the infinite number of distractions around you.
Now, I want to be clear – I’m not a hardcore minimalist by any means. I’ve minimized my life in some ways, but I still have a television because I enjoy watching my favorite shows. I still have a gaming console because I enjoy playing video games with my friends.
Are those activities necessary when it comes to achieving my goals? Not at all, but there comes a point where you need to balance strict discipline with downtime. And until I feel like these things have become a huge liability in my life, I don’t plan on giving them up.
You don’t need to sell your car, or downsize to a house that’s half the size of your current one in order to minimize your life. All you need to do is start removing things that don’t contribute any value to your life.
What about the clothes that you wore once and then never wore again? What about the eight different backpacks or handbags you haven’t used in years? What about the endless stacks of useless items in your garage? Do you truly need those things? No, you really don’t, and you won’t miss them when they’re gone.
When you make more room for the things that matter by removing the things that don’t, you’ll realize just how unimportant practically everything is.
#5 – Figure Out Your Sleep Chronotype
Who Is This For – People who tend to feel sluggish in their day to day lives, or don’t feel like they wake up re-charged
I have a confession to make – lately my sleep schedule has been an absolute mess. I’ve been routinely going to bed past 1 o’clock and then either doing one of two things – forcing myself up early or sleeping in late.
How has this recent trend of terrible sleep impacted my life?
Well, I’ve been experiencing less energy, which makes it harder to get things done. I’ve also experienced a dip in motivation, which means I’ve been relying more on willpower lately, meaning I have less to use late in the day.
I’ve also found myself to be more anxious and “on edge” than usual because it feels pretty shameful to start your day when most people are eating lunch or on their second cup of coffee.
You wanna know how important getting on a proper schedule is? Purposely mess yours up for a couple weeks and see how you feel. You’ll never want to go off the rails again.
The reason that I’ve been so out of whack lately is because of something called a sleep chronotype. If you really want to stay ahead of your peers, I recommend finding out what yours is.
For those of you who are completely lost right now, your sleep chronotype is essentially the biological clock that’s ticking away inside your body right now. Depending upon your chronotype, your body has been programmed to function much better at certain times of the day as opposed to others.
There are actually certain people who are genetically designed to function better when they stay up late and wake up in the afternoon, but I’m not one of those people – hence the reason why I’ve been experiencing the side effects outlined above.
Each of us have an ideal time to wake up, drink coffee, workout, and even have sex. These times are depending upon our sleep chronotype, and if your schedule doesn’t align with your chronotype, you’re going to feel more tired and sluggish than usual.
To find out your sleep chronotype, simply spend a few minutes taking this short quiz created by Michael Breus, one of the leading sleep experts in the country.
Once you have your chronotype, Breus walks you through how to optimally design your day so that you’re doing the right things at the right times.
By designing your schedule to work with your body and not against it, you’ll have more energy, get more done, and improve your overall mood simply by adjusting your sleep/wake schedule.
Online Personal Development Tools
Now that we’ve talked about some of the best offline personal development tools, let’s shift the focus to online.
Full disclosure, some of these tools will be paid services. But don’t worry, if you don’t feel like spending money I’ll cover some free personal development tools that have tremendous value.
#1 – Reddit
Who Is This For – Anyone looking to improve their life
You probably thought reddit was a community of web sleuths and shady characters who have conversations about conspiracy theories and the existence of aliens, but it’s not.
While that’s not to say there aren’t some shady threads on Reddit, it’s actually a sneaky valuable resource if you’re looking to improve your life.
There are several channels where people who are on the journey of self-improvement gather to share ideas and motivate each other to become better.
Here are some channels that you might find valuable:
- Subreddit – Self Improvement
- Subreddit – Get Motivated
- Subreddit – Productivity
- Subreddit – Zen Habits
#2 – Udemy
Who Is This For – Anyone who is looking to improve their life and prefers to learn by video courses
Udemy is an eLearning website where creators share their information they have learned with the world in the form of video courses. You can pretty much learn anything you want to on Udemy – cooking, coding, improving your time management, essentially whatever peaks your interest.
