You’ve probably read lots of listicles of life hacks. Most of the hacks are little tips about how to use a product in an unexpected way or streamline a mundane task. Those ideas can totally change the way you get stuff done, but there’s another type of life hack, less about surprising new uses for everyday objects and more about shifting the way you think. Here are five seemingly obvious but potentially mind-blowing lifehacks to live by.
Think of your future self as a separate person.
It sounds nuts, but it works. “Future” can mean tomorrow or next month, and “separate person” means someone like a friend or colleague. Instead of skipping the annoying tasks you don’t want to do today, imagine that you’re doing someone else a favor and making their life a little easier tomorrow. If you used your colleague’s desk for a day, would you leave it looking like a tornado hit it? No, you’d straighten up any mess you made so he could return to a neat workspace. If your friend stayed overnight at your place, would you stop her from washing her face at night? Of course not, you’d want your friend to wake up feeling good. So do those favors for the future you as well.
Stop storing scraps of information in your brain.
Where you parked your car, what you need at the drugstore, what you’d like to accomplish at work tomorrow – all of these and similar fleeting thoughts are essentially brain clutter. Clear the clutter by transferring this information to lists (in a notebook or your phone), photos, and/or a paper planner. (Here’s how to choose the right planner for you.) You are probably capable of remembering that your rent is due on the first of the month, that you had a brilliant idea to tell your boss, and that you need more paper towels. But all that remembering adds up, draining your energy and making you feel frazzled. Whenever you can, set calendar alerts for recurring events (like rent payments), use your smartphone camera as a short-term memory aid (when you’re parked on level three, blue section, row 35-C, near the elevator), and make lists for everything from life goals to dinner ingredients.
Adjust your 9-to-5 mindset.
You wouldn’t know it from observing modern life, but not everyone’s brain functions best from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Some do their best thinking in early morning or late at night, and some get more done in four-hour stretches than in long days with little breaks. Obviously, you can’t always create your own schedule. But if you are fortunate enough to have some say in when and how you work, don’t let what we now consider “normal” affect your habits. Even if you’re stuck in a job that goes against your personal clock, knowing what your own strengths and limits are can help you arrange the non-working hours of your day, plan for the future, and create a daily routine that works for you.
Choose nothing over just anything.
When you have a choice, don’t fill up your closet, house, mind, or time with products or experiences that you don’t really enjoy.
You will not be better prepared for life’s surprises if you buy more clothes, tools, or other products “just in case.”
You will be just as bored doing nothing as you will be watching a movie or reading a book you have no interest in.
You’ll save money and avoid frustration if you sit elsewhere for a while rather than buying a chair you dislike, or one that wobbles, while waiting to find the right chair.
This idea can apply to little things like your diet (don’t waste calories on “splurge” foods you don’t really love) and big things like relationships (stop reaching out to people who never bother reaching out to you.) Surprisingly, life feels larger, not smaller, when it is filled with more nothing and less stuff chosen for the wrong reasons.
Whenever possible, remove your options.
Having a lot of choices does not always make life easier. Making everyday choices – even ones as simple as what to wear or what to make for lunch – can eat up time and sap mental energy. Wherever you can, simplify the process by deciding, for once and for all, ahead of time. Pick out your clothes for the week on Sunday and hang them up in complete outfits, or better yet, develop a clothing “uniform.” (The ease of dressing this way is partly why so many people are embracing the concept of a minimalist wardrobe.) Pick a few easy lunch options and rotate them on a simple schedule. Go for the red nail polish, the earliest doctor’s appointment, the black pens, and so on, every time. Or flip a coin and go with what it tells you.