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Getting Lifehack Done: Global Collaboration

Getting Lifehack Done: Global Collaboration

Global Collaboration

    Somewhere around 3 dozen people, scattered across the globe from Hong Kong across the US to the UK, Europe, and beyond work together to bring you the collection of useful tips, thought pieces, and inspiration known as Lifehack. I thought it might be interesting to our readers to learn a little bit about what goes on “behind the scenes” at a big site like this – the tools we use, the processes we’ve developed, and the attitudes that help us keep Lifehack stocked with stories 260 days a year. (That’s 5 weekdays a week for 52 weeks – we don’t take holidays off!)

    Collaboration Tools for a Global Workforce

    Lifehack simply wouldn’t be possible, not in the form it’s taken today anyway, without the awesome power of WordPress. What’s most amazing about WordPress is that it’s free and open-source – itself the outcome of a global collaboration. Lifehack pushes WordPress hard, with dozens of active users under several different roles, and huge amounts of traffic, often coming is spikes that would take most sites down. Lifehack is one of the most-dugg sites on the Internet —

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    the 31st most-mentioned site on Digg and somewhere around 125th in terms of total number of diggs (sorry, I’ve lost the link to that), and Digg traffic can come as fast as a hit a second. Configured properly, WordPress handles it with ease.

    I’ll talk more about WordPress when I discuss our process. HEre are some of the other tools that make Lifehack possible:

    • Campfire: Campfire is an online chatroom service hosted by the good folks at 37Signals. Campfire allows me to meet with Leon Ho, Lifehack’s owner, every other week for a real-time discussion of the site’s direction, special projects, and so on – despite the fact that Leon is based in Hong Kong and I’m in Las Vegas. We also use Campfire for editorial meetings between myself and the other staff writers (Thursday Bram and Joel Falconer). My favorite feature of Campfire is that it archives all your chats, so we can easily pull up a record of past discussions if we need to clarify a point or look for action items.
    • Ta-da List: Another 37Signals product, Ta-da List is a simple task list that allows task sharing between several users. The staff writers use a single list to collect post ideas that they aren’t planning to use – maybe I have a great idea for a post I know Lifehack readers will enjoy, but I lack the time or knowledge to do it justice. Our Ta-da List lets me offer it up to the other writers, who can check it off if they decide to run with the idea.
    • Google Groups: How do you communicate with a staff of 30+ guest contributors? The answer, for us, is an email list. Every guest contributor is invited to join our private group on Google. This list allows me to send them all updates about upcoming events (like the Lifehack Great Big Summer Giveaway), editorial directions, and process changes. It also provides a forum for sharing tips on writing, using social media, and other information relevant to writers of a popular site like Lifehack.
    • activeCollab: This is a project management and collaboration suite that runs on the Stepcase servers (Stepcase is Lifehack’s parent company). In theory, it allows us to assign tasks, attach them to projects, record progress towards milestones, compile information pages about projects, and so on; in practice, I find it far too complex for the small number of people actively administering the site, especially given that our workflow isn’t really divided into “projects” as much as "ongoing responsibilities". I’m sure it works much better for larger workgroups in a corporate environment.
    • Email and other communication tools: Email isn’t fancy, but it’s probably the tool we use the most, simply because it’s ever-present, near-instantaneous, and easily archived. And for person-to-person off-the-cuff discussions, we often use Skype or other IM systems as well.

    The Collaborative Process

    To make this all work, we need a pretty clear workflow for each week’s posts. When I started at Lifehack over a year ago, articles were posted to the front page pretty much as they were submitted by guest contributors. When I took over the job of editing and scheduling all the posts on the site, I decided that we should batch process our posts — eating our own dog-food, as it were.

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    Today, no matter how many guest contributors post in any given week, I only spend a few hours on Sunday scheduling posts. Although staff writers and guest contributors are free to write whatever they want (within the scope of the site), I make suggestions of loose themes every month or so — this month was "home and work", for instance.

    Such themes, when we have them, are worked out by myself and Leon Ho, and sometimes staff writers Joel and Thursday, during our bi-weekly meetings. Those meetings are also where we work out technical issues, discuss editorial policies, plan the site’s direction, and generally bounce ideas off of each other.

    In between meetings, I act as the contact person for question from guest contributors and staff writers alike, dealing with simple issues as they arise and saving the more complex ones for our editorial meetings.

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    Collaboration is an Attitude

    Keep in mind that I have never met Leon or Joel or any of Lifehack’s guest contributors. I did meet Thursday once for coffee when she was visiting Las Vegas for a conference. But basically we are a group of about three dozen strangers. Yet that group of strangers manages to keep a lively mix of stories flowing every weekday, through the whole year.

    To do this requires more than just a set of tools — it requires an attitude. Everyone who contributes to Lifehack — whether as guest contributors, staff writers, or readers — does so for reasons of their own. Everyone recognizes that, and as long as I’ve been involved with the site, nobody has made an effort to impose their own view on anyone else. We’ve worked hard to make sure that there’s room for a variety of viewpoints, even conflicting ones — I sometimes disagree sharply with a piece I’m editing, but I respect the author’s intentions in posting it, and respect the readers’ right to agree or disagree free of my interference.

    Mostly, Lifehack works because everyone has a clear role and no more is asked of them than spelled out in that role. The development of a clear system for posting and communicating reflects that — I know exactly what I can expect of each person involved with putting Lifehack together.

