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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.

    More by this author

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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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