Hacks to Simplify Life-From A Challenged Perspective-Lucky 7 Categories

Frequently, I read about this or that life hack. “Hack” is the buzzword for these days. To hack something is to make things easier, saving time, to simplify things. It may even have more meanings than that. When I hear the word “hack” I think of a hacking cough. It cuts into the sound barrier and makes the hacker and the hackees miserable. Wow! If we could save time on colds, then that would be a hack for hacking! “Hey doctor, how about we hack this cold, right now!” One might get more of a cackle than a hack.

My first exposure, besides the cough, to the word “hack” is in the word hacker, hacked and hacking, as in computers. So when I heard the words “life hack” for the first time I wondered, “What in the world?” I thought the hackers had gone even further and done something even more detrimental to our lives. Nope. Life hacks are ways to simplify life. The simplification may not be with the most quality of methods, but has the hack has a main goal of getting the job done. Methods may be unconventional, but the result is what’s desirable. Which brings me to the other definition of hack and that is to call somebody a hack. That term means that somebody may not be all they appear to be. They may fool people into thinking they are the full expert on something. “What a hack!” Is what one might say. You might hear them say, “Oh yeah, I can do that!” And when you see the result you shudder as you see the dollar signs.

I am sure there are other definitions for the word “hack.” This is just my explanation of some ways to simplify life. I hack my life because I must. I have fibromyalgia, arthritis, a degenerative bone disease, and other challenges that cause dysfunction. Here are hacks that help me or others. Let’s call them the Lucky 7 Categories for Help.

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1. Kitchen Hacks

My greatest hacks are in the kitchen. I must multi-task to get things done. I use my crock pot often. It is one of the best ways to save time and keep the nutrients in check. Sometimes, I put my meat in and get it done and then I place a barrier such as foil or parchment paper and layer vegetables on top and let them steam cook. It takes just a little while to do the steaming. The meat flavors often permeate the vegetables, making for a tasty meal. Standing for long periods is hard on my body so I most often sit at the table to do my raw vegetable preps. That’s my “save my joints” hack. When baking, I use my kitchen scales and weigh much of the ingredients that aren’t clearly cup and spoon measurements. I find that the ingredients are going to be more accurate. I used my measurements in grams, making it easier for me to do the math for calories, carbs and other important components.

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2. Dietary Hacks

When calculating my calorie intake for the day, I use an online tool called MyFitnessPal. Prior entries are saved. That way I don’t have to enter everything over and again, but go to the list and select what applies to the day I am recording. For example, if I had 2 eggs for breakfast yesterday, it is going to show up as an option to select them today. It saves me a lot of time, because it can go on and on to enter every little thing. I know some people save their entries for entire meals using these apps. And they scan items on their phone apps. I also enter my recipes and can select them from a list so I don’t have to redo them every time. I can also edit them, which is great because I often tweak recipes. As one who does this hack called “skinnying down” of recipes, I take recipes that are for regular, sugary and possibly gluten foods, and change them to accommodate my need for less sugar and gluten. It can be challenging, but because I have done it enough times, I have learned the portions I need for the trade off. This makes this an easy hack, even if I have to make small changes.

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3. Fitness Hacks

Exercise hacks that work for me are very important. I need to get exercise on a regular basis, but because of chronic pain issues, it can be a challenge. On a good day, I park my car further away from the door of the store and get a walk in, before even entering the store. I am a speed shopper for most things, but I do like to read labels. Sometimes it is hard to take that time, especially if I am not feeling well. I do find that I can find most products online so I read the labels online. I may still do a quick check to make sure there aren’t ingredients that I don’t use. If I am up to it, I speed around the store, relying on the cart for balance. On a rough day, I still want to get it done, but I may shorten my list, especially when I have to carry it in the home. I try to grab the chance to exercise as much as possible. The parking at home is far enough away to allow me to get more steps in. If I am having a particularly tough day, I have a collapsible dolly with a crate that I load the groceries on and roll up the ramp to my door.

I had a nasty fall awhile back, when I tripped on the wooden bridge. Now I’m using trekking poles to help with safety. They are supposed to also be beneficial to burn a bit more energy. If I have the ability, I will make the whole trek and if not, I do the best that I can. Stressing out because I am not a speed walker walking or doing long hikes like I used to, does not help my present. I search for exercises that help my condition and have been successful in getting helpful exercises from my health care center. Asking for what you need is only helping you and it gives someone else the opportunity to use their expertise. I also use a prescribed pain cream for rough days, some of which can be short days that feel much longer.

