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How to Develop a Lifehack

How to Develop a Lifehack

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    Image by Ennor

    We benefit from the experiences of many on this site who have provided us with their hacks. It’s easy, fun, and makes my life a little better. Sometimes I get caught in a receiving mode, waiting for the next hack to come and enhance my life. I sit, waiting for an elegant solution.

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    Thinking about the word “lifehack” makes me think I shouldn’t be perpetually stuck in this receiving mode (which is why I’m excited about this opportunity to give back). A hack, by definition, is not an elegant solution that efficiently solves my problems. A hack is something quick and dirty to get the job done.

    Excuses Not to Develop a Hack

    Sometimes I get stuck waiting for an elegant solution before I try anything. The problem is that I don’t know the most efficient method until I actually try something. For example, some say the best way to sleep is for 20 minutes at a time spread throughout the day (polyphasic). Some say it’s best to sleep 8 hours. Some say drink a cup of coffee and take a nap (caffeine nap). With so many conflicting opinions, how do I tell which is best for me?

    For all the research I can do, there is no way to tell the best way for me until I actually try something. I fear that if I try and fail, I will have wasted all that time for nothing. What if I gain weight, instead of lose weight? What if I have less energy than before? What if I hurt myself? There are a million excuses not to do something and many are perfectly reasonable, yet I am still stuck doing nothing.

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    Seeking efficiency and reliability is not the spirit of a hack. A hack is quick and dirty. A hack is a venture into the unknown. It’s learning to do something in a way unintended by the design. It’s far from ideal because it’s engaging reality. Developing a hack is not the most efficient way, but we may discover that it is a better way.

    So how do we develop a hack?

    Step 1: Be Filled with Wonder

    Life is filled with routines that help us efficiently get through the day. We run our own personal programs on autopilot and often ignore everything else. It takes an intention to find something new to break free from our normal cycle.

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    If you ever watch people on hikes or even just walking by on the street, they are often so focused on their destination that they don’t notice their surroundings. Although, if you are along their path and stop to watch a bird or something interesting, they can break free to see what’s out there.

    To develop a hack you must be on the look out for something beyond what you normally see. Question the design. Could it be made better? Can you make it better? Curiosity will naturally lead you down a journey as you seek the answer. It will require effort, but you will be willing to pay the price to see what happens.

    Step 2: Be Adventurous

    An adventure is about the experience. There is danger and you may fail. Although you may not end up without the desired outcome, you will always have new experiences. If you do not explore, you cannot find your own path. Do you really want to follow someone else’s rules, intentions, life?

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    Be challenged by the problem. The creation of the hack is just as much about pushing your own boundaries and abilities as it is about the creation for others to enjoy. If you don’t find yourself being engaged by the problem, then it probably isn’t worth your time. The reward of a hack is knowing that you have engaged the unknown and emerged triumphantly.

    Explore. Discover your own paths. It may not be the most efficient path, but it will be yours. When you learn to develop your own hacks, you become the designer. You determine your own intentions, rather than following the intentions of others.

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    A Workout for Geeks How to Develop a Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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