Lifehacks

Here's how to hack your happiness and productivity to get more done and enjoy it.

Do What Is Important

Whenever I realize I’ve been running ragged, I know I’ve fallen into a rut of reactive rather than proactive work. Instead of going about my day steered by plans and intentions, the unstable “whatever comes up” gets to dictate my day.

This schedule of working deadline to deadline, fighting fires and flying by the seat of your pants racks up time debt. You’re borrowing from other areas of your life like spending time with your family or on your wellbeing.

Humans tend to be bad at understanding how we’ll feel in the future. In our mind’s Pollyannaish eye, the future is a world of order and excellence in which you exercise everyday, you don’t bring work home with you, you finally learn Spanish, you catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in forever. In reality, something always comes up, there is always something to do.

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How to Do a Time and Motion Study to Make Real Change

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“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said the great management thinker Socrates.

Every day, people say that they’ll change. At the beginning of every year, millions make resolutions. Most do this without data, hypotheses or any idea of what they’re going to do differently. And they wonder why nothing really changes.

Intention without information is powerless. To misquote great management thinker, Albert Einstein, doing the same thing and hoping for a different result is the definition of inefficiency.

This is where the personal time and motion study can help.

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Stop Fooling Yourself by Changing Your Mind

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Here’s a way to arrive at what you believe: first, decide that you believe something. Then, throw your very best arguments against it until you believe something else. Repeat as many times as possible.

Most people do this in some capacity, probably subconsciously and very quickly, but I recommend doing it consciously, slowly, and deliberately. You may be surprised by what you find.

Now, no blog post by a (former) physicist is complete without a Feynman quote, so let his words enlighten us here:

  • “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
  • “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”
  • “I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong.”

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Dr Seuss’s Surprising Strategy For Success

In 1960, two men made a bet. There was only $50 on the line, but millions of people would feel the impact of this little wager.

The first man, Bennett Cerf, was the founder of the publishing firm, Random House. The second man was named Theo Geisel, but you probably know him as Dr. Seuss. Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss that he wouldn’t be able to write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words.

Dr. Seuss took the bet and won. The result was a little book called Green Eggs and Ham. Since its publication, Green Eggs and Ham has sold more than 200 million copies, making it the most popular of Seuss’s works and one of the best-selling children’s books in history.

At first glance, you might think this was a lucky fluke. A talented author plays a fun game with 50 words and ends up producing a hit. But there is actually more to this story — and the lessons in it can help you become more creative and stick to better habits over the long run.

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How to Keep Fighting in the Face of Failure

Guest columnist James Chin is a professional poker player who has previously written about flow, having the courage to change, and the truth about success. In this post, he examines how best to dust yourself off and try again.

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The feeling of failure sucks.

Failure demotivates and saps the energy of even the most confident of people, especially if they’re not receiving some sort of positive feedback from their day.

It’s an old relationship cliche that you should never go to bed upset with your significant other. Waking up upset the next day just serves to reinforce negative feelings you have between each other. Use this advice in your relationship to yourself.

I’ve come up with a way to make sure I don’t get too down and can bounce back sooner than later. It’s simple:  take time to create that positive feedback. You’ll be much more likely to wake up the next day motivated and ready to be productive and tackle whatever life may throw at you.  Here’s how:

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Rethinking Productivity as Choreography

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Despite the profusion — or distraction — of helpful productivity advice, sometimes I feel like I’m trying to squeeze my working style into systems that just won’t fit. That’s why I appreciate ways of thinking about productivity that encourage you to align how you work with your natural inclinations and work rhythms.

When you’re stressing about how you’re not getting enough done, it’s easy to stop listening to yourself and to ignore those rhythms. Psychiatrist Dr. T. Byram Karasu points out the cost of such heedlessness:

Like all of nature, human beings are biologically programmed. Our psyche’s interference with the physical rhythms and cycles is detrimental to our bodies, only to be negatively resonated, in return. This vicious circle is a distinctly human phenomenon. No other living creature steps out of pace with nature and survives. Chronobiology (the biology of time) asserts that our bodies have an internal rhythm or music, which we not only can but should tune in to.

Being productive isn’t about a continuous, speedy march from waking to sleeping, though it can certainly feel that way. What if instead, the ideal was not just about crushing your to-do lists but attunement, aiming not for time and task management but for tempo management?

