8 simple ways to make your life easier

...and more awesome

Ahh life hacks. On one hand they can be extremely useful and potentially life-changing (hello wine cubes and The Pomodoro Technique). On another they’re a whole lot of effort for so little return.

We’ve decided to collect together a load of tips (because let’s face it, life hacks are just tips for cool kids) that’ll make you more productive, free up some time, free up some cash or just up your smug factor for being so damn efficient each and every day.

Now, some of these could be total life-savers, others you might think are a waste of time. But hey, one person’s awesome Avocado ripeness test (which we think is totally a game-changer FYI) is another person’s gross mints made from toothpaste (yes it’s a thing) recipe.

Here we go.

1. Become an IF superstar

Image: Giphy

IF (from the IFTTT team) is basically an app that allows you to say if this thing happens then make this thing happen. It sounds simple, but the stuff it can automate for you is endless. It can help you out, teach you, sort out your admin and most importantly allow you to put in less effort, forget about the little things and get on with stuff that matters.

You can tell IF that if it rains to send you a text, to save Facebook photos you’re tagged in to Dropbox, to save new contacts to a Google spreadsheet, to always keep your Facebook and Twitter photos synced up, to mute your phone when you go to bed, to post your Instagram photos as native Twitter photos, to turn on your Hue lightbulb when you press your Misfit Flash. See, we told you the list was endless — you just have to be arsed to set it all up to start with.

But be careful, get too obsessed with IF and you’ll find yourself in an automation labyrinth — but instead of goblins and unavoidable trouser bulges there are only connected lightbulbs and Instagram photos being pinged all over the internet. Use it sparingly, is essentially what we’re saying here.

2. Only check your email twice a day

Image: BBC via Giphy

Investor and productivity guinea pig Tim Ferris recommends checking emails only twice a day. Yep, that’s right. TWO TIMES. If the thought of this absolutely terrifies you, you probably need to try it.

Sure not everyone will be able to adopt his strict strategy, but he believes it’s one of the big decisions that made him more productive, made him value his own time more and made others learn to value his time more too.

You don’t need to be quite as militant, but putting a stop to the habitual inbox checking is a good idea. Every time you check your emails you’re zoning out, you’re not concentrating and you’re probably being dragged into someone else’s drama. Most of the time this is unavoidable, but valuing your time and energy a little bit more could make a huge difference.

3. Get serious about after dark screen time

Image: Disney Pixar via Giphy

Ask any expert why we’re a generation of people who can’t sleep well and they’ll all say the same thing, “it’s the SCREENS.” It’s like we all know that staring at phones, tablets and laptops well into the night is really bad for our eyes, our minds and our sleep patterns. But we all just continue to do it all the same.

If you can’t give up staring at a screen past 6pm, then put an app to work for you that’ll minimise the effect it has on your brain instead. One of my favourites is f.lux. Built for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and iOS, f.lux adapts your computer’s display to the time of day, so if you’re working into the night it dims the light gradually and turns a slight yellow hue on. Yep, sounds weird but really minimises the amount you strain your eyes and I’ve found I no longer see spots when I shut my eyes if I work right up until bed time.

4. Eat the frog

Image: BBC via Giphy

I first read about “eating the frog” from Gala Darling, but it’s also a book and Mark Twain (allegedly) first coined the phrase.

The idea is simple: Get your most dreaded, annoying job, the one you’re likely to procrastinate on for days, that you don’t want to do at all done first. Yep, before anything else.

You’ll slowly learn to stop putting stuff off, your day will be more enjoyable as you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment before it’s even properly begun and you’ll free up all that worrying time for more actual action.

5. Trim your social media

Image: Comedy Central via Giphy

So many of us threaten to quit Twitter or Facebook (or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever else you’re a little too obsessed with) on a daily basis. But rather than being melodramatic about it, just cut out all the crap you don’t need to see instead.

Creating Twitter lists, organising your Facebook friends and mass unfollowing a bunch of people could take a few hours. But it’ll be so worth it once you’re done. I think we all forget just how much consuming everyone else’s opinions and insights and rants can take its toll on us. Streamline what you see and who you see it from and social media will be a place for inspiration and conversation rather than irritation and rage.

6. Eliminate unnecessary choice

Image: Disney via Giphy

Leo from Zen Habits writes about this topic a lot, and I find it fascinating. Basically he believes that we all think we want loads of choice, but actually we just want more freedom. And they’re crucially very different things. He writes:

“I find limiting my choices to be an opportunity to let go of the worries about making the wrong choices, and to focus on enjoying the choices I do make. As I’ve explored scarcity, I’ve been left with this one truth: every path I take is perfect.”

He doesn’t suggest you become a monk and sell all of your stuff. Instead he believes that limiting choice when it comes to boring stuff, like what to wear or what to eat for breakfast or potentially soul-sucking stuff, like how many TV shows you watch, can actually make you much happier.

You’re no longer toying over this or that. The choice is made and you can focus on the stuff that actually matters.

Gala Darling has also written about this topic in the past, and I bloody love her take on it:

“Our brains — already over-worked & exhausted — cannot cope with too many choices. We’re asked if we want small, medium or large; full fat, half & half, soy or almond milk; vanilla, strawberry or chocolate; skinny, bootleg, boyfriend or bellbottom. Actually, being presented with too many options stresses our brain. It gives it too many things to compare & contrast. The problem with being given a lot of choices is that we simply don’t have the time to research or investigate all of them… & then we feel like we have failed.”

7. Write down at least ten awesome (or lame or ridiculous) ideas every day

Image: Disney via Giphy

Entrepreneur James Altucher recommends scribbling down at least ten ideas every day in order to become an “ideas machine”.

He believes that this practice gets his creativity flowing and trains his brain to come up with more awesome ideas more often — just like training your muscles for a race.

They can be anything, no matter how weird or fantastical or boring or crappy. And the key is to stop getting in your own way. He writes:

“Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle. Perfectionism is your  brain trying to protect you from harm. From coming up with an idea that  is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain. We like the brain. But you have to shut the brain off to come up with ideas. The way you shut the brain off is by forcing it to come up with bad ideas.”

I’ve started trying this every morning and although I’m yet to dream up a new, super successful money-making business idea, it certainly sets up my mind in the right way before I start writing. It also forces me to snap back into the present moment and stop worrying about the past or the future — so it’s a little like mindfulness meditation but for those who can’t sit still.

8. Order your shopping online (or sign up for a meal subscription service)

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Some people love food shopping and dreaming up exciting, wonderful meals moments before Instagramming the crap out of them. For others food prep is the bane of our existence and often the reason we’ve resorted to tomato ketchup on our pasta far too many times in the past (ahh uni days).

Sure ordering your food shop online is hardly ground-breaking advice, but how many of you do it regularly? And how many of you promise to do it then never do? Riiiiight. Thought so.

Of course you can opt for one of the big supermarkets (and even employ IF to send you a reminder when you need to start ordering), but there are so many more options, especially if you’re based in London or a big city.

I tried Mindful Chef a few months ago, which yes is totally as pretentious as it sounds, but was also really tasty and means I have to put no thought into shopping — as well as meal prep, because everything is delivered to you with specific recipes in mind. You obviously have to pay a small premium, but for many it beats giving up on normal meal planning and ordering out.

If you’re in the right area, we recommend opting for a subscription box like Abel & Cole, that combines organic veggies and fruit with good quality meat — so at least you feel like you’re eating a little more locally rather than just lining Tesco’s pockets.

Main image © iStock/fabio lamanna