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Year in Review: Lifehacks, lifehack.org, and Your Changing Life

Year in Review: Lifehacks, lifehack.org, and Your Changing Life
Lifehack Year in Review

With 2007 winding down and 2008 ready to storm in, it’s a good time to look at what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same, here at lifehack.org — and in our lives in general. The idea of a “lifehack” has changed a lot since Danny O’Brien introduced the term at NotCon in 2004. For O’Brien, life hacking was about applying the lessons of computer programming — the systematic logic and habits used by committed coders — to life in general.

O’Brien’s talk inspired a wave of techies to get organized and rethink the habits they applied — or often, failed to apply — in their day-to-day lives. It also inspired a wave of bloggers, from our own Leon Ho to Merlin Mann of 43folders, Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing, and Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, to begin writing about productivity, organization, and general life skills from this tech-based perspective.

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The popularity of these and similar sites brought the idea of lifehacking to the world at large, well beyond the small circle of “highly prolific geeks” (to use O’Brien’s term) that originally latched onto and developed the concept. Writers, designers, corporate executives, parents, teachers, and people from all across the spectrum of today’s society started exchanging tips, advice, tricks of the trade, and all the little hacks they’d come up with to make their lives work.

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From carrying around a stack of index cards to capture ideas on to writing your cell phone number on your child’s stomach with magic marker in case you got separated at Disneyland, the ideas we call life hacks helped people get a grip on some of the very deep concerns at the core of modern life. Most of all they addressed a real shift in the way people were thinking about their jobs and careers, their homes and families, their identities and their societies.

As lifehacking moved into the mainstream, the mainstream moved into the lifehacking world, too. Merlin Mann still writes about the latest Mac app for getting things done, but he also posts about choosing a camera lens to take pictures of his new child with. Lifehacker still has Gina Trapani’s latest software release, but it also has tips on organizing your refrigerator and storing your Christmas tree lights.

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For a generation (or two) unsatisfied by the empty promises and soggy new age platitudes of mainstream self-help literature, life hacking has opened up a new field in personal development, one that is relevant to the way we work, play, and relate to each other. We may be overwhelmed by the tremendous advances in technology over the last decade, but we reject the “back to the trees” worldview and look for ways to make this new technology work for us — to help us connect with our friends and family scattered across the country or even the world, to help us organize not only our possessions but our thoughts, to help us build our own businesses and careers.

Last year, our founder Leon Ho looked back at the previous year on lifehack.org and saw a widening in the site’s focus from technological solutions to questions about living healthy, communicating more effectively, and becoming more creative. This year, lifehack.org has continued to expand its scope, adding over a dozen new writers who have written about studying more successfully, writing, designing your documents, meditating, getting and staying physically fit, the way our brains work, networking, motivating yourself, setting and achieving goals, parenting, leadership, and more. We still write about technology, but as part of our whole lives and not the entirety of our worlds.

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There are more changes ahead in 2008. A site redesign is in the works, we’ve just added a half-dozen new writers, we’ve launched a new podcast, and we have bigger projects on the horizon. What won’t change is that lifehack.org will continue to bring you interesting, useful, and relevant insights every day.

You’re a big part of that. Not only are lifehack.org’s readers the continuing inspiration for what we do, you’re an important part of the community as a whole. Your feedback helps us decide what to write about, what to look into, and what to ignore. Over the course of 2007, the average number of comments on a post has doubled, and we’d like to see it double again (and again!) in coming year. You let us know what we’re doing right — and what we’re doing wrong.

Thank you for making lifehack.org a part of your life. We look forward to another year together!

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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