People are complicating their lives just to decomplicate later. It's a vicious cycle designed to keep the market flowing. Needs are created in real time, we don't even know why we need certain things any more. We live under the anxiety created by the excess of excess.
With 99% of the so called "life hacks", we're just trying to eliminate a problem that we created by another "life hack". Oh a nice trick to keep the iPhone doing X? Cool! Why did I need X in the first place again??? I don't remember. And the iPhone...why did I buy it? I just play a silly game and use the contacts list most of the time.
There is a:
99% chance you don't need your email available 24x7
99% chance you don't need a new car
99% chance you don't need a cell phone turned on 24x7
99% chance that 99% of the shit ton of information you gather daily will be thrown out of your brain in just a few weeks
99% chance you don't need a stupid GPS guiding what you do, where you drive
99.99% chance you don't really need a new iPad, iThis, iThat, HTC that, whatever
99% chance you don't need the extra U$ 1000 on your sallary
99% chance you didn't need to be tweeting or checking your email while there was a nice person sitting next to you while you waited at the airport
99% chance you don't need to be all you can be better richer faster more
This is why the world is turning into a bunch of control freaky, unhappy, lonely, greedy and unhealthy bunch of individuals.
I discovered this one day. I said fuck it and went for a walk at the park. Since then, I've done the same thing daily and I don't miss the other 1567 things I used to do on the Internet instead of having a silly walk at the park.
Most current work environments consist of 8 hour long streams of interruptions. You could say that dealing with the interruptions is the actual work now, and the work that you were supposed to do has been relegated to being a nuisance.
Of course, this results in the birth of the entire GTD and "life hacking" fads, because people foolishly believe that this mess is somehow manageable.
What you describe above could be seen as withdrawal symptoms from persistent hyper-stimulation and hyper-responsiveness. People are so used to constant external stimuli that require attention and feedback at the workplace, that they need to recreate these situations at home.
I think that in this regard, television is an old medium, because it is content with you just sitting on your lazy ass.
So we don't need evented dev environments so much as we need evented people?
It's irritating how sites like LifeHacker imply that you need to be going 100mph all day every day, working with the latest gadgets using the latest technology to make more money to buy more stuff.
Maybe some of us are perfectly fine just working our day job on our line of business software and then going home and hanging out with our families and playing with our dogs.
I still have LifeHacker on my iGoogle homepage, but I rarely actually read the articles aside from the "top download for the week" ones, which are sometimes interesting just to see what new stuff is out there.
The main problem is that most of their "hacks" are written in such a way that implies that you are WASTING YOUR LIFE if you aren't following some kind of strict 37 Signals approved code and micro-managing every aspect of everything to death.
Agreed, my phone automatically powers off at 11PM and on at 7:30AM, and I barely ever notice. I do notice the improved battery life though.
While true, the cost of a GPS unit is so low it is easy to throw one in the glove box for that 1% when you do need it.
There are the more complicated battery saving apps that do stuff like kill 3G while your screen is off and overnight.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=be1ay.flymode&... would be a pretty simple way of solving the problem too.
However, I agree with the parent to some extent; I could live just fine without tech for as long as required, but on the other hand the information super-firehose is fun and stimulating in ways a walk in the park just isn't. Keyword: moderation.
They used to have these things calls "maps" that performed this job really really well. I think they were $10 for a really good one.
Haven't seen one of them in ages.
There's a actually an established term for most of your list: Early Adopters. A marketing euphemism for people who waste their life and money trying out products you throw at them. It can be fun, but when I see people on Twitter with that term in their bio, I can't help but facepalm.
And then there's another group of people - those who tune their tools forever.
Both obsessions are incredibly common on HN. One harmless case in point, this submission on the front page left me clueless:
How many people on this planet have that many management duties that exchanging all stock apps is worth the time? Is it a Zen garden thing? (Sorry author - I have actually at half of those apps too :) )
That would be me.
I don't own a cellphone since 2004. I've got tired of being constantly available (and disrupted), so I ditched the damn thing. It may not be practical for everybody, but it works for me. The world has its own pace and I have mine.
For me, the biggest inconvenience of not having a cellphone are those businesses (websites) that insist on a "cellphone #" being a required field during a sign-up or when requesting a quote.
Disclaimer: I run my own show.
I think with 'smartphones' being so expensive that phone contract prices in general have gone up. So far I've never owned a smart-phone and hopefully I can stay away from that bloated cost.
