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The 90 Best Lifehacks of 2009: The Year in Review

The 90 Best Lifehacks of 2009: The Year in Review

The 90 Best Lifehacks of 2009: The Year in Review

    Another year is winding down, and that means it’s time to take a look back at what we’ve done here at Lifehack over the last 12 months. 2009 was a scary year for a lot of people – corporate layoffs, a shaky global economy, stunningly vicious politics, old wars grinding on and new ones flaring up. In the midst of all this, though, many saw opportunities; with the myth of life-long corporate employment shattered as some of the world’s biggest companies teetered on the brink of collapse, entrepreneurship enjoyed a major resurgence. This rise in self-reliance extends beyond our work life, too – people are embracing a do-it-yourself, person-to-person lifestyle where status and the display of wealth matter much less than authenticity and social interaction.

    All of this is reflected in the posts that went up on this site over the last year. What follows is a list of the 90 most popular, most commented on, and most talked-about posts from 2009, and as you can see, in addition to our usual mix of posts about personal productivity, organization, webware, and creativity, a large number of posts about personal finance and self-employment made the top of the list. It’s not surprising that Lifehack’s staff and contributors would write posts that reflect the tenor of the times, nor that such posts would resonate most with our audience.

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    What emerges from all this is a treasure trove of good advice, ranging from the lofty and idealistic to the immediately practical. We promise to continue to provide quality tips and advice about work, technology, money, and just plain living in the new year and beyond. If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our feed and follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss any of the great posts we have in store for 2010!

    Software and Technology

    2009 was notable for the maturing of online applications, the explosion of applications for mobile phones, and the mainstreaming of social networking services like Twitter and Facebook. Popular stories at Lifehack covered tips for the use (and not abuse) of social networking services, tips on using your computer effectively and securely, and recommendations for applications online, on your PC, and on your Android phones.

    1. Getting Productive with the Webware 100 (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace? (Clemens Rettich)
    3. Is Google Ready to Handle Your Business? (Part 1) and (Part 2) (Dustin M. Wax)
    4. From Here to Tweeternity: A Practical Guide to Getting Started on Twitter (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. Six Ways to Transform your Presentation (Paul Sloane)
    6. Managing Your Social Network Addiction (Ibrahim Husain)
    7. 8 Keys to Internet Security (Dustin M. Wax)
    8. The First 10 Free Apps to Install on a New Windows PC (Dustin M. Wax)
    9. 12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done (Part 1) and (Part 2) (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. Your Guide to Apps that Eliminate Distractions (Joel Falconer)

    Lifestyle: Family, Fitness, and Finance

    Money issues were on everyone’s minds this year, and our writers served up plenty of advice about managing both your money and your expectations. Advice about families and parenting was popular this year – or sometimes controversial, like Craig Harper’s poorly understood advice to take ownership of your past and recognize that whoever wronged you in the past, only you can set things right for yourself. And, since today’s worker is all-too-often someone who spends most of her or his day sitting, our writers’ advice on getting some activity into your life was well appreciated.

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    1. How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids (Erin Kurt)
    2. If Your Childhood Sucked – It’s Time to Stop Blaming Your Parents! (Craig Harper)
    3. How to Recognize Imminent Danger: 7 Essential Safety Rules (Mary Jaksch)
    4. 30 Money Sites to Check Out in 2009 (Thursday Bram)
    5. 3 Scary Misconceptions About Money (Joel Falconer)
    6. Great Ways to Become Poor and Stay Poor (Paul Sloane)
    7. Weight Loss Groundhog Day (Craig Harper)
    8. Pain and Posture: The Basics (Jamie Nischan)
    9. How to Start Running – Without Feeling Like a Failure (Mary Jaksch)
    10. A Workout for Geeks (Daryl Furuyama)

    Personal Productivity and Creativity

    Advice about getting productive makes up the core of Lifehack’s content, so naturally our most popular and most talked about posts this year were just that. From developing the right mindset to promoting creativity to finding inspiration and motivation, we offered tons of advice on getting things done.

