Popular Life Hacks That Will Make Your Life Worse
Stop optimizing everything and start enjoying life
The beauty of the internet is that it gives us the chance to learn wisdom from so many different people.
However, it also gives wannabe gurus and con artists the chance to spread misinformation.
One of the most popular types of content on the web is lists of life hacks. These are supposed to be clever workarounds for common problems.
But, many of the life hacks that make their way into listicles are simply asinine ideas about cramming more work in your day. The worst life hacks are the ones that will make your life worse than it was before. Somehow, some of the most popular life hacks are ones that seem calculated to make self-inflicted misery more efficient.
Respecting time as a limited resource is one of my core values. But, not every time saver makes life better.
Here some life hacks that make life worse, not better:
Listen to Podcasts Faster
What is the purpose of listening to podcasts at faster speeds? Are you really suffering from a lack of information? We live in a culture of information overload.
What are the benefits of listening to a podcast at a higher speed? You get to say you’ve listened to more episodes?
The best podcasts are like conversations with your friends or storytime with your grandparents. Why would you want to rush through that?
Listening at regular speed gives you time to process what is being said. When you are actively listening, you retain more information and form more connections.
Speeding through a podcast doesn’t help you get more done. It just makes you feel like you got more done.
If you can’t handle listening to a podcast at normal speed, perhaps your time would be better used listening to something you take delight in.
You will learn more if you spend your time listening to fewer podcasts and applying a handful of lessons, instead of binging every business podcast on the planet at 3X speed.
The Pomodoro Technique
People love their Pomodoros — especially writers. The Pomodoro technique has you break up your time into 25-minute blocks, separated by 5-minute breaks. The idea is that most of us do not take breaks often enough and that we need to recharge and refresh our minds.
The Pomodoro technique is too rigid. The 25-minute blocks interrupt deep work.
Taking frequent breaks is helpful. But, 25-minute blocks are too short to accomplish anything. They keep you from getting into the flow-state, or deep-work state, where you do your best work.
It often takes 15-minutes of writing just to get into a flow. If you set an alarm, as the Pomodoro zealots insist, you will find yourself getting pulled out of your flow to take a break.
It will then take you another 15-minutes to get back into the flow, only to be interrupted again. You never gain any momentum.
We each have our own workflow. I usually write for about 45–50 minutes at a time and then take a 10 to 20-minute break. You need to find your own flow.
There is nothing scientific or magical about 25-minute blocks of time. The Pomodoro Technique is more about marketing than it is about optimizing your work.
Take Shorter Showers or Take Cold Showers
Why? This hack seems like a way to increase suffering. My wife and I have four smart, energetic children. I work from home while my wife works as a pediatric nurse. I deal with most of the breakfasts, lunches, homework, and running around that having four children requires.
Sometimes the only peace I have during the day is the 15–20 minutes I get to spend in a steaming hot shower. My shower helps me feel invigorated. The idea of shortening my shower so I can send more emails or write more blog posts is silly.
The idea that I would trade my soothing hot shower for a brutal cold shower is ridiculous.
Don’t strip your life of the small joys so that you can do more work. Life is more than work. There are plenty of ways we all waste time. For most of us, showering isn’t one of them.
Set Deadlines for Everything
Deadlines have their place. Deadlines help you get work done. They allow you to be accountable to others. But deadlines also generate stress. Not all stress is bad. But, not all stress is good either.
You don’t need to set deadlines for your hobbies or relationships. You need space in your life for unstructured time. You need time for happy accidents. When you structure every minute of your day, you are giving up your autonomy. You start to live life in the service of your calendar.
You close the door on serendipity.
Keep your work deadlines. But, do not set deadlines for everything. Stop optimizing and start living.
Save All of Your Ideas
Your ideas are not as valuable as you think. We act like ideas are precious. But, not all ideas are equal. We all have hundreds or thousands of different ideas a day. Most ideas are awful. There is nothing more common than an idea.
When you write down every idea you have, you end up memorializing a lot of bad ideas. Once you write something down, you give it permanence. You also start to give it more credibility than it might deserve.
Good ideas will come back. Let your brain work. If an idea is so weak that you lose it the second after you have it, it wasn’t a good enough idea to waste your time on it.
I only want to save ideas that have the strength to keep coming back to me. These ideas evolve in my mind over time. Once these ideas have matured enough that they excite me, I get to work.
Instead of writing down hundreds or thousands of bad ideas, save your time and effort for your best ideas.
The secret to a happy life isn’t figuring out how to get more work done.
We have started to let the language of technologists describe our souls. Life isn’t something to be optimized. It is something to be savored.
Getting more out of life doesn’t have to mean doing more or being more. Sometimes the best life is about doing less. Life can be more fulfilling when there is less striving and more contemplation.
There is no hack for happiness.