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The Best of Lifehack: April 2012

The Best of Lifehack: April 2012


    April has come and gone, and so it’s time for another installment in our Best of Lifehack series. This series showcases articles from the month just gone by, just in case you missed some of what we offer each and each every day at Lifehack.

    This month we delivered posts on a wide variety of topics, focusing on fitness, nutrition, communication and overall productivity. You may have also noticed a lot of new contributors have joined the fold, largely as a result of our “How to Write for Lifehack” post that was published back in March. The result has been a slew of great articles from some very talented writers — and we’re going to bring even more of that to you from this month onward.

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    As we bid April farewell, here is The Best of Lifehack from the past month.

    How to Get Stuff Done: A Quick Guide

    Have you ever felt like your to do list is completely out of control and you’re just not getting anywhere? You have jobs piling up and you just don’t know where to start? Zoe B. has put together a primer on how to get stuff done that’s well worth checking out.

    7 Things You Should Add to Your Stop Doing List…Right Now!

    You probably make lists of things to do and follow them through. But what about the things you should stop doing? Successful people do not do the following things but chances are you still do. Paul Sloane recommends that you make a decision to add 7 things to your “stop doing list” starting today.

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    Hack Your Weight Loss Workout – Lose Weight In 15 Minutes a Day

    A weight loss workout doesn’t have to be boring. It shouldn’t require you to workout for hours every day to be effective either. You can actually lose weight and excess body fat in just 15 minutes a day. Lifehack contributor Curt Pedersen explains how you can do just that.

    The 3 Best iPhone Apps to Help You Remember

    Regular Lifehack contributor Royale Scuderi has discovered many very useful apps in her quest for better life management. Here are a few of the best iPhone apps to help your remember and that she has found to be very helpful.

    Productivity Hacks: 8 Things That Are Hurting Your Productivity

    Fixing minor issues can sometimes play a big role in enhancing your overall productivity and allow your creativity to flow like never before. Uttoran Sen offers up 8 things that are hurting your productivity — and how to hack them.

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    Lifehack Presents: A Mini-Guide for Weight Loss for Men

    Lifehack Associate Editor CM Smith has been assembling some excellent mini-guides over the past couple of months, and this one is no exception. If you’re a guy who’s looking to lose some excess pounds, give this a good read. And then follow through!

    Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Reach Their Goals

    With everything that happens around us, it is sometimes difficult to reach our goals. Robert Chen hasn’t just listed the top 10 reasons why people don’t reach their goals, but he’s also included a quick fix for each of them.

    20 Encouraging Quotes to Level Up Your Life

    With everything that happens around us, it is sometimes difficult to reach our goals. Robert Chen hasn’t just assembled the top 10 reasons why people don’t reach their goals, but he’s also included a quick fix for each of them.

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    How to Be 25% Happier in Five Minutes a Day

    Remember when you got a raise and bought a new car, and you were happy ever since? Neither does Cara Stein. So rather than dwell on that, she outlines ways that you can be 25% happier in just five minutes — each and every day.

    Seven Truths About You

    In this excerpt from the book Kiss That Frog: 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work, Brian Tracy and Christina Tracy Stein explain that no matter where you are today, or what you have done or not done in the past, you need to accept seven essential truths about you as a person.

    (Photo credit: Golden leader of business team via Shutterstock)

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    4 Simple Steps to Brain Dump for a Smarter Brain Why Is Productivity Important? 10 Reasons to Become More Productive Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    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”.

    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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    The power of habit

    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 six 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.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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