Disclaimer: I live in suburban amerika in a moderate-sized city with a low(er) cost of living. (Think LA is 1.5 x more expensive then here.)
...And yes, I threw in a Rammstein reference.
I do appreciate having a map with me, being able to transfer money wherever I am, take a photo without carrying a full camera, read a book on a plane without adding the weight to the luggage, have some music available when I'm bored, not having to print tickets when possible, having all my notes/calendar without carrying an actual notebook, and a number of other things that simply improve my life without any downsides.
You can say that Knuth went of the grid to accomplish something extraordinary, but I did it once I've realized that my life is actually mine to live and that the world would not end if I'm not reachable. I quit being Atlas and the sky didn't fall.
Realistically, the only reason you should use lifehacks is to free your time up for things you enjoy. I occasionally use the pomodoro technique to get things done, but gave up massive GTD lists a long time ago.
I used to use super-organised lists and manage my time GTD-style, but I found that the big problem was whatever I did, there was always more stuff to do. In the end I just left it. No matter what I do work-wise, there will always be more. All you can do is set time limits and work within them.
Nowadays I just use Wunderlist to list what I currently need to do that's urgent, then cut off at 6pm. I never take phone calls after 8pm unless it's from my wife or family, which makes my life a whole lot simpler outside of work. The only downside is that I typically work a 6 day week. Still working on that, but I'm grateful that what I do for work is mostly actually fun.
I've got great plans for those (getting married, buying a house, having kids).
The ultimate lifehack. Living it.
Well, it's something to do 'til the undertaker comes.
I know I'm definitely guilty of this at times.
"I don't want to clean my room to avoid writing a paper for my entire life"
This is kind of why most startups I see, or at least, with web apps, I think will do nothing.
The other thing with most of them and almost society in general now is this great congregating of all things whilst not improving. There's an amusing selfishness that's hypocritically common now too.
I also wonder how exactly they're measuring their lives. By the amount of trivial things they get done? By how efficiently they can read a message on the internet? A lot of it comes down to 'neat party tricks.'
If I don't want to do it, it doesn't make me money, and its not a family obligation, I don't do it.
How I hack email:
Employees and close friends get my email address. No one else should have it.
How I hack my phone:
Employees, close friends, and attractive girls have it. I never answer an unknown number. I never return a call from a company, they have to send something in writing.
How I hack making phone calls to companies:
Personal assistant does it.
How I hack snail mail:
My lawyer picks it up once a week, important stuff I see eventually.
Lifehacking isn't about optimizing an annoying task, its about not doing it.
I would argue that most of us don't have personal assistants and lawyers to deal with our petty problems 24/7.
My current smartphone is at the manufacturer getting repaired, it has been 3 weeks now. In the meantime I picked up one of those cheap-as-all-hell-pay-as-you-go-phones...
In three weeks I've needed to charge it one time... considering how little I actually use my phone I've spent about $20 on minutes and I haven't used half of them yet.
I'll actually be a little sad when my smartphone comes back, I'm thinking about telling the manufacturer to just keep it.
The Nokia phone lasts several days, the other one can be dead by midafternoon and is charged daily.
95% of the time I ever NEED internet, I am at the office, home, or at a friend's place with wifi. I would rather spend the ~$1000/year all my friends spend on their iphone on other hobbies/ activities.
I wish I were part of this 99% :(
Have you SEEN Bay Area rent prices? I've got a decent salary and it still takes a big bite out of what's left after CA taxes.
In the case of lifehacking, it's more a case of "the valley of bad economics": of knowing just enough economics to understand that saving time is valuable and worth paying for upfront, but not being good enough to take the analysis any further and consider things like 1) how much time you are actually saving on net, 2) how long you are likely to be using any system and receiving the gains you paid for, 3) and whether you might not be overestimating both figures.
Frequently, you find that even large apparent gains are not actually justified solely on the basis of saving time because of the uncertainty and discounting of future gains you need to do.
To give some examples I recently worked through some numbers on various self-experiments I've done: http://lesswrong.com/lw/cih/value_of_information_8_examples/
The striking thing is that even the most dramatic self-experiments like using melatonin to improve my sleep did not justify very time-consuming (and more reliable) experiments, and the most efficient thing to do would just take melatonin on the strength of my background information and subjective impressions of efficacy.
I always took this to mean that we can't believe something just because an expert says it. In other words, an expert should be more correct than the guy on the bus, but an argument needs to stand on its own -- it doesn't really matter who says it.
