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The 80 Best Lifehacks of 2008

The 80 Best Lifehacks of 2008

The 80 Best Lifehacks of 2008

    And so we arrive yet again at the end of another year. 2008 was at best a mixed bag – while the world was electrified by the US election and it’s promise of change, the global economy was shaken to its core as a decade of financial mismanagement and willful blindness finally caught up with us. Gas prices spiked, leading us all to ask some difficult questions about sustainability, efficiency, and consumption – and then plummeted, leaving us feeling somewhat relieved, but baffled by the unpredictability of it all.

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    As we roll into 2009, there is an atmosphere of suspenseful anticipation, of hope mixed with not a little uncertainty. Companies are streamlining to prepare for the worst, even as entrepreneurs look ahead to new opportunities. Overall, it seems that now is a time for shaking off the dust, clearing away the debris of the past, and looking towards the future.

    Here at Lifehack, we’ve always followed a path of cautious optimism. Plan for the worst, but work for the best! 2008 has seen the arrival of a host of new contributors, as well as two new contributing editors, Thursday Bram and Joel Falconer. Together, we’ve continued to bring you the best tips, advice, and recommendations across the field of productivity, helping with everything from managing your todo list to managing your career.

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    Here, then, are the best posts of 2008, selected according to their popularity and the amount of discussion they generated both here on the site and across the blogosphere. Contained in these posts is a healthy dose of the wisdom, direction, and skill you need to move forward into a successful 2009!

    Communication

    1. How to Build Credibility on the Web
      14 ways to make sure that your voice is the one people pay attention to among the anonymous masses on the Web. (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. 7 Little Tricks To Speak In Public With No Fear
      Most people are terrified of speaking in public. With these tips, you don’t have to be. (Mohamad Zaki)
    3. How to win Arguments – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics
      Helpful tips to come out on top when it matters. (Paul Sloane)
    4. The Value of Writing Well
      Improve your writing skills to make yourself a better thinker, a more compelling speaker, and all-around better person. (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. Be Heard. Speak Plainly.
      Tips on making yourself clear — and persuasive. (Dustin M. Wax)
    6. How to Write in 140 Characters or Less
      The future of writing is Twitter. Here’s how to make yourself understood in today’s micro-media. (Dustin M. Wax)
    7. How to Write (in a thousand words or less)
      17 tips to help make you a better writer. (Dustin M. Wax)
    8. The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource
      Software, web apps, websites, and other essential resources every writer should know about. (Dustin M. Wax)
    9. How to Write a Business Letter That Gets Results
      Writing a business letter is more than just following the right format — though that helps, too. Here’s some advice on how to nail your business correspondence. (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
      Everyone hates PowerPoint presentations, but they won’t hate yours if you follow these tips. (Dustin M. Wax)

    Fitness/Health

    1. Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?
      Your exercise program might not be right for you and your goals. Here’s how to tune your exercise regimen to make it right for you. (Craig Harper)
    2. Making Meals Easier: A Few Healthy Eating Ideas
      Easy ideas for healthier eating from three nutritionists. (Thursday Bram)
    3. How to Lose Weight Watching TV
      Exercise ideas you can squeeze into the commercial breaks of your favorite shows. (Craig Harper)
    4. Five Ways to Pick up the Exercise Habit Again
      Get back in shape after falling off the wagon with these tips. (Aaron M. Potts)
    5. 20 Foods To Snack On For Enhanced Productivity
      If you’re going to have a snack, why not have one that gives you more energy, helps you think better, or eases stress? (Kavit Haria)
    6. 15 Reasons Why You’re not Losing Weight
      You’re eating healthy and still not dropping the pounds? Maybe you’re over-indulging on one of these supposedly healthy but really fattening foods. (Craig Harper)
    7. How To Lose Belly Fat
      Helpful tips on working towards a slimmer stomach. (Mark McManus)

