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Year in Review: The 70 Best Lifehacks of 2007

Year in Review: The 70 Best Lifehacks of 2007
The 70 Best Lifehacks of 2007

2007 was a great year for personal productivity at lifehack.org! We’ve added more than a dozen new writers, who have brought new perspectives, new topics, and most importantly new hacks and tips to our virtual pages. 

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If you want to be more productive in the New Year, take a look at these 70 best lifehacks of 2007 now, and subscribe to our feed so you don’t miss any of the great advice and information to come in the year ahead. These were the most popular posts of the last year, based on their popularity, your comments, and links from other sites. As 2007 winds down, invest some of your time and read them all. Or bookmark this page and make reading them one of your New Year resolutions.

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Networking and Communication

  1. How Not To Suck At Socializing – Do’s & Don’ts
  2. How To Initiate Conversation
  3. Using Compliments To Control Communication
  4. How To Exit A Conversation
  5. How to Cut Crutch Words When Giving a Speech

Writing and Studying

  1. Advice for Students: 10 Steps Toward Better Research
  2. Advice for students: Beware of thesaurus
  3. Advice for Students: How to Write Research Papers that Rock!
  4. Advice for Students: Taking Notes that Work
  5. How To Study
  6. How to study with a full-time job
  7. How to Take Notes like Thomas Edison
  8. Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips
  9. Design Better with CRAP
  10. How to punctuate a sentence

Productivity, Creativity, and Motivation

  1. 11 Tips for Nuking Laziness Without Becoming a Workaholic
  2. 20 Productive Ways to Use Your Free Time
  3. 50 Ways To Increase Your Productivity
  4. 6 Rules to Work Less and Get More Accomplished
  5. How to Become a Creative Genius
  6. How to Boost Your Creative Output
  7. How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
  8. Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials
  9. The Top 4 Misapplications of the 80/20 Rule
  10. Thirteen Tricks to Motivate Yourself

Leadership, Work, and Money

  1. Hack Your Boss
  2. Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way
  3. Bringing More Efficiency When You Work from Home
  4. Why One Partner Needs to Go Out and Work
  5. How to Live on a Tight Budget

Body and Mind

  1. 10 Unconventional Diet Tips: How to lose 50 pounds in three months
  2. 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)
  3. The Secret to a Healthy Body
  4. 13 Tips to Actually Enjoy Exercising
  5. Power Napping: How To Fall Asleep Anywhere
  6. 7 Stupid Thinking Errors You Probably Make
  7. Your Brain is Not Your Friend
  8. Three More Reasons Why Your Brain is Not Your Friend
  9. Nine Brain Quirks You Didn’t Realize You Had
  10. Writing and Remembering: Why We Remember What We Write

Software and Technology

  1. 10 Free Ways to Track All Your Passwords
  2. 10 Smart Hacks for Google Reader
  3. 5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good
  4. Beginner’s Guide: Run Linux like any other program in Windows
  5. Beginner’s Guide: Start a blog, get 100,000 page views and make over $100 your first month
  6. How to Survive as the Family Tech Support Guy (or Gal)
  7. Top 10 Firefox Extensions to Improve your Productivity
  8. Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts to improve your productivity
  9. Top 10 Ways to Use del.icio.us
  10. 9 Ways to Get More Out of Windows Live Writer

Family, Home, and Life

  1. Things I wish I’d known when I was younger
  2. Getting Rid of Yesterday: How to Start Your Day Fresh
  3. Hacking Church: How to attend service 52 weeks in a row
  4. How to raise the odds that it’s going to be a fantastic day
  5. My 7 Year-Old Son’s Life List
  6. The 7 Energy Sinkholes (and How to Avoid Them)
  7. The Seven Essential “Stations” Every Home Should Have
  8. Throw a lifeline to your future.
  9. Why being yourself matters
  10. Why Your Free Time is Boring

Success

  1. Success Lessons Most People Know But Too Few Follow
  2. The Ten Videos to Change How You View the World
  3. 10 Reasons You Aren’t Achieving Success
  4. How to Find Your Passion
  5. To Be Motivated and Successful, First Forget How You Feel
  6. 10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.
  7. 10 simple ways to save yourself from messing up your life
  8. 10 virtually instant ways to improve your life
  9. 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick
  10. How to Set an Appointment With Yourself

Were there any other posts that you enjoyed which haven’t mentioned here? Was there anything you learned here that changed your approach to work, family, or life in general? Let us know in the comments!

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Finally, let’s take a moment to recognize all the contributors whose incredible work in 2007 made lifehack.org a must-read resource for personal development:

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  • Lifehack.org Staff: Leon Ho, Scott Young, Craig Childs, and Dustin Wax
  • Contributors: Reginald Adkins, Marco Adragna, Brian Armstrong, Leo Babauta, Chris Brogan, Lawrence Cheok, Tony Clark, Rob Crawford, Raj Dash, Jonathan Fields, Lisa Gates, Brett Kelly, Donald Latumahina, Michael Leddy, Shane Magee, Rowan Manahan, Rory Marinich, Lorie Marrero, Tatsuya Nakagawa, Tom O’Leary, Tejvan Pettinger, Kyle Pott, Vishal Rao, Gleb Reys, Kim Roach, Susan Sabo, Adrian Savage, Rosa Say, Nick Senzee, Alex Shalman, Pamela Skillings, Mike St. Pierre , K. Stone, George Tee, Bob Walsh, and Rob Witham

Thanks to all of them, and to all the lifehack.org readers who have made lifehack.org successful.  We wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive 2008!

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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