‘Life hacking’ is the practice of trying to squeeze the most efficiency, productivity and fulfillment out of the time and energy you invest.
Here are the life hacking essentials for leaders—everything you need to optimize your leadership efficiency.
There are plenty of small things you can do to streamline your workspace. Using such basic tools as binder clips and old shoeboxes, you can easily transform a disordered mess into a well-oiled machine.
- Binder Clips as Cord Organizers: Clip a few sturdy binder clips onto the edge of your desk, then thread your laptop-related cables such as the AC adapter, USB and speaker cables through the metal prongs. This will keep them neat, organized and tangle-free when disconnected from the computer.
- Office Tool Pegboard: Just as you might use a pegboard to keep tools organized in the garage, the same can work at your desk. There are several things you can do to make the pegboard more aesthetically pleasing as well – try framing the board, or painting it to match your office décor.
- Makeshift Shoebox Shelves: Rather than tossing old shoeboxes, simply use binder clips to latch them together, then decorate them any way you prefer, and voila! Your own desktop shelving system.
- Wine Rack Organizer: Wine racks make great office organizers. Place some empty plastic cups into the wine slots, then use the cabinet above the wine rack for more storage space.
- Real-life Pin Board: Borrow the “Board” concept from Pinterest and make a real-life version. Grab a few differently-colored clipboards, then hang them on the wall, using each one for a different subject – different styles, color palettes, genres – whatever your thing is. You can reference these Boards whenever you need some quick inspiration.
- Create “Work Zones”: Designate specific spaces in the office for different tasks or activities. For example, create The Workspace (desk, computer, supplies you use frequently), The Reference Zone (filing cabinets, binders, books) and The Supply Closet (extra supplies and things you only use occasionally)
So now that your space has been successfully hacked, let’s move on to your habits.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to determine the pace of work and the vibe of the workplace, as well as inspire and set an example for those under your charge. Using these hacks, you can make the workplace function much more smoothly, while also pleasing your employees – talk about a win-win.
- Work While “In the Zone”: Trying to force productivity out of yourself is actually counter- Go at it hard when you’re in the zone, then ease up when you’re not.
- “Single-Thread” Instead of Multi-Tasking: Many people think they will be more productive when they multitask. Sadly, that’s just not true. We now know there is no such thing as true “multitasking,” it’s actually just switching quickly between tasks. In most cases, we will be more productive focusing all of our attention on one thing at a time.
- Accelerate, Rather Than Charging-In Full Speed: Don’t take on a major project first thing in the morning; instead, start with the easy stuff – checking emails, updating your schedule, organizing – those sorts of things. Allow yourself to ease into the workday.
- Conduct Meetings as Early as Possible: Try and get meetings and other appointments out of the way early in the day. Most of the time we spend before a big meeting is wasted because we are too focused on the meeting to get anything else done.
- Schedule Your Procrastination: We can’t be on top of our game 100% of the time. Even the best of us will find ourselves slacking off from time to time. Have the foresight and honesty to schedule your procrastination time. At least that way, you can make your unproductivity as harmless as possible.
- Prioritize Your Schedule: Rarely will you find yourself with multiple tasks of the same level of importance and on the same time frame. Learn to create a daily to-do list and prioritize it. Always handle the more pressing matters first.
- Write Down Distractions: Whenever you have a random thought, a creative idea, or anything else which happens to pop into your head, just jot it down and save it. That way it won’t distract you now, and you can give that thought the full attention it deserves later.
- Set Deadlines: Painfully annoying tasks seem somehow more manageable when they have a set deadline. Generally speaking, these tasks are much less overwhelming when there is an end in sight.
- Turn Your Commute into a Tutoring Session: If you’ve got a long car, train or bus ride to work, turn that commute into a learning opportunity with audiobooks. Learn a new language, listen to a podcast – whatever method you prefer to expand your mind.
Life hacking isn’t just about making the office operate as efficiently as possible. It’s also about bridging the gap between your work life and your personal life. Allow a smooth transition from one to the other.
- Separate the Home and the Office: Even if you’re working from home, learn to keep your professional time and personal time separate. Set prescheduled periods during which you work, and stick to them. Keep in mind that work doesn’t have to be done in one long stretch; consider working in two, three or even four separate blocks, with personal time separating each period.
- Plan and Prep Meals in Advance: Plan out what you will be eating over the next few days. Do all of the prep work when you have the chance, then store your pre-arranged supplies. You can also make things like soup, chili and casseroles in large portions, then freeze some to be thawed as needed.
- Keep Staple Foods On Hand: Certain foods like frozen vegetables, canned beans, grains, pasta and sauces can be bought in bulk and stored indefinitely. Make sure to keep your pantry stocked with the basics, as this will give you a reliable selection of building blocks for a variety of different meals.
- Take a Midday Exercise Break: Studies demonstrate that we are more productive if we take a midday break for exercise. Even if it’s just a short walk during lunch, moving around for a few minutes gets the blood moving and reinvigorates us, perking us up for the second half of the day.