    Lifestyle

    1. 50 Ways to Make Your Home More Organized, More Attractive, and More Efficient
      Tips from Lifehack readers about home organization. (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. 10 Keys to Work/Life Balance
      Approaches to maintaining a healthy relationship between your work and the rest of your life. (Dustin M. Wax)
    3. T.H.U.M.P. – 5 Ways to Deal with Irresponsible People
      How to get irresponsible people out of your life — or at least make them less dangerous. (Aaron M. Potts)
    4. 5 Simple Steps To Be Happy — Finally
      FIgure out what makes you happy and start doing it! (Alex Shalman)
    5. Punctuality Counts
      Being on time might not seem that important, but it portrays confidence, respect, and command. Check out the follow-up, How to Be On Time Every Time, for tips on breaking  the late habit. (Dustin M. Wax)
    6. 34 Tips for Your Younger Self
      Lessons Lifehack readers wish they had known when they were younger. Required reading for young people of every age. (Joel Falconer)
    7. 10 Morning Rituals For The Healthy EntrepreneurHow you start your day can make the difference between success and failure. Start it right with these productive habits. (Kavit Haria)
    8. 11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think
      When it feels like you don’t have time to form a complete thought, follow these tips to get things back under control. (Scott H. Young)
    9. What’s It Going to Take to Make You Happy?
      All that stands between you and happiness might well be your failure to figure out what would make you happy. (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. 80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking
      A smorgasbord of sites to help you do just about anything. (Thursday Bram)

    Productivity

    1. 50+ Personal Productivity Blogs You’ve Never Heard of Before (and about a dozen you probably have)
      A bird’s-eye view of the productivity blogosphere’s lesser-known reaches. Don’t miss the follow-up, Readers Recommend: 15 More Productivity Blogs You Probably Never Heard Of, drawn from reader’s comments. (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. 6 Signs Your Lifehacks Aren’t Working
      Just because something seems like a good idea doesn’t mean it’s helping. Here’s how to tell when your productivity tricks are causing you more trouble than good. (Thursday Bram)
    3. Read This Now! Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done — or Else!
      Tips on breaking the hold of procrastination. Took forever to get around to writing this! (Dustin M. Wax)
    4. How to Ruthlessly Reclaim Work Day Time
      Sometimes lifehacks just aren’t enough to take control of your time. Here’s what to do when more drastic measures are called for. (Joel Falconer)
    5. 10 Hacks to Improve Your Home Office Productivity
      Working at home offers plenty of conveniences, but also distractions. Here are some tips on taking charge of your home office to get more done. (Joel Falconer)
    6. 5 Ways to get out of faffing mode
      Stop futzing around and get moving, already! (Steven Aitchison)
    7. 10 Steps To Working On The Road
      Tips for today’s mobile professionals. (Thursday Bram)
    8. 10 Tips For Improving Your Appointment Setting Skills
      Great ideas for taking charge of your schedule. (Thursday Bram)
    9. 50 Tricks to Get Things Done Faster, Better, and More Easily
      Your one-stop shop for the best concepts and tricks for increasing productivity. (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. The Ultimate Student Resource List
      Free software, web apps, and websites, along with links to the best of Lifehack’s advice for students, make this post the ultimate guide to success for students. (Dustin M.Wax)
    11. 10 Productivity Myths That Hold You Back
      Misguided beliefs about productivity that sap our energy and lead us down the wrong path. (Dustin M. Wax)
    12. 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity
      Great ways to recharge your creative batteries and get the ideas flowing again. (Joel Falconer)
    13. 8 Good Reasons to Be a Lousy Musician
      Who says you need to be perfect at everything? Here’s some good reasons to give yourself permission to suck at something you love. (Dustin M. Wax)
    14. The Science of Setting Goals
      What goes on in our brain when we set, achieve, and fail to achieve our goals. (Dustin M. Wax)
    15. 5 Effective Ways to Improve Your Sleep
      Tips and tricks to help you get a fuller, more restful nights sleep. (Joel Falconer)

