Are you a lifehacker, or trying to be one? Do you belong to this tribe of comfort seeking guys and gals eager to innovate for the sake of convenience? This is a basic but often overlooked checklist for hacking and tweaking your life. If yours is causing a headache sometimes, please read on!
No matter if you’re working for a boss or running your own business (or household!), it’s your time that you spend. You are always doing, even when you are doing nothing. Like everyone, you have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, and you are in charge of your time.
It’s also your space, even though you may not own it. But it’s the location where you spend your time. Every moment, every day. As long as you’ll live.
Your time and your space are amongst the most relevant imaginable aspects of your life, so you’d better make the best of both. Let’s dive in:
I can identify three areas of time and space that are relevant in your work context:
I’d love to share my ideas and give you insight about why and how to tweak and optimize them to eliminate obstacles; so they support you optimally in doing what you do.
Physical space and time
Obviously, this is about your workspace: Your desk and your chair if you’re an office resident, your kitchen if you are a chef, your salon if you are a doggy groomer. Is there anything in your physical space, structurally, that is annoying you? A squeaking hinge or the color of your post-it notes? Solve it, and make it a priority. You cannot afford to be annoyed in your own space!
But on a slightly more subtle level, have you got functional systems and infrastructure in place to maintain the quality and functionality of your work space properly and effortlessly? How do you like your storage solutions and filing systems? Is there anything, even the smallest detail, which causes you to procrastinate on keeping your space organized and functional? If so, give fixing that your highest priority, because again, it chews a bit of your energy every day, silently and destructively.
You should think about your office concept, too (if you’re working in one). Does your desk that has it all, really make you more productive (technically, you don’t need to move to get your work done, because everything is at your fingertips)? Or would your concentration levels and productivity benefit from working activity based or any other dynamic work design out there? Improving your office is not done overnight, but make sure you are working towards the optimal situation because every moment you don’t will cost you time, energy and money.
And what about your time. Do your hours fit you? Would you be more productive maybe, if you’d work less hours, or more? Or different hours of the day? Or more flexible hours? These are questions to ask yourself if you feel responsible for your daily outcomes and the results you’re aiming for, and if you are eager to improve your work and your productivity. Maybe you think this is outside your circle of influence because you are working for a boss. Well, tell your boss how to get the best out of you. If your boss is an intelligent person, they will be grateful!
The above are just a few potentially improvable aspects of your physical space, and maybe your situation needs more. My point is: Think of it as “optimizable” aspects of your environment and search for obstacles you can eliminate. They are often within reach. Again, it is your time, because it is your life. And it is the space you spend your time in. So these should be of your highest concern; that is if you’re eager to improve the quality of your life.
Personal time and space
I mentioned it above already: How do you feel about your working hours? Consider that you are a living organism with a night/day rhythm which is calibrated every day, by the sunlight you consume. Sunlight varies along 24 hours, and so does your mood and energy. Every person has an optimal time schedule for meetings, a workout, creative work, concentration work and daily chores. You can develop a sensitivity towards your mood and energy ‘gears’, and adjust your personal schedule to be more effective and more productive.
Also, every individual has a unique set of talents and skills. If you are not doing what you are good at, you are wasting time. And you are causing frustration and wasting energy, too. Along your career journey, the point (of a lifehacker) is to find out exactly that bit of added value you have to offer, and monetize that. If you look at work that way, and act likewise, working will give you energy rather than taking it, making life convenient and worthwhile.
Of course, the above is an ideal situation. It takes small steps so don’t panic; you don’t have to quit your job tomorrow, but keep in mind you have the option to find another boss, or be your own from now on. However, it will not hurt to work towards this ideal scenario from now on. Looking at your life and your skill set from a distance, you may be able to identify something guru’s call ‘your purpose’ or ‘destiny’. If you have one, by all means, make sure that what you spend your limited time on today, will eventually lead towards that vision of your life. It gives meaning to your days; it makes you look ahead and eager for positive change. A healthy attitude!
Digital time and space
I don’t know anyone, except for maybe my grandmother, whose life is not to a certain extend organized in a digital system. Or in other words: Most people spend a significant chunk of their day in a virtual world that is complementary to their physical and personal life. And it should serve their physical and personal life rather than taking time and energy from it.
Just a few no brainers, but if a tweet in your timeline annoys you, you unfollow them; same works for fan pages you liked and Facebook connections. If it doesn’t add value to your life, or even consumes precious energy, get rid of it. All newsletters come with an unsubscribe button for that reason. Use it if you need to! Life is simply too precious to be irritated or distracted by digital data. And at the same time, if you have some space for eye-opening enrichment via social media, by all means go ahead and broaden your view with whatever you can find. Options are unlimited.
If you ‘do’ GTD® (Getting Things Done), your digital task manager (if you have one) may be the most important chunk of digital space and time you have. At least it is for me. It makes my life significantly more convenient because it collaborates seamlessly with my physical and personal life. To find a suitable digital task manager to serve you, you would need to consider its features, and that’s a different story for everyone. But from personal experience with quite a few, these functional aspects of a digital task manager stand out:
- Does it sync with other apps, like email, calendars, contacts, Evernote®, etc?
- Is it reasonably priced? Free ones often have too many limitations, so don’t get distracted by this too much
- Does it have sufficient collaboration functionality to share projects and tasks with coworkers?
And last but not least:
- Can I customize the tool exactly to my needs? Because it is my life and it is my time, and I can’t afford to be annoyed one little bit ;-)
The challenge for a lifehacker then, is to eliminate all obstacles and tweak the digital systems you work with exactly to meet your needs for a convenient life. I’m talking about repetitive wins for seconds, with every action you perform. Things as using keyboard shortcuts or customizing fields and drop down menus, so you navigate effortlessly through your tool. Adapting your digital space intuitively to your personal life: It makes all the difference.
From the lifehacker’s perspective, it is wise not to just settle for suboptimal conditions in your life that are within your reach to change. They manifest themselves on a physical, a personal, and a digital level. Tweak them wherever you can. And if you didn’t have a purpose or destiny, make it this: ‘Life is to be lived as smart and conveniently as possible’ and become a lifehacker, too. And please share your discoveries with the members of the tribe!
Guest post by Johanna Jansen aka JohannaTime – a productivity expert and time management trainer specialised in the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. She’s based in Canberra, Australia.