Life Hacking

Life by Adam on 2005-10-25 01:33

Recently, I skimmed a book which I found lying around my office: Getting Things Done by David Allen. The book outlines a basic system for managing one’s inbox, task list(s), projects, and other red tape associated with organization and productivity. I found that the concepts described matched pretty closely with a lot of methods I had already been using, but more informally and subconsciously. Seeing them all clearly explained and outlined in a systematic fashion crystallized them in my mind, and have already yielded a slight increase in my work efficiency.

In reading more on the subject, I learned that the GTD system has a bit of a cult following, and has formed the seed of a new phenomenon called life hacking. Life hacking is a process by which one tries to learn and understand the ramifications of one’s own behavior and emotions as they relate to productivity. Then, that knowledge is put into practice to maximize output. Much in the same way that a computer hacker creates and uses hacks to get more and better results from their computer, a life hacker creates and uses hacks to get more and better results from their life.

This actually goes well beyond the realm of career productivity, because how you spend your days has effects that reach well into your personal life. GTD, for example, focuses on getting tasks into a trusted organizational system so that they are there instead of on your mind. Having nothing on your mind but the task at hand allows you to not only work more effectively, but reduces stress and frees up your mind during your non-working time as well.

43 Folders is a life hacking site that has lots of good hacks. Some are general-purpose (like the basic GTD system) but many focus on specific personality types. For example, procrastinators can redirect their natural inclination using structured procrastination, while unfocused, ADD types might try self aggrandizement. Some involve using computer programs to manage things like assignment of tasks and limiting how and when email is announced, like the progressive dash.

Although the individual techniques that life hackers have come up with may or may not work for you, clearly there is a generally applicable concept in all of this. The human mind is a powerful machine, but it suffers from many quirks which can limit its efficiency when applied to certain kinds of work. By acknowledging this, documenting and understanding it, and then developing methods for working around or even capitalizing on these quirks, you can accomplish your goals in less time and with less stress.

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