So you wouldn't be flagged for saying the Nobel physicist is more likely to be correct. You would be flagged if you said he is correct because he's a Nobel physicist.
Is my understanding correct? Disclaimer: I've never taken any Philosophy class. :)
If the most celebrated nutritionist told me that eating nothing but baked beans was the healthiest diet in the world, I wouldn't believe him 'just because' he's an expert. I know enough about the subject of nutrition to consider his Baked Beans idea demented. So, I would ask him to show some sort of evidence.
P.S. I'll be reading more of your Value of Information: 8 examples article. Very interesting!
He spends a whole chapter talking about the tyranny of the "urgent" and how we often allow it to crowd out the "important"... and how essential it is to plan/balance the necessity of one vs. the desires of the other.
I think I realized this intuitively when I was about 20 or so, but when you have your principles defined and commit to them daily, everything else flows from there... When you have a driving purpose in life, everything from confidence to leadership to relational skills to technical skills and even your desire for being physically in-shape all develop and naturally flow out from your overarching desire to meet that purpose. Covey calls it "true north", and it's a great metaphor -- when you know "true north", all paths that don't bring you in that direction immediately and quickly become irrelevant to your life.
Even better, you rarely need self-help books along the way, simply because life will teach you all the unique lessons and tricks you need to learn as you strive intentionally towards that mission.
With that said, once you've decided that you're doing things that matter, hack away, because time is still the currency of life.
I could put a lot of time and effort into getting it under control and keeping it under control. In fact I've tried a few times, although it always reverted back to out of control as soon as I got busy again.
Re-read that last sentence--I let it go "as soon as I got busy again." It took me a while but I realized that this is actually my own healthy attitude about email...it's not what keeps me busy. My real work is what keeps me busy, or my family, or my friends. Email is what I fit in around the real stuff I do.
I've accepted that email management means simply choosing who to disappoint on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. In a way it's flattering that all these people want my attention and efforts. But it's not sustainable. So I've consciously tried to shift my mental energy from trying to "fix" my email, to simply trying to make the best decisions about who to disappoint as I go along with my real work.
The prevalence of cell phones and always-available internet has led a lot of people to believe that you need to always take every phone call, always respond to every text and e-mail.
I've developed a habit of waiting at least a day or two before responding to e-mails and phone calls. Let the message bounce around in your brain for a few days and actually make a well reasoned response.
You'd be amazed how often problems will resolve themselves, and training people not to expect you to respond immediately 24/7 will gradually reduce the amount of stuff you get sent.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good" - Voltaire
Around the first of the year I read a post about 'minimal porn' and 'desk porn' and it made me feel really petty and stupid. So, I decided to let my desk 'live and let live'. Whatever ended up on my desk (within reason) could stay. After a week or so, I was over the minimal desk thing. It never even crosses my mind now. My desk is for work and concentration, not staging of photos.
I've yet to be burned by this and I take the approach to my closets at home, too. While spring cleaning, if I can't remember seeing some item in the last year, it goes to goodwill. My wife used to freak out about sentimental things, but she's come around. They're just things. If they're really that sentimental, put them someplace you can admire them every day.
Like that you stay productive and you incrementally improve your work environment.
Obsessing over your work environment is just as counterproductive as obsessing over the work itself. A healthy balance is the main ingredient to increasing productivity in the longer term.
Facetious, i know - but this is a confessional, the OP is basically saying he isn't capable of separating his time out like that - he would get drawn into the optimization process - like an addiction and blow past he's 20% allotment.
If a person is able to maintain the don't go over 20% of your time on optimization then by definition they aren't dealing with the same issue as the OP.
Well, lots of devs have 10 sided dice...
But seriously, this could be determined stochastically per hour or pomodoro.
For example: you probably won't get away without paying your bills so a "life hack" that automates that process will take another load of your shoulders.'
On the other hand, a "life hack" for storing "all your stuff" might not be as good as simply "get rid of all your crap"
Also good point about life design, there's not much point in "saving x minutes" or earning "x dollars" if you don't do anything useful and worthwhile with it
All in all the most important thing is to have a process, call it kaizen, constant improvement, or whatever. Try different things, measure / see what works, learn from the mistakes, rinse - repeat
I've been managing my email using mutt and basically the same set of procmail scripts since around 1999, and I'll easily get at least another 10 years out of them, as long as people continue to use email.
About 2 years ago when I got my smartphone, I installed an IMAP server (dovecot), configured it to use my existing maildir tree, and then pointed my phone at that. I'll probably get at least 10 years out of that, too.
