14 Podcasts to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

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I am a bit of a podcast addict. Sometimes I struggle to start a sentence without “I heard on a podcast the other day” threatening to burst out yet again. Podcasts make my commute enjoyable, allow me to focus on mundane tasks or make them feel like less of a chore (folding laundry/cleaning the kitchen), and make me feel like I’m constantly learning. The following are some of my favorite podcasts that might help us all achieve our New Year’s resolutions. They’re all free and can be found in iTunes or your favorite store.

Gretchen Rubin, self-pronounced “happiness bully” and author of The Happiness Project, believes that resolutions fall into seven categories. My resolutions tend to fall into a few buckets (4. Rest, relax, and enjoy; 5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress; 6. Simplify, clear, and organize). If you have yet to define your goals, I recommend checking out this episode.

Are you trying to get healthier?

I’m pretty good about working out during the week, but I need improvement on the weekends. (Luckily, our new, free CDPHP Fitness ConnectSM locations have made this goal easier.) Generally, I listen to podcasts when I walk or use cardio machines and listen to music when I run. Sometimes I get in a running rut, though, and I’ll listen to podcasts to prevent my brain from trying to calculate how long I’ve been running (one song = 3 min. x number of songs …). Here are a few of my favorites to help me pass the time:

  1. This American Life

Ira Glass is a legend. Each episode has several “acts” with a related theme, and they are always completely engrossing and fascinating. Often they are also very funny. I can’t recommend this show enough.

2.  The Moth

The Moth is famous for its storytelling. These are live shows, with a theme, that run the gamut. Within any given episode you may be blown away, laugh, or cry, but the stories are always moving and wonderful. They suck me right in and make the math equations in my head disappear.

3.  Judge John Hodgman

You might remember John Hodgman as the PC from those Mac commercials a few years ago. Listeners bring their issues to Judge Hodgman’s “court” and he provides a ruling. The episodes are always entertaining and I’ve found myself chuckling on the treadmill or out on a solo run more times than I can count.

Want to be smarter?

4.  Stuff You Should Know

This was my very first podcast. After listening to Josh and Chuck (we’re on a first-name basis) for so many years, I feel like I know these guys. With topics ranging from Who Gets to Name Continents? to How Crumple Zones Work to Jellyfish: Even Cooler Than Octopi?, there’s a ton of variety. And their casual, personal banter (read: tangents galore!) makes the information a little easier to digest. Try any of the other How Stuff Works podcasts, as well. They have a ton of different topics and you’re sure to find one that interests you.

5.  Coffee Break French

Learn French while driving to work! Or Spanish, German, Italian, or Chinese. A while back, I listened to Coffee Break Spanish with my son on the way to and from preschool and Coffee Break French on my own. He was passionate at first, but then he became such a huge fan of Josh and Chuck from Stuff You Should Know that he vehemently refused to listen to any other podcasts.

The Coffee Break Language podcasts present the information in chunks that are easy to digest. I’d love to get back into it (I was amazed by how much high school French I remembered!) and am hoping to devote some time to it in 2017.

Side note: If this is something that interests you, my library (Schenectady County Public Library) offers Mángo languages for free to anyone with a library card. Through this program, users have access to 72 different languages. The website is beautiful and the courses seem comprehensive. Full disclosure: I haven’t taken any courses yet, but I did just register! Check to see if your library offers this free benefit.

6.  The Allusionist

I love Helen Zaltzman. If the podcast only consisted of her 18-second intro, I would still listen. (Here’s an example: “… I, Helen Zaltzman, am interested in language, but not enough to enjoy listening to language describing the dream it had last night.”) This podcast is all about language and the history of words, which may not sound that interesting – but you have to trust me on this. It’s fascinating. And her beautiful way of arranging words is such that I feel like an inadequate, bumbling idiot when trying to describe this podcast.

7.  Fresh Air

There are so many episodes of Fresh Air that I tend to pick and choose, depending on how much the topic interests me or how little I know about something. Fresh Air helps me dig a little deeper into current events. Terry Gross is an amazing interviewer and I can’t do her justice.

(For any Terry Gross fans out there: If you haven’t heard Marc Maron interview her, definitely listen to it. It might not help you with any New Year’s resolutions, but it’s interesting to learn more about her.)

8.  Freakonomics

Hosted by Capital Region native Stephen Dubner (he grew up in Duanesburg), this show examines a variety of different topics that challenge the way we think about the world. The subjects are wide-ranging and always fascinating (Are We In A Mattress-Store Bubble?, How Much Does a President Really Matter?, Does ‘Early Education’ Come Too Late?). I always learn something new or hear a fresh perspective.

9.  Radiolab

This show is all about curiosity – exploring topics I’d never even known or thought about. Try the Carlisle Football episode. (‘Cause if there’s something my husband enjoys more than hearing yet another sentence that starts with “I was listening to a podcast …”, it’s me talking about sports.)

