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The lifehack.org User’s Guide

The lifehack.org User’s Guide
lifehack.org: Your Complete Productivity Guide

    With the rise of RSS, website content is increasingly found far afield from the websites where it originates. And there’s nothing wrong with that — RSS away! But for those of you who read lifehack.org’s post in your feed reader, as well as those of you new to lifehack.org or longtime readers who might not have had a chance to look around the site much, I thought I’d take a moment to point out all the features lifehack.org offers.

    It’s What’s Inside That Counts

    Of course, first and foremost here at lifehack.org are the half-dozen or so new posts that go up nearly every morning. Go ahead and subscribe to our RSS feed, if you haven’t already. Our posts are organized into six categories: Communication, Lifestyle, Management, Money, Productivity, and Technology.

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    lifehack.org is written by several permanent writers, including our founder Leon Ho, Craig Childs, Scott H. Young, and myself (Dustin M. Wax). In addition, a never-ending stream of guest authors post here, bringing to bear their wisdom and perspectives from a range of professional and personal perspectives. Guest posts are identified in the bio following their articles — be sure to check out their websites for more.

    And, of course, there’s you: our readers, commenters, and inspiration. Got a topic you’d like to see lifehack.org cover? Email our tips hotline at tips@lifehack.org. Or become a guest contributor yourself — see our contributor’s guidelines for more information. You’ll be writing for one of the most popular blogs on the Internet: no. 41 according to Technorati. There’s worse ways of getting your message out!

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    But Wait, There’s More!

    While the blog is the visible face of lifehack.org, it’s only part of what we do here. lifehack.org is about people helping other people to lead happier, more productive lives, and none of our writer have a monopoly on how to do that. At its heart, lifehack.org is not about the one-way flow of ideas and advice — it’s about the community of like-minded folks lending each other their own wisdom, advice, and the little hacks that make life a bit easier.

    In short, we encourage ever reader to take part, to share your own tricks and knowledge with the rest of us. One way to do that, of course, is to comment on our stories. We thrive on your feedback, of course, but that’s only one way among several for your voices to be heard here.

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    There’s also our howto section, an instruction manual for life. Built around the same software that powers WikiPedia, the lifehack.org How-To Manual has pages on writing, sleep habits, management skills, and other topics gleaned from lifehack.org, but it could and should be home to much more — any information you feel will help someone get a grasp on his or her life is welcome. Register for an account and start sharing!

    Or maybe you prefer something a bit more conversational? Then pay the lifehack.org community forum a visit and join the conversation. Any topic covered at lifehack.org is fair game, from your thoughts on a recent post to your grand philosophy of productivity to an inside look at your Moleskine.

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    But That’s not All!

    You don’t have to be at your computer to enjoy all the lifehacky goodness lifehack.org offers. Load up your iPod or other music player with the lifehack.org podcast (Subscribe). Currently hosted by lifehack.org contributor, entrepreneur, and cartoonist Tony D. Clark, the podcasts are titled “Trial By Fire Productivity”, with each monthly episode finding a different person in the hotseat to answer five questions about how they stay productive:

    1. Describe your current productivity process – the one you use day-to-day to stay on track and get your stuff done.
    2. What have you tried in the past that just didn’t work for you?
    3. How has your process evolved over the past year, and were there any major contributing factors to how it evolved?
    4. What 3 – 5 productivity tools to you find to be indispensable?
    5. What one thing do you do that has the biggest impact on your productivity — if you had to pick only one thing to do each day, what would it be?

    Finally, because no productivity website is complete without its own line of GTD downloads, we offer you as your free gift just for dropping by our templates. Designed to be printed out on sheets of letter- or A4-sized card stock, the GTD templates will look swell tucked into your Hipster PDA or the back pocket of your Moleskine. Also pretty cool is the graph paper generator: Enter your paper size and the size of grid lines you want and voila! A pdf file you can download and print out over and over and over.

    If you find your schedule getting a little too demanding for graph paper and index cards, you may want to try out Tony Clark’s Task Flow Worksheet and Risks Versus Rewards Worksheet on the same page. Tony’s written up full instructions for each of them, so enjoy.

    Closing Time

    So there you have it — a brief tour of the facilities, capped off with a free template or two to take home and show your friends. Since we’d naturally like to see lifehack.org be the best site it can possibly be, we’d love to see you using all the features outlines above. But maybe you need more, maybe there’s something that would make lifehack.org that much better or you? Let us know, either here or in the forums.

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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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