    1. 12 Lists That Help You Get Things Done (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. Procrastination – NOT a Problem! (Francis Wade)
    3. 10 Best Productivity Books of 2009 (Dustin M. Wax)
    4. 11 Ways to Think Outside the Box (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. 8 Ways to Kill Clutter in 5 Minutes (David Pierce)
    6. Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style (Christine Buske)
    7. New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – Here’s Why (Steve Errey)
    8. How to Make Decisions Under Pressure (Joel Falconer)
    9. Limits and Creativity (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. The Daily Grind: A Matter of Momentum (Joel Falconer)
    11. 4 Pocket-Sized Tools to Help You Generate Killer Ideas Any Time, Anywhere (Chuck Frey)
    12. How to Think What Nobody Else Thinks (Paul Sloane)
    13. 9 Lists To Keep Updated, and Keep Handy (David Pierce)
    14. 10 Reasons Paper is The Most Flexible Productivity Platform (Joel Falconer)
    15. 3 Tips to Improve Memory Quickly (Steve Martile)
    16. How to Wake Up and Instantly Achieve Something Everyday (Paul Dickinson)
    17. Stripped GTD: 3 Habits That Make You More Productive (David Pierce)
    18. Ten Great Ways to Crush Creativity (Paul Sloane)
    19. Scoring 100% in Time Management (Francis Wade)
    20. 7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It (Annabel Candy)

    My incomplete series on getting back on track with a productivity system, “GTD Refresh”, was quite popular but was never completed. The next step for me was supposed to be eliminating my email backlog and adopting an “Inbox Zero” approach, but frankly, email won. This year – I’m going to try again in 2010 and so you may well see more “GTD Refresh posts in the not-too-distant future.

    2009 was bookended by two publications with something to offer the would-be personal productivity expert. David Allen’s Making It All Work revisited the core concepts of GTD and expanded on elements that had been weakly developed in his earlier work. You can read my lengthy review here: (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

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    And our most popular series, my “Back to Basics” posts from 2008, were collected, revised, and expanded (with 2 new chapters) in the release of Back to Basics Productivity which will be joined in 2010 by several more ebook releases.

    Work and Career

    With the economy huddling in on itself this year, even non-entrepreneurs had to learn to be more entrepreneurial. Promotions, raises, or just holding onto your job and pay level, required a demonstration of unusual career intelligence, and our writers offered a heaping portion of it. And for those in our workforce who took the plunge – voluntarily or not – into self-employment, advice on personal branding, small-business promotion, and entrepreneurship were in no short supply.

    1. What to Do if You Don’t Get Along with Your Boss (Paul Sloane)
    2. Darth Vader’s “Management” Secrets (Art Carden)
    3. 21 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out
    4. 3 Areas You Must Invest in During an Economic Recession (Dan Schawbel)
    5. Personal Branding Basics (Dan Schawbel)
    6. Seven Great Questions to Ask at a Job Interview (Paul Sloane)
    7. Why A Good Web Site Matters To Your Business (Susan Baroncini-Moe)
    8. How to do Good AND Make a Profit (Arvind Devalia)
    9. 12 Tips for Better Business Writing (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. 10 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Job (Paul Sloane)

    Productivity Pr0n

    It may seem distracting, even materialistic, to drool over office supplies, but let’s face it: I do it, you do it, and geeks around the world do it. And with good reason, actually: the right tool can (in David Pierce’s words) make all the difference. Moleskine’s were popular as always, but a list of alternative notebooks caught the eye of those put off by the style or cost of the famous pocket notebook. Pens also got a lot of attention – it may seem silly to those who are (or pretend to be) perfectly comfortable with their 12-for-a-dollar stick pens, but there truly is no feeling quite like that of a quality writing instrument gliding over the page. And for funsies, there’s are review of the Prada Link, because gadgets are way cool.

