You know you’re pretty much perfect. We know you’re pretty much perfect. You couldn’t possibly improve… But maybe you want to learn to cook the perfect omelette, or you want to give up your clutter for good, or you want to learn the secrets of your idol’s success.

And now’s the time to do it, given we’re all stuck inside. So without further ado, we bring you the best podcasts for self-improvement.

Why podcasts, we hear you cry? Well, not to be presumptuous here, but we bet you’ve become really well acquainted with your sofa recently; your backside slowly but surely wearing its shape into the cushions as you sink deeper into a mire of Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC News updates.

Podcasts offer an alternative way to keep your mind entertained – and, importantly, they’re both free and a welcoming escape from a screen. Not to mention they’re a good way of absorbing new information.

After all, our attention span has apparently reduced from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. For context, a goldfish supposedly has an attention span of five seconds. Yeah, really.

Anyway, back to our original point: it’s time to turn to the humble podcast. Topics are incredibly diverse. You can get the backstory behind the day’s news, hear about the best new books, or learn some new (or indeed very old) and obscure historical facts.

No matter what you want to focus on, we almost guarantee there’s a podcast for it. Here are just a few of the best podcasts for self-improvement that’ll help you emerge from quarantine ready to live your best life.

Podcasts for self-improvement: 8 to try

1. The best podcast for… learning to cook

Is your omelette a disaster area? Does your sourdough refuse to rise? Well, there’s a podcast for that. Cook The Perfect… is a bite-sized spin-off of BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour where hosts Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey speak with chefs and cooks about their favourite dish to make at home. Guests range from household name Tom Kerridge of Michelin-starred pub The Hand & Flowers to Irish chef Clodagh McKenna, previously of Ballymaloe, and Insta-famous vegan food Rachel Ama of Vegan Eats. Each episode sees (or hears) the guests cooking their dish, explaining exactly what they’re doing and why – providing an insight into cooking basics – and the recipe is provided afterwards in the show notes. Episodes are an easily-digested ten minutes long; you can listen to Romy Gill MBE make spicy chickpeas, or veganish food writer Jack Monroe on how to perfect a beurre blanc made out of cannellini beans. Brilliant at a time when you’re probably trying out new recipes using your food box delivery.

LISTEN NOW: bbc.co.uk/programmes/cook-the-perfect

2. The best podcast for… Learning how to succeed

The name of this podcast is actually How To Fail, but hear us out. There’s very little room these days for discussion of what happens when things don’t go as planned – which is the very reason why journalist Elizabeth Day chose to set up a podcast that teaches you how to fail. It’s a brilliant idea, showing that those you might consider as ideal or perfect are fallible; guests are real-life people you can aspire to; and you learn that it’s more about how to continue after a failure than about what you’re doing to succeed. All in all, it makes for interesting and easy listening, and it’s a good one to dip in and out of according to guests and subjects that interest you. If you’re looking for one of the best podcasts for self-improvement when it comes to your career, this is it.

LISTEN NOW: elizabethdayonline.co.uk/podcast

3. The best podcast for… tidying up

“Minimalism gets us past objects so we can make room for life’s most important things.” So says The Minimalists website. So far, so New Age-preachy. In fact, initially the whole Minimalists feel – stylised black and white photography and all – feels a bit too, well, much. But if you have a listen, you’ll quickly see the episodes have a refreshingly down-to-earth approach – which is probably why it’s been downloaded 50 million times. The podcast cleverly brings minimalism into every area of your life, from finances to exercises, and leans on the advice of experts to bolster its authority. 

LISTEN NOW: theminimalists.com/podcast/

4. The best podcast for… learning a new language

The Duolingo podcasts are real-life stories in either French or Spanish that are told at an easy-to-follow pace, occasionally interspersed with an English commentary so you always know you have a grip of what’s going on. Probably. The stories also give important current cultural context: the French stories range from winemaking to immigration to the tale of a surfer who lost his leg (ouch) and you can find a full transcription on the Duolingo website.

LISTEN NOW: podcast.duolingo.com

5. The best podcast for… Learning how to manage money

Money talks. Which is ironic, because we definitely don’t like talking about money. In fact, admitting you don’t know how to manage your personal finances is, well, just unheard of. Enter Andy Webb of money advice website becleverwithyourcash.com, who offers weekly, down-to-earth, judgement-free advice on how to manage your finances, whether you’re saving or planning to splurge, with episodes ranging from 7 to 45 minutes. At the time of listening, most of Webb’s advice revolved around coronavirus, focusing on how best to get through a particularly difficult economic time.

LISTEN NOW: becleverwithyourcash.com/introducing-cash-chats-andy-webb-podcast

6. The best podcast for… Getting into running

We never thought we’d recommend something with Sam Thompson – yes of Made in Chelsea fame – in it. But along came corona, and things changed. A lot. This is a twelve-part series in partnership with Lucozade Sport that follows radio DJ Dev Griffin (who has prior running experience) and Thompson, who has very little running experience. The idea is to follow the pair as they train from scratch for the now sadly postponed London Marathon. We particularly like that it takes a more laid back approach in a world that can take things very, very seriously.

LISTEN NOW: lucozadesport.com/podcast

7. The best podcast for… Exercising your brain

Kwik Brain is all about how to keep your grey matter in tip-top condition for continuing to learn new skills and stores memories. It comes from American brain-health guru Jim Kwik (yes, that is his real name) who brings in guests to tackle subjects like: how to eat to feed your brain, what you should be doing to protect it and so on.

LISTEN NOW: jimkwik.com/category/podcast

8. The best podcast for… Learning about relationships

Esther Perel is a legendary Belgian therapist, author and speaker with a focus on relationships, believing, according to her website, that “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” Her ground-breaking podcast Where Should We Begin? is an insight into couples therapy: each episode focuses on recording of a different, real couple, although names have been omitted and personal details have been changed. The show notes point out thematics and questions to think about while or after you listen, and Perel shares her observations throughout the recordings. Subjects are wide-ranging and painfully intimate: The Other Woman explores a couple considering non-monogamy; Mom and Monique addresses a relationship between a mother and her daughter that has been derailed by a second child that has special needs. It’s a different take on podcasts for self-improvement, and it’s very much needed.

LISTEN NOW: estherperel.com