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6 Signs Your Lifehacks Aren’t Working

6 Signs Your Lifehacks Aren’t Working

Frustration

    Upping your productivity isn’t an exact science — and it isn’t something you can do overnight. Instead, you will probably need to try out a few things, see what works and throw out what isn’t working for you. Of course, to get rid of things that aren’t working, you have to recognize the warning signs before your productivity hacks turn into problems. Here is a spotter’s guide to a few of the problems I’ve run into, or heard about, when implementing new lifehacks.

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    1. The To Do List Shuffle

    Shuffling tasks from list to list, categorization to categorization or due date to due date, as well as making lists just for the sake of making lists, are hints that you aren’t actually getting anything more done than before you implemented lists into your life. I’ve been guilty of this myself: I’ll wind up spending all my time on organizing my tasks into some very nice lists, rather than, you know, actually completing my tasks. This issue is not something that you can simply tweak: it’s a willpower issue for most of us. The only cure seems to be focusing on completing tasks rather than rearranging our to do lists.

    2. The Energy / Inspiration Blues

    Have you started finding a bit more time in your schedule — but you also find that you’re too tired or uninspired to move on to your next project? Lack of motivation can be a crucial sign that something in your grand scheme just isn’t working, and you can’t fix it with a shot of caffeine. Part of being productive is having the energy and motivation to finish out the day’s schedule. Luckily, I’ve known many lifehackers to up their energy and inspiration with fairly minor tweaks to their overall system: changing diet, exercise or sleep schedule can have immediate effects — although simply making a little room in the day’s tasks for a few minutes of relaxation may be enough.

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    3. The New Time Sinkhole

    As we change our schedules and habits, we often pick up new ways of using our time — which aren’t always good. This warning sign often goes hand in hand with ‘The Energy / Inspiration Blues’: when we finish certain tasks, we don’t want to move on to others, for any number of reasons. Instead, we find other ways of filling our time. Some people work on perfecting their solitaire skills, others spend their days ‘networking’ on Facebook — there are thousands of ways to fill newfound hours, and it’s just going to take work to find a schedule that not only helps you to be productive but also prevents you from losing time to such sinkholes.

    4. The Worry Wart Wiggle

    Most lifehacks are intended to take worry out of our lives. So, if you find yourself still worrying day in and day out about small problems, your lifehacks are probably less than successful. A little worry is normal in the beginning, as you build confidence in your system (and yourself) but if you’ve got some long-term wiggling going on, you may need to focus on just why you aren’t so sure that your lifehacks won’t fail miserably. If you don’t have confidence in the way you do things, your current method just plain may not fit your lifestyle for some reason or another.

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    5. The Prioritizing Pickle

    In every facet of my life, I’ve struggled with prioritizing. Are certain parts of my shopping list more important than others? Will I get through the day if I don’t run all of my errands? What parts of a project does a client have to have, and which just sound like a good idea? Most productivity hacks focus on automating as many tasks in your life and prioritizing the rest. Important stuff is supposed to be the first done. But if you don’t have a clear way in which to decide just which stuff is ‘important,’ your system is standing on pretty shaky legs. If you keep finding yourself puzzling over just where in your queue a task belongs, it may be time to sit down and think about the implications for your productivity.

    6. The Feeling of Frustration

    If you find yourself feeling frustrated with any hack you try to make a part of your life, it’s okay to give up. Not every trick works for every person, and if any hack you try isn’t making your life easier, I have to recommend dumping it faster than expired milk. For each success story with a given method for increasing a person’s productivity, I can list off ten people who just couldn’t shoehorn that style into their lives — and that’s perfectly legitimate. Move on, and figure out what actually fits comfortably into your lifestyle.

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    These days, it feels like there are more hacks for every part of a person’s life than there are people. And, while options are great, some people seem to get feelings of inability if they can’t make each one work in their lives. When something doesn’t work, people tend to run into the above signs but try to persevere on through the problems. Warning signs show up for a reason, though. If you run into any of the above warning signs — or any other issues that give you pause in your productivity process — take a step back and figure out just what isn’t working for you. Remember, you have different needs from everyone else (including productivity gurus)!

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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