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    Conclusion

    I’m lucky that mutual respect and clearly-defined roles are so effective, because to be honest, the tools we use are something of a kluge. I would much rather use a single collaboration suite that handled all the tasks we perform in bringing Lifehack together day after day. So far, I haven’t found anything that is functional, elegant, easy to use, and handles multiple roles well. WordPress is the exception — maybe someone will build a collaboration suite using WordPress as a platform?

    That said, the kluge we’ve got does work, as the continued existence of Lifehack shows. And it is sure to evolve as new tools become available that handle more of the tasks we need to perform, and handles them more efficiently. And hopefully, seeing how we do it might give you some ideas about your own teams and projects.

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    Last Updated on October 5, 2020

    How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

    How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

    We are given life with many opportunities to make it everything we want it to be and more. If you find that you’ve slipped into living a boring life, it’s time to take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and what you can start doing now to make it more interesting.

    Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness. Whatever your reason is, the following list can definitely make any day or life more interesting. Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.

    Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaningful) one!

    1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self

    Imagine being a young child. Life was never boring, was it? That’s because children harness every ounce of creativity they have in order to try new things.

    What would your 7-year-old self want to do in this moment? Maybe they’d pick up a paintbrush and try to paint the landscape around them. May they would go outside and build something with random materials around the yard. Maybe they would raid the fridge and put together a dish they’ve never seen before.

    Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play and use your creativity to its fullest.

    2. Go Play With Kids

    Speaking of little kids, if you have your own (or a niece or nephew), go play with them!

    Kids are absolutely hilarious, so it’s simply impossible to be bored when you’re around them. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.

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    3. Play Cell Phone Roulette

    You’ll need at least one buddy for this, but this is a great way to avoid a boring life. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one, and (if it feels right) call the person.

    You could spark an incredible catch-up session or, at the very least, remind someone that you’re thinking of them. Neither are boring.

    4. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards

    This is a great part of a gratitude practice. We often forget to thank the people who do things for us, especially if we have come to expect those things. For example, have you ever thought about thanking your mom for that weekly phone call? Or thanking your sister for always sending you a homemade gift on your birthday?

    Take time to think of at least 5 people you would like to say thank you to and write out a card. You could even write them out for random people in your neighborhood, like the local librarian, a teacher at your child’s school, or the accountant at your bank.

    Anyone and everyone appreciates being thanked for their efforts.

    5. Sign up for a Class

    Nowadays, there are classes for everything. To make it as interesting as possible, try finding one that you wouldn’t normally consider doing, like salsa lessons, improv, or boxing.

    Otherwise, try to find a course on something you’ve always wanted to learn, like pottery, photography, or a foreign language course.

    What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people, which will add even more interest to your life!

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    6. Talk to Your Grandparents About Their Lives

    We often underestimate how interesting the elderly are. You can rest assured that any elderly person you talk to will not have had a boring life! Take some time to talk to them and hear their interesting stories. You may even find that this motivates you to go out and find your own interesting experiences.

    7. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night

    Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage. If you’re not into comedy, find an open mic that focuses on reading poetry or short stories and bring your own. These groups tend to be incredibly supportive for anyone who is willing to be brave enough to get up and try.

    8. Do Something for Someone Else

    Showing kindness automatically makes you feel good, but doing these small acts will also help to ensure that you don’t have a boring life. Try doing one or two things each week that are outside your normal routine.

    For example, you could make a batch of cookies for the mailperson or help your elderly neighbor organize one of their rooms. There are a million ways to show kindness to those around you. Tap into your creativity and find your own or use some of the ideas from the image below[1].

    Do random acts of kindness to avoid living a boring life.

      9. Start a DIY Project in Your Home

      If you have your own place, there is always a project that needs to get done. Many people simply pay for someone else to do it in order to avoid the hassle, but taking on a DIY project can make a boring life much more interesting.

      It doesn’t have to be super complicated. Maybe you repaint an old vase or build a spice shelf out of used pallets.

      If you need ideas, you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.

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      10. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation

      This will give you something to look forward to. One study actually found that most travelers are happiest before a vacation[2]. Therefore, simply planning a trip will boost your mood, even if you can’t actually take the vacation right now.

      Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is also fun and relaxing!

      11. Go People Watching

      Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation like airports, bus stops, and train stations are great for this!) and just observe[3].

      People are infinitely interesting. Try to imagine what their lives are like, what they’re thinking, or where they’re going. You’ll never know if you’re right, but it will give you something to focus on and also help you practice empathy.

      12. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before

      You can try that new Moroccan restaurant down the street and pick the most interesting dish on the menu. Or, you can raid your own fridge and throw together a dish you’ve never made before.

      If you’re up for a trip to the grocery store, try picking up a new fruit or veggie from the produce section. You may find a new food that you love!

      13. Dance

      You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on YouTube and bust a move from your own living room.

      If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public or join a flash mob.

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      14. Pick up a Book and Start Reading

      Reading a good book can keep you occupied for hours. It will also transport you to a life that isn’t your own, and one that likely will be the opposite of a boring life. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn from those pages.

      Pick on of these inspirational books to start reading: 10 Best Inspirational Books That Can Change Your Life

      15. Spend Some Time With People You Care About

      Facebook stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or bring a coffee over to your parent’s place and catch up. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and you’ll avoid boredom.

      16. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to

      Some people are bored by museums, so if that’s you, skip to the next one. However, if you love art, history, or culture, this one is for you!

      17. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want

      This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?

      Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then, start taking your first step to make it happen.

      Now, go make your life interesting and live your dream life!

      More on How to Quit a Boring Life

      Featured photo credit: Alex Alvarez via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] FECAVA: Random Acts of Kindness
      [2] Applied Research in Quality of Life: Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday
      [3] Psychology Today: The Expert’s Guide to People Watching

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