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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 [email protected]. 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 April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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