“An overhead shot of a cup of coffee next to an open laptop, two pencils and a stack of sticky notes” by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

4. Vocational Hacks

As a writer, it is often assumed that I want to be left alone to my own craft. While that may be true, I also have a certain need for some socialization. Since it is hard to know when I can commit to events, I tend to not make myself available to do certain duties. While at events, I do my best to be helpful. It makes a difference to hack my own time, so I don’t feel overwhelmed when I can’t follow through. Fortunately, I have a nice social network with people online and personally. I have a lovely friend who comes to my home and writes with me. We are a great sounding board for each other. It gets both of us out of our own shells. We share, write, and socialize. It is a great situation. So, my hack would be to enlist the help of others, maybe even like yourself, who can work with you on getting that social aspect in. My friend and I also used to meet with another friend online via Google Hangouts. We would catch up and then mute our computers for a writing session and then come back to share. It worked great.

While I don’t get to meetings very often, I choose the ones where I can get the most benefit. I like meetings which involve food. That way I get a break from cooking and get to socialize more than just attending the business end of the meeting. That is another hack, taking care of more than one need at one time. Also, the groups I belong to online are often groups that have actual meetings. One group, though, has tried to meet, but everybody is just so busy. The leader decided to make the most of the group and now provides daily motivations to participate in the groups online presence. What a great hack! I won’t go into the whole ergonomics part of working from home. That would be a whole post by itself.

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5. Educational Hacks

I just completed a poetry course online. There are many online courses that are free or very low priced. It is great to keep my brain enriched. As I tend to get foggy, the online option works better. This gives me the opportunity to pace myself. There are some nice, free, or reasonable writing webinars that help me to stay connected. Many of them are recorded-which helps a lot. Sometimes I am not up to watching the live feed, so I wait and watch the recording. That’s a great way to hack my time to match my mental energy. It’s wonderful when scholarships are available and I have participated in at least three scholarship programs. As I don’t take things for granted, I use what I have learned for future pursuits.

The other way I feed my brain is by reading. I read for fun and for research and often the two meet in the middle. My county library, and I think this holds true for other areas, offers a service where I can get e-books which I download to my e-reader. This saves me having to travel to the library. Since not all books are available this way, I do have to make some library trips. To save time, I find the books I want and put them on hold. Then, when I go to the library I just have to go to the hold shelf, grab my books, check them out and go home. There is no need to search for the books and they are all ready for me. There is also this wonderful service called InterLibrary Loan. With this service, I go to my county library online account, put in a request for a book I am not finding in the county and wait. It usually comes through in about two weeks. The books are already checked out and I just have to go get them at my favorite library location. They have found books that I doubted they would have. In fact, I have gotten every book that I have requested. When I do go to the library, I spend a few minutes to check what’s new on the recent additions shelves and either check out or note them for future. Now, I will let you in on a little secret. If I see a book in a store and I cannot afford it, I request it from the library. Yes, I do buy books, but I have to be very watchful of my budget.

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6. Mental Health Hacks

Many years ago, there was a lot of murmuring in the professional counseling community about anything virtual being pursued. There was concern expressed about privacy, in particular. That is very understandable. Nowadays, that seems to be less of a concern as more and more professionals are seeing the need for virtual therapy sessions. For many people, especially the physically challenged, it might be better to have this option. I have not done the research on how it works with insurance, but I know that it is approved by some companies. In many ways, this could be life saving for those who are homebound physically and/or emotionally. What would it be like for somebody who is thinking of suicide? It seems this would be a benefit. Journaling before a session often helps you to sort out what you want to focus on in the session. It may just be a few minutes a day where you write things down, to sort out where you want to put energies.

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7. Physical Health Hacks

Along with the virtual psychology options, there are now virtual physical health options. It is not do it yourself, but more of a partnering with a physician to do the homework either before prescribing medications or suggesting an office visit. This could work wonders for illnesses where the patient is having a temporary setback and may be able to be treated virtually. They may avoid a trip to the doctor’s office if they have symptoms that can be managed in other ways. It is not perfect and I am sure that not all insurance companies would approve of this, but it is becoming more of a norm every day. Personally, I have not tried the virtual physician, but I might if my insurance covered it.

How’s that for hacks?

I hope this was helpful. If you have gotten this far, please share what hacks work for you. I would love your feedback about the ones I mentioned, as well. Since you were, thanks for reading. Peace.