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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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