All of this pre-dates Android, iOS, GMail, Evernote, etc., and it'll probably outlive them.
And yet another post for my list of HN post that had the biggest impact. Thumbs up!
The list, totally unrated, is:
There is no speed limit
Most of pg's non-tech essays (since I don't understand the technical ones)
The SpaceX couverage (being in Aerospace, I'd like to hide in shame compared to what sapceX did, but a bright example of what actually is possible)
Being deaf (it open my mind to something I never really thought about)
Among others, of course!
My life? A hundred times better. I can now focus. I play with my daughter for at least an hour every day. I've lost more than a hundred pounds. I now run marathons. I program like a madman. And I was able to begin doing my own startup (which is about to launch my first MVP).
Have I missed anything? No.I'd say I'm now living, instead of just being here.
Try it out. It works.
Edited to fix formatting. Sorry for the annoying one line paragraphs.
This has greatly allowed me to focus. Because I can only connect to the Internet when I have to. It also allows me to really plan my day ahead. I can say "from 10am to 11am I will surf Hacker News for ideas, people, and new data points." Instead of just browsing relentelssly all day.
It also allows me to label things as they appear in terms of importance.
I'm actually writing a short article about it. Will release it soon. Keep posted.
One of the things I have never tried to improve is my email. I check my personal email once a day, and almost never in the weekends. When I see a long email that takes a long time to make a point, I stop reading and go to the next. Some people don't really like it when I do this, but it keeps me sane.
The one time I tried to check my email more often and respond more often the amount of email I got exploded and I decided to stop.
Yesterday I had a discussion with someone about answering email. In which I said "Ten years ago a lot of people didn't even have an email address or a mobile phone and a lot of people didn't want one. Everything went fine without it". Sometimes I make myself feel old :P.
I sometimes think the world would be a better place without email and mobile phones, life would be a lot more relaxed. The only way to deal with them is to not use them as much as possible.
Should you spend 40 hours customizing your e-mail solution? Probably not.
Should you spend 1 hour and get it to an efficient state? Why the hell not. It'll save you some time later on.
This article is an overcorrection to a problem which stemmed from a lack of balance. The thing itself is not bad (engineering systems for your life), the imbalance of over-engineering was bad.
So yes, lifehacking to the extreme such that you spend more time working on systems than using those systems is probably a bad thing. But living your life as though no system could aid it is just as bad.
If you read GTD with the idea that David was a very eastern-religion influenced guy and studied martial arts and meditation, you sort of get this intuitively. There's a limit; a zen about it.
Don't over-engineer your life. Balance it using the tools available to you, so your tools just work and you don't have to think about the tools anymore. If you're spending too much time on the tools, you're doing it wrong.
You probably don't need much to do it, and the revenues from the sale will allow you to go around most of the obstacles that the vast majority of people have to go through in this life.
1. Less lifehacking, more life-designing
2. The best app/tool/gadget/hack for the job is the one you have with you.
3. The least possible (practical) amount of organization is best.
4. You are very important, but only to certain people. Make sure you identify them correctly.
If you only try implement one of these you got to moving in the right direction.
What an awesome quote ;-)
In many ways, I think the key is not to sell your heart into something too quickly or even at all. Also, let other people be the early adopters -- examine their successes and failures.
Be ruthless about the tools you use and the methods you use. If they're too cumbersome, ditch them.
I often wonder if the frustration with this encumbrance is whether its because for a lot of things, digital tools aren't the best choice. Or at least some digital paradigms aren't, such as Omnifocus and Evernote vs. a rough paper analog such as Notational Velocity.
Corollary: Over half of the audience for self-help books need one to stop buying self help books.
So, lifehacking is just self help packaged in tweet-sized and blog-post sized attention span chunks?
Constantly being systems only and not doing the work itself will make any system, no matter how optimized, ineffective.
Also, I'd reconsider the fuchsia emphasis.
1. Mr. Pavlus asserts that all "life hacking" is a distraction. Yes, he says "9 out of 10" and "in a lot of cases," and he backpedals in the conclusion, but the tone of the article is really a total denouncement. I disagree with this. Like him, I think that it is very important to have life goals, priorities, and a focus on simplicity. However, I also think that once this is accomplished, it is easy to sift out the "hacks" and tools that A) further simplify your life rather than further complicate, and B) give a greater return of time and energy than what's required to implement, learn, and maintain them. I think that this article would have been better presented as an analysis of why we seek out these "life hacks" (If you're looking for them, at least you're not THAT far from the right mindset!), and a suggestion for improving the way we view and implement them.