    Success/Achievement

    1. 8 Essential Skills They Didn’t Teach You In School
      Important life skills like how to network, set goals, and negotiate. FIgure these out and you’re miles ahead the rest! (Brian Armstrong)
    2. 10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything
      No matter what field you’re in, these skills are essential to achieving success. (Dustin M. Wax)
    3. 29 Worn Out Perspectives in Need of the “Oh Really?” Factor
      We all have excuses for why we don’t achieve our goals. But are they really to blame, or are we just avoiding the hard work of succeeding? (Lisa Gates)
    4. 10 HARD Ways to Make Your Life Better
      In today’s quick-fix culture, there are still great rewards to be gained for people willing to work hard and pay dome dues. (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. I Won Science Fair with A Failed Project: The Skill of Presenting Failures
      Turn failure into success with these tips. (Thursday Bram)
    6. Three Basic Steps to Get Your Desire with the Least Effort
      Know what you want, how to get it, and the tools you’ll need on the way. (Donald Latumahina)
    7. Build Your Platform: How to Show You’re the Right Person for Any Job
      Convince your world you can handle anything by building a strong platform to build your case on. (Dustin M. Wax)
    8. The George Costanza Lifehack for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety
      Important life lessons from everyone’s favorite schlub, George Costanza. (Derek Ralston)

    Technology

    1. 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services
      Review of 11 free applications for creating, storing, and exploring your thoughts. (Joel Falconer)
    2. 7 Email Myths That Plague the Workplace
      Replace these bad email practices with more efficient habits and achieve email mastery. (Joel Falconer)
    3. 8 Web Databases for Tracking, Collecting and Recording Data
      Reviews of eight powerful tools to help you manage your data. (Joel Falconer)
    4. 7 iPhone Apps to Boost Your Productivity
      Your iPhone is more than just a toy. Try these apps to increase your productivity on the go. (Joel Falconer)
    5. The Quick & Dirty Guide to Personal Wikis
      Get started with wikis for note-taking, brainstorming, and online collaboration. (Joel Falconer)
    6. 14 Web Apps for Your Portable Office
      Suggestions to build an always-on, access-anywhere web office for the mobile worker. (Joel Falconer)
    7. Aggregate Your Social Networks with EventBox
      Instructions on using EventBox as a universal interface for your online life. (Joel Falconer)
    8. How Bloggers Can Use FriendFeed Effectively
      Use feed aggregator FriendFeed to improve your blogging. (Joel Falconer)
    9. Guy Kawasaki’s Thoughts on Online Life
      An interview with web entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki about the present and future of the Web. (Rowan Manahan)
    10. How To Use Your Blog To Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!
      Blogging isn’t just an outlet for stories about your cat — it can make you a better, happier, and more productive person! (Alex Shalman)

    Work/Finance

    1. 7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job
      With the economy staggering about like a drunken baby, creative professionals need all the edge they can muster. These tips will help you organize your portfolio to impress clients and win you work. (Thursday Bram)
    2. 16 Great Personal Finance Resources & Blogs
      With the economy shaking like a Jello shot at a sorority party, these sites are crucial for people who’d rather stay not-broke. (Joel Falconer)
    3. 10 Improvements You Can Make to Your Resume Right Now
      With the economy dodgier than a Washington Square pot dealer, here are ten ways to put your resume in tip-top shape. (Thursday Bram)
    4. 32 Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget
      With the economy looking scarier than a weekend getaway at the Bates Motel, these tips for making your budget work are essential reading! (Joel Falconer)
    5. 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time
      With the economy wobbling like a thirsty Weeble at a wine tasting, a few extra bucks sure couldn’t hurt. Here are 50 ways to build an income on the side — maybe one of them is right for you? (Thursday Bram)

    Back to Basics: Revisiting Productivity’s Fundamentals

    An occasional series exploring the fundamentals of productivity, with helpful tips to bring your  own system together. (Dustin M. Wax)

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    1. Back to Basics: Projects
    2. Back to Basics: Waiting For Someday/Maybe
    3. Back to Basics: Your Task List
    4. Back to Basics: Procrastination – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    5. Back to Basics: The Big Picture
    6. Back to Basics: The Tickler File
    7. Back to Basics: Reminders
    8. Back to Basics: Your Calendar
    9. Back to Basics: Processing
    10. Back to Basics: Your Inbox
    11. Back to Basics: Your Weekly Review
    12. Back to Basics: Setting Priorities
    13. Back to Basics: Your Inbox
    14. Back to Basics: Reference Filing
    15. Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas

    One more thing…

    Don’t miss our new apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch:

    Happy 2009!

    Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and editors for making 2008 a great year. We wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive 2009!

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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