Can you choreograph your day and set your movements to your internal rhythm and music?

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Do the Painful Things First

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Before I became an entrepreneur, I went to business school. While studying for my MBA, there was one lesson I learned which has proved to be useful over and over again in my life.

I was sitting in a marketing class, and we were discussing ways to design a wonderful customer experience. The goal is not merely to provide decent service but to delight the customer. Behavioral scientists have discovered that one of the most effective ways to create a delightful experience is to stack the painful parts of the experience early in the process.

Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time. That means it’s better for the annoying parts of a purchase to happen early in the experience. Furthermore, we don’t enjoy it when painful experiences are drawn out or repeated.

Here are some examples:

  • If you’re at the doctor’s office, it’s better to combine the pain of waiting into one segment. The wait will feel shorter to your brain if you spend 20 minutes in the waiting room rather than 10 minutes in the waiting room and 10 minutes in the exam room.
  • People enjoy all-inclusive vacations because they pay one lump sum at the beginning (the pain), and the rest of the trip is divided into positive experiences, excursions, and parties. In the words of my professor, all-inclusive vacations “segment the pleasure and combine the pain.”
  • If you’re a professional service provider (lawyer, insurance agent, freelancer, etc.), it’s better to give the bad news to your clients first and finish with the good news. Clients will remember an experience more favorably if you start weak but finish on a high note, rather than starting strong and ending poorly.

These examples got me thinking. If you can make a customer experience more delightful, why not make your life experiences more delightful?

Here are some ideas for how to take advantage of the way your brain processes painful and annoying experiences and use that knowledge to live a better life.

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You’re Not Good Enough to Be Disappointed Yet

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Dan John is a weightlifting coach. He is well-known in the fitness world for keeping things simple (and you should always fear a man with two first names). Recently I heard Dan John say:

I often tell my new athletes: “Sorry, you just are not good enough to be disappointed.”

In other words, in the beginning you need to get comfortable with feeling stupid, uncertain, and unskilled.

You’re not allowed to be disappointed by your performance because you haven’t developed your skills yet. It’s only the professionals that are allowed to be disappointed because they have put in the work to be better.

  • J.K Rowling is allowed to be disappointed if she writes a bad book because she put in 20 years of work to get good.
  • Kobe Bryant is allowed to be disappointed if he plays a bad game because he put in 20 years of work to become amazing.
  • Jack LaLanne was allowed to be disappointed with a bad workout because he trained for 60 years to stay fit.

But you and me? We’re not good enough to be disappointed yet. We’re bad enough to get to work.

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Want to Be More Productive? Design a Better Work Break

What do you do when you take a break during your workday?

When I ask people this question, most of them tell me they get on their smartphones or visit various websites:  news publications, Facebook, Instagram, and other online sources of information and entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with doing that — sometimes looking at pictures of cute baby animals is exactly what you need to get through the afternoon.

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But have you ever thought “I’ll just check Facebook for a couple of minutes” and then look up shocked to realize a half hour has gone by? Or notice after catching up with news or social media that you’re returning to work feeling more tired or unfocused than you did before your work break?

Bringing awareness to how you’re spending your time and matching your activities with how you want to feel will lead to better quality work breaks that provide the energy, focus, and creativity you need for your day.

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The Simple Trick to Achieving Your Goals

the simple trick to achieving your goals

In the last six months, I’ve experimented with a simple strategy that has improved my work and my health.

Using this one basic idea, I’ve made consistent progress on my goals every single week — without incredible doses of willpower or remarkable motivation. I want to share how I use this strategy and how you can apply it to your own life to improve your health and your work.

The Problem with How We Usually Set Goals

If you’re anything like the typical human, then you have dreams and goals in your life. In fact, there are probably many things — large and small — that you would like to accomplish. But there is one common mistake we often make when it comes to setting goals. (I know I’ve committed this error many times myself.)

The problem is this: we set a deadline, but not a schedule.

We focus on the end goal that we want to achieve and the deadline we want to do it by. We say things like, “I want to lose 20 pounds by the summer” or “I want to add 50 pounds to my bench press in the next 12 weeks.”

The problem is that if we don’t magically hit the arbitrary timeline that we set in the beginning, then we feel like a failure — even if we are better off than we were at the start. The end result, sadly, is that we often give up if we don’t reach our goal by the initial deadline.

Here’s the good news: there’s a better way and it’s simple.

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