Steve Jones (blog | twitter) posted an interesting thought about lifehacking based on a post he read. Steve’s point is that he makes efficiency changes that benefit him. He doesn’t kill himself trying to be as efficient as possible, especially if it takes away from other things in life. It seems the original poster got so caught up in trying to be more efficient he missed the point in all these life hacks: to make life better by freeing up time for the things you really want to spend time on.
A few years ago I was struggling with my productivity. I effectively have two full time jobs, one in IT and one in ministry. Such is the case with most bi-vocational ministers. As a result, I was struggling to have enough time for me and my family. I started to analyze were I was spending my time and I realized I was wasting a lot if it. While I enjoy soccer, spending 2-3 hours of my weekend watching premiership matches was wasting time I could be spending with my boys. That’s just one example. It was also then that I came to the conclusion that I needed to do a better job of managing my time in general.
Enter in things like Getting Things Done and other means of reducing the time I spend in efficient tasks and staying on top of those things which are truly important to me. Yes, I still waste more time than I’d like, but over the last few years I’ve done an increasingly better job of spending more time on the things I want. For instance, my boys have dove headlong into the hobby of geocaching and there’s nothing like trekking through wilderness looking for an ammo box together with them. This is totally a guy thing, I get that, but that’s the point: it’s time that me and my boys can spend doing guy things.
I do subscribe to a lot of life hacking type of blogs. And while I used to read those in detail (along with every other blog post of every blog feed I subscribed to), I never got to the end of my blog post list for a given day. This, in and of itself, was a realization of an inefficiency. What I do now is I quickly scan a post to see if there is anything applicable to me. A lot of folks write on similar things. If something will be of help, it’ll eventually catch my notice. Otherwise, I mark the post read and move on. So instead of never finishing my blogroll each day, I am usually through it in under 15 minutes. I’ll cover several hundred posts in 15 minutes and I’ll pause to read a few in detail but if something seems of real interest to me or is lengthy but appears useful, I’ll throw it into Evernote for dissection later. Then, when I have the time, I’ll pull it apart.
Remember, life hacks are about reducing the cost of lesser tasks and requirements on your time. This frees up your time for those things that are important to you. Burning that time trying to search for ways to be more efficient runs counter to the point of becoming more productive, or lifehacking. Improve things gradually as you find things work, and as Sebastian Marshall (blog | twitter) points out, seek to consolidate, especially in your own life.