During a recent morning commute, I was thinking about the various life hacks I've put in place to manage my life. It all started as a result of my working-class-roots guilt; we have a new cleaning woman and I'd spent some time typing up a list of what I wanted her to clean - what needs to be done every time versus occasionally. The very act of typing up a list gave new life to the guilt I feel at the idea that I actually pay someone to clean our home. It makes perfect sense: it allows me to better enjoy my spare time, it keeps the house better maintained, it means that work travel obligations (in a previous job, almost always over a weekend) and now, increasingly, family obligations don't mean I have to live with dusty tables, and overall it adds to the enjoyment of life to not spend my Saturdays with toilet brush in hand. Nevertheless, the guilt persisted. ;)
So I was thinking through all of that and re-rationalizing it during my morning commute. I thought about the preteen we hire to come in after school and walk our three dogs (so that we don't have to rush home from work). I thought about the painter we hired to paint our bedroom (because my husband hates to paint and I hate trying to get spills out of my carpet and splatters off my ceiling) or the online decorator I hired (because I hate to shop and am really terrible at accessorizing). All that money and we're just normal middle-class people. My parents cleaned, painted, decorated themselves. So what gives? And I thought, "life hack". Modern life requires life hacks. Those shortcuts we take that help us fight back the encroaching noise in our lives.
I hire a cleaning lady so that I can play with my grandson instead of mop floors. I hire a dog walker so that I can stop after work for an impromptu dinner or a workout with my husband. I hire a painter and a decorator because in addition to just being terrible at it, I don't want to take the time to shop 488 stores to find the perfect thing to go over my dresser. What else do I do? And what life hacks do I do at work to make my professional life easier?
Certainly, the advent of smart phone technology has helped, but the sheer noise and volume created by most of our inboxes require strategies to enable us to manage it well. Project management software like BaseCamp has made moving projects along much easier. Internal systems like how we take notes (I use arrows to indicate my to-do's in my notes; I noticed one colleague uses asterisks and another colleague uses stars with a big circle around them), manage our follow-ups and todo lists (if you're not using Outlook's full functionality, you're making your life more difficult) or external systems like dashboards all help keep us and our work on track. There are more apps on our phones for productivity than we can shake our collective chargers at, but the bottom line is that our tools are only as helpful as the use we make of them. Outlook tools are literally irrelevant if you never explore their functionality. BaseCamp doesn't make project management easier if key members of the team routinely ignore it. Meeting notes don't matter if we are not in the habit of revisiting them and keeping track of what's outstanding - for both us and those we work with. Dashboards don't mean much if there's no opportunity to revisit the operational processes and strategies that feed the numbers - what's working, what's not, what should we start, but more importantly, what should we change or even stop?
Life hacks matter, at home and at work, in this modern day and age. They help us be more efficient, more productive and most of all, stay sane and enjoy life more fully. What are some that you use? Comment and share your best. Modern life is nothing if not a lesson in continual learning! My next life hack? Figuring out how to use my new Amazon Echo beyond just the shopping list.