- Condense Your Wallet: These days, there’s little need to carry around a wallet full of credit cards, debit cards, a checkbook and the like. Download a mobile wallet app like Apple Pay or PayPal, then just swipe your phone at NFC terminals instead of rifling through your cards.
- Take a Staycation: Treat yourself to a long weekend every once in a while. Take the opportunity to go camping at a nearby park, see a show or a ballgame, book a night at a resort in the area or simply lay around the house. It’s your time, use it as you want.
- Pack a Work Snack: Rather than eating a big lunch in the middle of the day, consider eating smaller portions more frequently. Bring some healthy snacks like fruit, carrots with hummus, yogurt or a small salad which you can enjoy every few hours.
Creative dry spell, writer’s block…call it what you will. We all experience a frustrating lack of inspiration and fresh ideas from time to time. If you’re having trouble coming up with anything good, these hacks may help reinvigorate your creativity.
- Keep a Notepad at All Times: When a random creative thought comes to mind, a notepad could suddenly become one of the most valuable items on Earth. Jot down every creative thought, even if it doesn’t seem like a good idea at the time, then go over it later when you have a chance. Some of our best ideas may just come to us randomly.
- Expose Yourself to New Things: If you’re feeling a little stuck creatively, try exploring a field that is outside of your area of expertise. Listen to a genre of music you’ve never explored, or if you normally enjoy realistic fiction, try reading some science fiction.
- Doodle: Just grab a pen and start scribbling. Don’t worry if what comes out isn’t a masterpiece, because that’s not the point. Doodling is a great springboard for new ideas.
- Snap Pictures: Just about everyone has a cell phone these days, which means just about everyone is also carrying around a camera. Try snapping some pictures which you can save for reference or inspiration.
- Conduct a Random Experiment: Take multiple elements that you wouldn’t expect would mesh and just throw them together. There doesn’t even have to be any real sense of control, just get wild with it and see what happens.
- String Random Words Together: If you’re really stuck at a creative dead-end, try this exercise. You might find the results surprisingly productive. Grab an old newspaper or magazine. Cut out a bunch of random words, don’t try and relate them to one another at all. Throw all of the words into a hat and mix them up. Draw words out of the hat at random and assemble them into sentences.
From time to time, all clothing begins to show signs of wear. However, if we take advantage of a few simple techniques, it’s easy to keep your clothes looking fresh and new for years to come.
- Take a Sharpie to Bleach Stains: The shading may not always be 100% spot-on, but if you can find a sharpie that is close enough, this is a great way to rescue black clothing defaced by bleach. If nothing else, the permanent marker will be a lot less conspicuous than a discolored, pink splotch.
- Shaving Cream, Hairspray and Dish Detergent Fight Makeup Stains: If you find your favorite white shirt with foundation stains, it doesn’t mean that the top is ruined. Oil-free makeup can be removed with shaving cream, while their oil-based counterparts are treatable with dish detergent. Similarly, hairspray is effective at removing lipstick stains. Just apply the substance, let it sit for a moment, then wash as usual.
- Nail Varnish Will Save Your Buttons: About to lose a button? Don’t have time to stop and sew it back on right this second? Adding a small dab of clear nail varnish will stop the strands from unraveling any further and hold the button in place.
- Freeze Your Jeans: Let’s say you’ve worn a pair of jeans all day. They’re not covered in mud, dirt or any other stains, just the usual daily wear. Instead of throwing them in the wash, fold them up, then stick them in a bag and pop them in the freezer. This will kill all of the bacteria on them, without color fade which results from repeated washing.
- Cut Out Oil Stain with Talcum Powder: If you’ve been messing around with any kind of machinery, you may end up with some oil stains. Try sprinkling talcum powder on the stain, then leaving it to sit overnight. This should soak up the stain.
A lot of people have trouble communicating effectively. Communication involves much more than simply stringing together words; it is the art of expressing an idea. These quick tips can transform you into a communication master.
- Tell a Story: Everyone loves a good story. The next time you try to convey an idea, don’t stick exclusively to bland exposition. If it makes sense to do so, try illustrating your point with a quick allegory or analogy.
- Record Yourself: Ever wondered how you actually come across when speaking? Try recording yourself to find out. Just visualize the camera as another person, a friend, coworker, whatever makes you feel most at ease and conversational, then try telling them a quick, entertaining story. Watch the video later to examine your expressions, body language and manners of speech.
- Think High-Pressure: Any time you have a presentation to make or an idea to propose, try and craft your message as if you were presenting it to a group of investors; deliver the benefits and sell the idea as fast as possible. Cut the fluff and skip right to the “meat” of the idea in order to make the biggest impact.
- Don’t Psych Yourself Out: The idea is to plan your presentation to be bigger than it is, but act as if it’s no big deal. Laughter is a great way to put yourself at ease. Try listening to some stand-up comedy or watching a funny video right before you make a presentation. If all else fails, there’s always the classic “picture them in their underwear” trick.
Great leaders aren’t just shot-callers. Great leaders are individuals who have a purpose, as well as a plan for how realize that purpose. Great leaders know how to balance time, efficiency, creativity, communication and a personal life, drawing the greatest value from each.
With these life hacks under your belt, you will have no problem leveraging your role as a professional and a leader.