With 2007 winding down and 2008 ready to storm in, it’s a good time to look at what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same, here at lifehack.org — and in our lives in general. The idea of a “lifehack” has changed a lot since Danny O’Brien introduced the term at NotCon in 2004. For O’Brien, life hacking was about applying the lessons of computer programming — the systematic logic and habits used by committed coders — to life in general.
O’Brien’s talk inspired a wave of techies to get organized and rethink the habits they applied — or often, failed to apply — in their day-to-day lives. It also inspired a wave of bloggers, from our own Leon Ho to Merlin Mann of 43folders, Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing, and Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, to begin writing about productivity, organization, and general life skills from this tech-based perspective.
The popularity of these and similar sites brought the idea of lifehacking to the world at large, well beyond the small circle of “highly prolific geeks” (to use O’Brien’s term) that originally latched onto and developed the concept. Writers, designers, corporate executives, parents, teachers, and people from all across the spectrum of today’s society started exchanging tips, advice, tricks of the trade, and all the little hacks they’d come up with to make their lives work.
From carrying around a stack of index cards to capture ideas on to writing your cell phone number on your child’s stomach with magic marker in case you got separated at Disneyland, the ideas we call life hacks helped people get a grip on some of the very deep concerns at the core of modern life. Most of all they addressed a real shift in the way people were thinking about their jobs and careers, their homes and families, their identities and their societies.
As lifehacking moved into the mainstream, the mainstream moved into the lifehacking world, too. Merlin Mann still writes about the latest Mac app for getting things done, but he also posts about choosing a camera lens to take pictures of his new child with. Lifehacker still has Gina Trapani’s latest software release, but it also has tips on organizing your refrigerator and storing your Christmas tree lights.
For a generation (or two) unsatisfied by the empty promises and soggy new age platitudes of mainstream self-help literature, life hacking has opened up a new field in personal development, one that is relevant to the way we work, play, and relate to each other. We may be overwhelmed by the tremendous advances in technology over the last decade, but we reject the “back to the trees” worldview and look for ways to make this new technology work for us — to help us connect with our friends and family scattered across the country or even the world, to help us organize not only our possessions but our thoughts, to help us build our own businesses and careers.
Last year, our founder Leon Ho looked back at the previous year on lifehack.org and saw a widening in the site’s focus from technological solutions to questions about living healthy, communicating more effectively, and becoming more creative. This year, lifehack.org has continued to expand its scope, adding over a dozen new writers who have written about studying more successfully, writing, designing your documents, meditating, getting and staying physically fit, the way our brains work, networking, motivating yourself, setting and achieving goals, parenting, leadership, and more. We still write about technology, but as part of our whole lives and not the entirety of our worlds.
There are more changes ahead in 2008. A site redesign is in the works, we’ve just added a half-dozen new writers, we’ve launched a new podcast, and we have bigger projects on the horizon. What won’t change is that lifehack.org will continue to bring you interesting, useful, and relevant insights every day.
You’re a big part of that. Not only are lifehack.org’s readers the continuing inspiration for what we do, you’re an important part of the community as a whole. Your feedback helps us decide what to write about, what to look into, and what to ignore. Over the course of 2007, the average number of comments on a post has doubled, and we’d like to see it double again (and again!) in coming year. You let us know what we’re doing right — and what we’re doing wrong.
Thank you for making lifehack.org a part of your life. We look forward to another year together!
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