10.  99% Invisible

This show is about the stuff we don’t think about – the stuff that is mostly invisible – and the thought that went into designing them. Though it largely covers design and architecture, it uses pretty loose definitions. The episode I listened to on the ride home last night was about the design of a specific baseball outfield strategy (The Shift). Roman Mars can talk about anything and make it fascinating.

Want to be more productive or present?

I admit that these two things may seem unrelated, but hear me out. I listened to a Note to Self episode recently (Information Overload and the Tricky Art of Single-Tasking) about how multitasking is a myth. Instead of getting more done, we’re actually slowing ourselves down. In 2017, I’m trying to avoid being so distracted by technology. Unlike most people, I don’t have a smartphone yet (gasp!). Rather, I have an old slide phone, if you can believe it. But at home, I use my husband’s old iPhone to check social media, take pictures, and email. I love that I can’t get distracted by a smartphone when I’m with my kids at a museum, for example. But I’m horrible at home and am constantly checking it. It relentlessly beckons me (“Check me! What if someone emailed you!”) and taunts me, tugging me into its orbit. I don’t know why, either. It’s rare that I find something worth the time that I waste on it.

I know my days as a non-smartphone user are numbered. (Do you have any idea how much trickier it is to schedule a playdate without a smartphone? I know I could just call someone, but no, thank you.) And I need to get this under control before I convert.

Wasting less time online will mean that I have more time for some of my other resolutions: read for a half-hour every day, draw more, spend more one-on-one time with my toddler, etc.

If you also want to be more productive or present, here are a few podcasts to check out:

11.  Happier with Gretchen Rubin 

I’m new to this podcast, but I enjoy it so much that I need to listen to the back catalog. Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, talk about happiness and habits. Even though I’d read The Happiness Project and loved it, I wasn’t quite sure whether this material was conducive to a podcast format, but I’m glad I gave it a try. Since I haven’t listened to many episodes (but the ones I have were all wonderful), I won’t recommend a specific one – but take a peek. If one of the topics seems up your alley, try it out first.

One of my goals for 2017 is, thanks to Gretchen, to start making my bed every day. In Gretchen’s experience, when she asks people what happiness-related change has made the biggest impact on their lives, many people say this is the one. It’s a simple, easy thing to do, and hopefully it will help set the tone for the day. If you want to delve into this area more, check out her book, Happier at Home. It includes a full year of resolutions related to being happier. Not only was it a great read, but I have a ton of ideas I want to put into practice.

She also talks about the “strategy of inconvenience.” I love this idea. If my phone is upstairs or uncharged, for example, I won’t check it as often as I would if it were in my pocket.

12.  Note to Self

Hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, this podcast focuses on how technology impacts us all and examines ways we can find balance. I discovered this on the NPR One app, and I’ve listened to so many thought-provoking and insightful episodes that I’m adding this to my regular rotation. Not only are there a ton of amazing episodes (with titles like Distracted is the New Drunk, Mindfulness on Demand, Facing Our Weirdest Selves, Go Ahead. Miss Out.), but there are also two programs you should check out:

  • Infomagical, which is designed to help us all “cut through information overload and help you think more clearly.”
  • Bored and Brilliant , which gives us the tools needed to reduce time on smartphones and increase creativity.I also “Kondo’d” my smartphone, putting all of my apps in a folder on the second screen. When I turn it on now, I see a clean screen (with a not-so-subtle reminder that I should be doing something else!) instead of any number of notification badges that tug at me. I can pick up my phone, do what I set out to do, and put it down.
  • But I still see so much room for improvement. Even though I carved out a chunk of time this morning to write this post, my brain keeps nagging me to do other things (Oh, respond to that email! Write a personal to-do list! Sign up for a fitness class! Maybe start working on this other project! Did you answer so-and-so?).
  • I signed up for both last week and have been doing the daily assignments. I’ve already started reaping the benefits of more focus. This morning, I didn’t check social media at all, and I don’t feel like I missed out. In fact, I used the extra time to go through my overstuffed sweater cabinet and make a donation pile of items I haven’t worn in a long time.

13.  Magic Lessons

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic, hosts this podcast. She guides creatives (authors, comedians, artists) to overcome their fears and achieve their goals. With all of the free time I will have since I won’t be online as much, I’m hoping to draw and doodle more. This show, where she outlines very specific assignments to put creatives on the right path, is an inspiration.

14.  How to Be More Productive (from Freakonomics)

This episode speaks directly to productivity. Even if you decide not to check out the show itself, give this episode a listen. It largely focuses on productivity at work, but the perspective is different than other similar podcasts I’ve listened to. Interesting stuff.

Want to see how you’re doing?

I don’t know about you, but I need to see my progress to keep myself on track. I’ve concluded that my goals to be more present and spend less time online require an analog solution. To keep myself  honest, I created printable resolution trackers. If you would also like to have a visual for your progress, print out the 2017 resolution calendar to hang up or put in your planner. Just add your goal and highlight the days that you are successful. By the end of 2017, our calendars should be heavily highlighted!

Do you have any other podcast recommendations? If so, comment below. I’m always on the hunt for new material.

Happy New Year and happy listening! Good luck with your resolutions.

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