Published February 7, 2011
Lifehacks
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Changing your life in unusual ways.

Life is complicated. In an age of technological proliferation, we continue to add more and more onto our collective plates. Facebook keeps us in touch with hundreds of friends we might not be in contact with otherwise, and even the smallest hard drives can store thousands of pictures or hours of video, not to mention the millions of images and videos on the web. This means that anyone with a computer is bound to have a massive amount of information on their hands, and not many simple ways to organize it.

This effect is known as information overload. To combat the unnecessary information intake, some computer programmers developed strategies to manage their data. These “lifehacks”, as they’re called, were simply effective techniques to structure their time online in a way that didn’t waste so much on useless micromanagement. Gradually, the phrase gained popularity and broadened its definition. Now it’s a blanket term for any simple and easy solution that cuts straight through a complicated problem in everyday life.

Lifehacks come in all shapes and sizes, from small changes in your daily routine to complete overhauls of the way you approach a problem. Some are useful applications of household objects, while others are habits to make you a more productive person. All of them are designed to make life a little more manageable, more convenient or just more fun.

Lee Fitzgerald

Hacks for the Home

We don’t think very often about the mundane actions we perform around the house (or dorm, or apartment) every day. However, just because we don’t normally consider something a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t a better solution.

Take for example the oft-dreaded task of waking up early. Most people resign to drudging through their morning routines like coffee-dependent zombies, but there are plenty of simple, easy-to-follow tricks that make the waking process significantly easier. Ditching the snooze button is a good place to start. Holding yourself to a specific waking time not only helps your body get used to it, but also prevents you from slipping into a cycle of "just five more minutes" that lasts for half an hour. Turn on some lights as soon as possible in the morning. It’s much easier to fall asleep when it’s dark, and the opposite is true as well—being in a bright environment tells your brain to start itself up for the day. If you’re still drowsy, doing some quick stretches or drinking a glass of water immediately after getting up will help your body get going.

There are dozens of other hacks that you can easily integrate into your home life. Put important items in your shoe or directly underneath your keys the night before you need it. Put dry-erase boards in prominent locations like the kitchen or the inside of the front door, so you can use them to make sure you don’t forget important notes. If you’re not into installing whiteboards all over your home write with dry-erase markers on the bathroom mirror. If you’re particularly prone to procrastination and have an old glass-screen CRT TV, go ahead and write your to-do list on the screen itself for a great way to guilt-trip yourself into finishing your work.

Hacks for your Health

Losing weight is always a popular resolution, but some of the best ways to accomplish it are non-obvious. For example, you won’t accomplish much just by dropping down to one or two meals per day — you might not be consuming as many calories, but your metabolism slows to a crawl if you aren’t eating regularly. Strange as it may seem, a great way to lose weight is to spread your food out across five or six meals each day. As long as you keep each meal small and focus on getting plenty of protein and veggies, your metabolism will work longer and harder since you’ll have to digest more frequently. This will actually build up the muscles responsible for burning fat, so that the longer you keep up a constant metabolism, the more efficient it’ll become.

While you’re looking at your diet, be sure to consider a good vitamin or two as well. There are many all-in-one vitamin tablets on the market, and they can do wonders for your system. In particular, check for vitamins that contain high amounts of Vitamin B12. This nutrient aids a number of essential functions, and supplies health benefits like increasing your resistance to memory loss. You won’t suddenly develop a photographic memory, but maintaining a healthy level of B12 can make you six times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or similar diseases.

For an immediate body hack, try covering up one eye if you wake up to do something in the middle of the night. Keep the eye covered as you turn on the lights, and when you return to darkness that eye will have preserved its ability to see in the dark. This is the real reason why pirates wore eye patches in bright sunlight: so they could still see when they went below deck.

Hacks for Homework

When it comes to getting things done, a wise way to manage your time is to remember: don’t budget, instead prioritize. Workloads are often unpredictable, and deciding, “I need to get this done first,” will usually turn out better than strictly allocating a certain amount of time to each task.

Practice makes perfect, as they say, but that only applies if you practice consistently. If you have a skill or hobby you want to improve, buy a wall calendar that has a whole year on one page, and for each day you practice that skill, draw a big X in red marker over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain, and your mission is simple: don’t break the streak. Your natural drive to succeed should kick in when what used to be a chore becomes a game, and you’ll find yourself practicing considerably more just to avoid the shame of ending your streak.

It isn’t hard to start using some of these hacks right away. The point of a lifehack is to be easy to pick up and start doing instantly. If none of the ones in this article sound relevant, then go ahead and come up with your own. After thinking about these lifehacks, maybe you’ll be able to see a way you can change your personal routine to be more productive.

For more information on lifehacks, as well as more examples of ones you can use, visit Lifehacker and Change Your Life Hacks.

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