Think of all the tasks confronting you during a typical workday: trashing spam, fielding calls, answering questions from team members barging into your workspace, and on and on. And that's before you even begin to tackle actual work, like writing this week's sales report or debugging database code.
There's no doubt about it: Today's work life is complicated. We use technologies designed to help us manage it all, but they can have just the opposite effect, adding even more interruptions and distractions.
What's the solution? Some are looking to the emerging life-hack movement for strategies to simplify their lives. Learn what it's all about and how to get started.
Simple changes can bring sanity to your life. One step, then another and another, and soon your inbox will be empty and your desk -- and mind -- free of clutter.
That's the spirit behind the life-hack trend. Life hacks are practical tips for organization and productivity, but the term also refers to a larger movement emphasizing simple ways to manage complex tasks. It is what you get when you combine productivity guru David Allen's popular book Getting Things Done with the can-do attitude of the voluntary simplicity movement.
Technology writer Danny O'Brien coined the phrase in his talk, "Life Hacks: Tech Secrets of Overprolific Alpha Geeks," at the 2004 O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego. Now blogs and Web sites dole out advice for those seeking the latest hacks. The most popular of these include lifehack.org, Lifehacker and 43 Folders.
Life hacks are anything from software tools to ideas about how to stay productive. "Cancel subscriptions you don't need" is a life hack, but so is Ta-da Lists, an online to-do organizer. As O'Brien said in an interview with Lifehacker, "Hacks are often a way of cutting through an apparently complex system with a really simple, nonobvious fix."
Scale Back and Simplify
Bloggers now discuss life hacks relentlessly, tossing out ideas and reminding themselves of why they're trying to scale back and simplify. "Schedule meetings and face-to-faces for the afternoon," writes one blogger. "Hard, but I will try." Others discuss the merits of various outlining programs, to-do list managers and other tools to control workflow.
Yet true life hacks are those that emphasize genuine simplicity. Consider PocketMod, an online program for creating a pocket-friendly, portable book/note card starting with a single sheet of paper. The software lets you tailor the PocketMod to your own specs, combining pages with calendars, graph paper, storyboards and other options.
Go Low Tech
Some hacks draw on the insight among some life hackers that high tech gizmos can be more trouble than they're worth. Among the most widely discussed of these is the Hipster PDA -- nothing more than a bunch of index cards clipped together. No, that's not a joke.
Suggested "mods," or modifications, of the Hipster PDA include using color-coded cards for different purposes and printing templates with special designs on your index cards. If that interests you, visit D*I*Y Planner for a selection of Hipster PDA templates.
To see what the blogosphere is saying about life hacks, visit Technorati.
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