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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

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

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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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