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My Life Hack Philosophy

My Life Hack Philosophy

I saw a trackback to my post, Bank Robbery, which talks about ways in which time gets frittered away, never to be recovered. The response was kind of interesting, especially when you take into account the tags of “pathologies” and “ocd.” It’s caused me to give some consideration to what the whole life hacking thing means to me (so thanks, Soda Water!), and as such, I thought I’d share. The goal, as with everything, is to get discussion going and see what people think, and how they relate as well.

Disclaimer: This is Chris Brogan’s viewpoint, not founder and site owner Leon Ho. I’ll let Leon have his own swing at this.

Target Market

In my own case, I got involved with attempts to hack my life when I realized that I had too many things to do, and not enough hours to do them. (I believe that’s the target audience for life hacks, by the way: folks who have too much to do, and need ways to organize). There are two ways to approach that problem: find shortcuts for things that take too much time or effort, or find ways to reclaim time from activities that waste it. Lifehacks.org attempts to cover both angles, as well as some peripheral things.

Simply, I’m my own target market.

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The Meat

When I settle in to write a Life Hack post, I aim for things that help me use time better, improve my life, navigate tricky situations, or remind me to appreciate life. I have three methods for writing posts: one is to surf news feeds and other sites, which is how I find out about software that might prove helpful. The second is to receive tips from people (and you guys are great at sharing by sending mail to tips at lifehack.org). Finally, I write about things that either bit my ass, bug me so bad that I have to write about them, or that I’ve experienced and think you might find helpful for your own life.

Those third ones, where it comes from my gut, are the ones I love the most, because I can at least claim that I’ve had positive results from that.

The meat of life hacking, to me, is any tip or thought that I take away from this site and find ways to apply to my life repeatably.

A La Carte (or as the French say, “Just take something and move on!”)

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If someone is actively using all the advice on this site, I feel for you. You are either the most advanced life form in the world, or you’ve got plenty of extra cycles in your head to determine how this stuff should all fit together. I imagine folks are more like me: you get the RSS feed, stream along, find something that whets your mental whistle, and you try it out. You read it, think about it, write about it, and then decide if you can really make it fit into your day. Maybe we’re hitting 1 for 7 with you. Maybe better or worse, depending on your needs.

Who Reads Lifehack.org?

From trackbacks, I’m always surprised who references stuff from Lifehack.org. You probably can guess that geeks and techies like us. Well, sure! Project managers and productivity experts read our stuff. But we’re also getting plenty of trackback love from religious groups (of lots of variety), from parents spilling over from the Parent Hacks crowd (podcast tonight or tomorrow features Asha Dornfest, founder of Parent Hacks, by the way).

Who are you? Why do you read it?

Value Chain Disaggregation

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Thomas Friedman talks about “value chain disaggregation” in THE WORLD IS FLAT. (I’ve written about it based on his book, too.) The premise is that one must distill the core essence of the value he or she brings to a situation (or role, or product, or family) and then find ways to “farm out” the parts that aren’t the most important. In a way, it’s like Covey’s “What Matters Most” philosophy. Habit 2. To me, life hacking is a lot about finding ways to get the bull—- out of my life so I have more time to enjoy the best parts.

If I’m fierce with my time management, it means I’ll have more time to enjoy other aspects of my life. Time not wasted means I can then have more time to spend with my kids, my wife, or my personal projects (most of which eat lots of time to stay upright). So, on one side being picky and anal means having more time to do what matters most to me. Make sense?

Make it Easy

Finally, I prefer “easy” to difficult. I like WriteBoard over MS Word. I like Macs over Windows. Why? Because I just like things to work and then I want to do my own thing over them. I just read a hack at Lifehacker for adding tennis balls to sharp corners in one’s house when one has toddlers around. That’s so easy and yet, it would save me the issues my son will soon be facing. See? Easy.

Another easy thing I somehow never learned: on Windows, on a 3-button mouse, clicking the scroll wheel (which makes web browsing so easy, by the way), I can open links in new tabs under Firefox. Click the tab with the same wheel? I can close the tab. Easy. But I never knew until I read it as part of a post on a life hacking site. Saving the planet? Hardly. But it sure makes surfing nicer.

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Lots of what we cover here at Lifehack.org hopefully makes it easier to live your life in one way or another. It might just be a software application we think will get your stuff in order. It might be a post about giving presentations, or how to negotiate a raise, or how to better pack the car for a vacation. Whatever the case, we’re trying to make it easier to live your life.

Your Platform

I participated in July4US yesterday. It was a celebration of the new media versus older mainstream media. Blogs, podcasts, videocasts, that kind of thing. Lifehack.org qualifies. What I found through my experience in the event was this: what I love most about participating in the new media is that it’s a conversation instead of a bullhorn. The audience is every bit as welcome to participate as the publishers. It’s the kind of thing where people can contribute and FEEL their contributions come back to them, closing the loop.

Leon has a wiki. He has comments turned on. He has a message board. You couldn’t be in much more contact than that. He’s built Lifehack.org with the audience (that’s YOU) to be first and foremost in everything he does. Believe me. When I approached him with wanting to do a podcast, the first thing he asked about (and the only thing he ever questions) is how the audience will participate, how it will blend with the reader experience, etc.

Sure, I’m flag waiving here. But I think this is every bit as much my life hack philosophy, because I use YOUR tips and ideas in my day as well. Most of you who comment have found out (sometimes to your surprise) that if you leave a valid email address in your comment, I’ll usually reply with a personal note. I’m not doing this to drum up business. I’m doing this often to thank people for their participation in Lifehack.org. Without you, there is no reason to do this.

I think I’ll hop off the soapbox now, and give you a chance to weigh in. Talk, if you would in the comments section, about YOUR experience and your philosophy. I’d like to listen.

–Chris Brogan pontificates equally often at [chrisbrogan.com]. His July4US project is at Grasshopper Factory.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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