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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 September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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