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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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    More by this author

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    1 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated) 4 How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone 5 How to Find Time for Yourself

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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.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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