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80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking

80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking

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    Sitting on my dining room table, I currently have half a dozen projects in various states of doneness. Some involve vivisected computer parts, others will eventually be wearable and a few are just cool things I’ve ran across on the internet. I like doing things myself — I think the DIY bug is one of the best communicable diseases in the lifehack community.

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    These eighty sites are the places I turn to when I’m trying to figure out how to accomplish any particular goal. Any time I’m facing a new project, I start searching for how-tos that will help me figure out how other people did similar things and how likely I am to finish the project with all ten fingers still intact. I’ve broken them up into a few different categories, just to help you narrow down what you might be looking for. Some are simply archives full of tutorials. Some are blogs that publish how-tos fairly regularly. Some are just great resource sites. But they all have provided me with the information necessary to carry through on a project.

    Every How-To They Can Get Their Hands On

    These ten sites are more than happy to host any how-to around. I’ve seen everything from computer hardware hacks to instructions for brewing beer on these sites. This is the place to start — you can narrow down your search as you get a better idea of your project.

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    1. Make Magazine’s Blog
    2. Instructables
    3. How Stuff Works
    4. Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
    5. wikiHow
    6. flickr
    7. Lifehacker
    8. DIY Happy
    9. Expert Village

    Become a Technophile in Ten Easy Steps

    Each of these sites focuses primarily on providing the hacks you need to make sure that you have the best hardware and software around. One word of warning: you might run across some obsolete answers to your questions in the archives. Software how-tos don’t age as well as tips on building new furniture

    1. Hack A Day
    2. Hack This Site
    3. I Hacked
    4. Hacked Gadgets
    5. Make Use Of
    6. HacksZine
    7. LifeClever
    8. Web Worker Daily
    9. Tipstrs

    Habitat Hacks You Can Live With

    If you’re ready to make your home a little more customized, these sites will walk you through projects ranging from building furniture to home theaters for beginners. Remember, when it comes to your landlord, begging forgiveness is probably easier than asking for permission.

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    1. Ikea Hacker
    2. DIY Ideas
    3. Home Doctor
    4. Acme How To
    5. Hints N Tips
    6. Ready Made
    7. FlyLady
    8. This Old House
    9. Home Tips

    Dining on a DIY Diet

    Frugality gurus and health nuts alike advocate making your own food. Very few of us have access to either Grandma or a professional chef willing to walk us through the steps of homemade food, though. It’s time to turn to a few how-tos and recipes that can help us out.

    1. Cooking for Engineers
    2. Bakers Banter
    3. The Pioneer Woman Cooks
    4. Epicurious
    5. The Amateur Gourmet
    6. Culinary Media Network
    7. 101 Cookbooks
    8. Gourmet Magazine
    9. Simply Recipes
    10. Open Source Food

    Sewing and Other ‘Feminine Arts’

    It seems like most crafters are have two X chromosomes, but there’s no reason to count out knitting just because you have a Y chromosome. Heck, even Rosey Grier, defensive linebacker for the LA Rams, knitted some nice scarves.

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    1. TipNut
    2. Craft Magazine’s Blog
    3. Craft Stylish
    4. Craftster
    5. Craftform
    6. WiseNeedle
    7. GetCrafty
    8. Crafttown
    9. Design Your Life
    10. Geek Crafts

    Doing Business Your Way

    Looking for some instructions on getting your business going a little faster? These sites have all sorts of tips, how-tos and ideas for getting your business up to speed. Keep in mind, though, that not every business is the same. Different businesses have different needs when if comes to growing.

    1. Productivity101
    2. 43Folders
    3. LifeDev
    4. Biz Plan Hacks
    5. Freelance Switch
    6. Anywired
    7. Young Entrepreneur
    8. Bootstrapping
    9. Copyblogger

    Hack Your Wallet and What’s In It

    No matter how you earn your money, keeping those dollars in your hands can be a struggle. Plenty of sites offer tips, tricks and tutorials to help you do just that — beyond improving your earning power, these sites can help you keep what you already have.

    1. Frugal Hacks
    2. WiseBread
    3. Get Rich Slowly
    4. The Simple Dollar
    5. The Motley Fool
    6. Five Cent Nickel
    7. Mighty Bargain Hunter
    8. Money Hacks
    9. Dividend Money

    Get Your Brain to the Optimal Level

    Not all projects have a clear end result. There are plenty of opportunities to improve how you approach new tasks, study for tests and generally use your brain. Personally, these projects are often my favorites: I don’t need lots of tools to carry them out and I can often use them to help my approach to other projects entirely.

    1. Dumb Little Man
    2. Zen Habits
    3. Mind Hacks
    4. Hack College
    5. Study Hacks
    6. The Growing Life
    7. Life Optimizer
    8. Lesson in Life
    9. GTD Times

    There are millions of sites out on the web with tutorials, instructions and tips for just about every project you dream up — not necessarily a site that can tell you how to do what you have planned, but definitely one that can give you a starting point. These eighty sites are just that — a starting point. These are places worth looking when you have a specific project in mind, sites that can get you started on your plans. Oh, and there’s one more that’s worth checking: LifeHack. I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t mention this site: it’s an amazing resource when you’re trying to decide how to tackle a new project.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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