It is certainly easy to get caught up in the excitement of improving your tools and organization, especially the electronic ones. Everything is just so smooth and colorful! But that doesn't mean it's always purely a distraction. It might be a waste of my time to spend an hour trying to tweak my GMail to work with some unholy union of Quicksilver and Applescript (It wasn't, I use that hotkey every day), but I don't think it's a waste to spend ten minutes learning GMail keyboard shortcuts I will use for a long time to come.
Here's how I resolve the gap. When I see something that I think will be useful for me, I stop right there and send it to my inbox to research later. Treating even the initial research as another task gives me time to let it simmer and unconsciously decide if I really need it, and more importantly, when it comes time to return to that research, I will be more impartial about evaluating that research against my other priorities. If I do decide to do it, I will be much more likely to focus on just that one new hack, and not go on a lifehacking spree.
By the way, my "inbox," and my entire GTD system, is just a set of tags and filters in my GMail. After having the idea, it took me about an hour to think through and implement, and it has improved my entire life. I consider it and GTD a great example of the good kind of lifehacking -- both A) and B) are satisfied.
2. This is a less important point - more of a technicality - but being someone who thinks everyone should at least know about GTD, I want to point out that a large part of the book is devoted to almost exactly this topic: Evaluating your life priorities at every level, and learning how to apply those to what you're doing at any given moment. It's the less sexy part of the system, but arguably the more important.
I've only read the book once myself, and I don't own it anymore. I gave it away to someone else, the proper fate of all good books. However, what I got from the book has stayed with me, and probably will for my whole life. I don't spend undue time and energy revisiting GTD and thinking about how much I can possibly optimize it, but I value it enormously, and my success with it prompts me to be at least somewhat open to new hacks if they seem equally valuable, and to advise others to do the same.
3. More of a case in point of the above: Mr. Pavlus' Game Genie example was apt, and he was right, it certainly didn't make the games any newer. But does that mean it was a waste of time? If changing the rules of the game slightly allows you to enjoy something you love in a fresh way, is that a distraction or is that life? Personally, I love video games, and I do something very similar. I do challenge runs and especially speedruns of games I love, old and new, so that I can continue to genuinely enjoy them well beyond the initial experience. That's what I think the best hacks are really about: Squeezing the most you can not out of your system, but out of life.
Essentially, small changes can't be pushed by will alone, because they're easy to make but hard to maintain. They just don't make enough of a difference. If you try to get up 5 minutes earlier every morning, you're not going to become a "morning person". You're going to start making exceptions because there just isn't a real difference between waking up at 7:25 vs. 7:30. Likewise, people who try to "cut back" on cigarettes fail. After a month, they're back to their old rate. Small changes get wiped out if there isn't some long-term, glacial force (not conscious will) pushing them.
From a static perspective, you need enough magnitude in the change to escape the "drainage region" of whatever local optimum you're at, and move into another region. If we take the more featured dynamic perspective wherein those optima might be moving, we see that gradual life changes are happening all the time, but that will power alone is not causing them: the glacial shift in these local optima is what does this.
On the other hand, extreme changes are usually rejected, both by the individual (who never gains confidence in his ability to see the change through) and by people that one intends to influence. The only time people accept these kinds of changes is when there's a sense either of desperation or extreme opportunity, and those are rare circumstances.
So it seems that the most effective way to consciously manage one's life is to make meaningful changes of middling size-- not so small that they get rubbed out by the long-term glacial changes, but not so large that it's impossible to really believe that they will work. I think this is appropriate to self-management and leadership: getting the size of the change right.
The problem with lifehacking is that the appropriate moderate and large changes vary from one person to another, which means that a one-size-fits-all approach won't work. Getting up at 6:00 am will make some people a lot more productive, and others far less. The larger the change, the more individualized this question of appropriateness gets. So "lifehacking" usually focuses on relatively small changes but promises a larger impact. It's not surprising that most of these hacks fail to deliver and end up costing more energy (through constant change and the continual depletion inflicted by unnecessary self-control) than they add in productivity.
There are a lot of different kinds of wankery in the world. There's nothing wrong with indulging in wankery, but it's important to be honest that that's what you're doing. To relabel it "productivity enhancement" or "lifehacking" does not change what it is, and may mislead you into thinking you're actually accomplishing something when you're not.