This site really is your oyster – you get out of it as much as you put into it.
Since you’re probably here because you want to improve your life in some way, here’s a few of the most highly recommended courses on Udemy for subjects like: building better habits, increasing productivity, becoming more mindful.
A simple search for something like “habits,” will pull up results like these:
Note – Even if the price of the course is $97 or $127, don’t worry. Udemy routinely runs sales where you can get these same courses for $12.99 or $16.99, and they happen quite frequently.
- Best Course on Building Better Habits
- Best Course on Productivity and Time Management
- Best Course on Becoming More Mindful
#3 – Unhooked Chrome Extension
Who This Is For – People who get stuck down the “Youtube Rabbit Hole”
Ever found yourself in this situation?
You’re sitting in bed and decide to open up Youtube. Eventually, you stumble across a video that looks interesting. Once you watch that video, you click on a semi-related video that talks about a similar topic. And then you do this again, and again, and again until you realize that it’s been an hour since you opened up your computer.
It’s okay, we all fall victim to the Youtube Rabbit Hole from time to time, but what if I told you there was a tool that makes it almost impossible to get trapped by Youtube’s algorithm?
Here’s the thing – Youtube’s algorithm knows you better than you know yourself. It’s able to make stunningly accurate predictions because it has a tremendous amount of data on your tastes, preferences, and interests.
Your willpower is no match for an algorithm designed to get you to spend as much time as possible on it’s platform. However, you can take willpower out of the equation completely and flip the paradigm by downloading the Chrome Extension called “Unhooked” .
This extension removes Youtube’s ability to recommend videos – meaning if you want to watch a video you have to actively search for it.
To give you an idea, here’s what my Youtube homepage looks like:
Since downloading this extension (which is free by the way), I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve gotten stuck down the Youtube Rabbit Hole.
#4 – Podcasts
Who Is This For – Busy people who want to make the most of their time
There’s more information out there than ever before, and the world of podcasting plays a big part in that.
It seems like every day knowledgeable experts, celebrities, and personal development gurus are hopping aboard the podcast bandwagon.
The great part about podcasts is that you can learn how to improve your life while you’re working out at the gym, or driving home, or going on a walk. More importantly though, I tend to find the nature of the conversations on podcasts more engaging and insightful.
They just feel more raw because rarely is someone trying to sell you something directly – the dialogue between the host and the guest is the product, not some course.
The podcast world is pretty noisy, and there’s certainly a lot of personal development podcasts that aren’t going to be worth your time, but here are a few worth listening to next time you need to pass the time:
- Lewis Howes: School of Greatness
- Tom Bileyu: Impact Theory
- Tim Ferriss: The Tim Ferriss Show
- Hal Elrod: Achieve Your Goals
#5 – Build Better Habits Course
Who Is This For – People who struggle with creating consistent change in their life
Alright, shameless plug time.
Build Better Habits is a course created by yours truly that walks you through how to get off the self-improvement hamster wheel and start living the life you deserve.
For years, I struggled with the art of consistently sticking to new habits. No matter how motivated I was, or how badly I wanted to change, none of my efforts to change resulted in success.
After spending thousands of hours researching and writing about topics like habit formation and behavior change, I simply applied what I had learned into my own life and created a system for change that allowed me to build good habits and have fun doing it.
The ideas of habit sizing and habit stacking are definitely part of the philosophy outlined in the course, but it goes so much deeper than that. Build Better Habits is a course that once you’ve completed, gives you the ability to choose any change you want to make and see it through.
I hope you enjoyed this article talking about some of the best personal development tools out there that you can use to improve your life.
You really do have unlimited options when it comes to developing yourself – all you have to do is pick one thing and stick to it.
Most people try something out for a little while, and then move onto the next shiny object that they’re convinced will bring them the fulfillment they are looking for.
My best advice to you is to pick one of these tools, make it a big priority in your life, and then take determined, focused action. If you’re able to stay consistent and show up every day, you’ll be shocked at the changes that start to show up for you in the long-term.