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    1. 13 Ways of Looking at an Index Card (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com (Dustin M. Wax)
    3. Why a Great Pen Makes All the Difference (David Pierce)
    4. 5 Reasons to Pay Good Money for a Moleskine (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. 13 Things to Do with a Moleskine Notebook (Dustin M. Wax)
    6. 10 Great Moleskine Hacks (Dustin M. Wax)
    7. 9 Places to Always Keep Pen and Paper Handy (David Pierce)
    8. 10 Affordable Pens Geeks Love (Dustin M. Wax)
    9. 10 Great Notebooks Productive People Love (Dustin M. Wax)
    10. The Trend of Productivity Accessories is Here (Leon Ho)

    Life Lessons

    Finally, the catch-all for what’s left. There are some brilliant people writing on Lifehack – small business experts, marketing gurus, life coaches, creativity specialists, and so on. It stands to reason that not all their advice could be slotted into easy categories. So below you’ll find advice on relating with others, mastering your own weaknesses and giving rein to your strengths, developing a charitable mindset, dealing with hardships, and more.

    1. 10 Small Ways to Make the World a Better Place (Dustin M. Wax)
    2. Have You Started Planning for a Successful 2010? Here’s How! (Susan Baroncini-Moe)
    3. Rethink the Season of Giving (Dustin M. Wax)
    4. 7 Ways to Deal with Annoying People and Still Get Things Done (Dustin M. Wax)
    5. 12 Personality Types to Avoid to Make 2009 Your Best Year (Craig Harper)
    6. Life Lessons of the Dread Pirate Roberts (Dustin M. Wax)
    7. Six Great Ways to Vent Your Frustrations (Danielle Marie Crume)
    8. How to Stay Motivated and On-Track When You’re Struggling (Susan Baroncini-Moe)
    9. Change The Way You See Fear And Change Your Life (Susan Baroncini-Moe)
    10. The Five Reasons Why You Are Not Fulfilling Your Potential (Paul Sloane)
    11. How to Be Offended (Dustin M. Wax)
    12. Improve Your Charitable Giving: Let Not Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Is Doing (Art Carden)
    13. 10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them (Part 1) and (Part 2) (Dustin M. Wax)
    14. 7 Steps to Start Lucid Dreaming (Steven Aitchinson)
    15. Changing Your Personal Reality (Part 1) and (Part 2) (Craig Harper)
    16. Dating, Living, and Being Your Best Self (Dustin M. Wax)
    17. Go on a Date with Life and More Ways to Go on a Date with Life (Dustin M. Wax)
    18. Being a Man in the 21st Century (Part 1) and (Part 2) (Dustin M. Wax)
    19. The Work of Worry (Dustin M. Wax)
    20. Your Happiness Plan (Craig Harper)

    Were there any other posts here in the last year that helped you or gave you a new perspective on your work, life, or the people around you? Let us know in the comments!

    Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize all the staff writers and guest contributors who worked hard to provide our readers with wisdom and insight in 2009. On the staff, there’s Leon Ho (site owner), myself (project manager), and our staff writers Joel Falconer and Thursday Bram, now departed. Our contributors and guests consist of:

    • Steven Aitchison
    • Susan Baroncini-Moe
    • Christine Buske
    • Annabel Candy
    • Art Carden
    • Kit Cooper
    • Danielle Marie Crume
    • Arvind Devalia
    • Paul Dickinson
    • Steve Errey
    • Chuck Frey
    • Daryl Furuyama
    • Danny Gamache
    • Lisa Gates
    • Elisabeta  Ghidiu
    • Craig  Harper
    • Liora Hess
    • Ibrahim Husain
    • Mary Jaksch
    • Erin Kurt
    • Angus Lau
    • Alexandra Levit
    • Steve Martile
    • Jamie Nischan
    • David Pierce
    • Clemens Rettich
    • Dan Schawbel
    • Paul Sloane
    • Mike St. Pierre
    • Francis Wade

    Thanks to all of them, and to you, our readers, for making 2009 a great year!

    More by this author

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain) Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

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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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