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Many of us are in the deliberate search for better, easier, faster, more effective ways of getting things done. We look for optimization in all sorts of pursuits; fitness, cooking, business travel, finances, technology, and so on. The explosive business of Apps is, in great part, driven by our desire to optimize how we manage our lives. Some might say we are in search of the best and greatest “life hack.” What is a life hack, you ask? Wikipedia provides this succinct summary:
Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem of a person in a clever or non-obvious way….Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.* If you explore the term “life hacking” on the internet, you will find that it covers a lot of ground. There are blogs, e-books, articles and entire websites dedicated to life hacking. Not surprisingly, these sources vary a great deal in content and quality. From them, you might gather information ranging from the fastest way to peel a banana (it models what chimpanzees do, in case you’re wondering) to tips on boosting your confidence and learning foreign languages at maximum speeds. You can learn how to decrease your anxiety, get the most out of meditation and make Barista quality coffee from your own home. And, as is generally the case with online sources, it’s a buyer beware world. Some of them are important behavioral practices that can genuinely enhance our lives, and others will make you wish you’d invested your time elsewhere. Like most, I have interests in maximizing performance for personal reasons but it is also an important aspect of my career as a behavior-based business consultant.
One of my favorite aspects of the job is helping the best organizations get even better. Rarely do our clients call us to fix something “broken.” Certainly, behavioral science is a powerful and proven approach to mitigating problem behavior at the individual and organizational level. However, it is also an optimization mechanism, capable of producing the highest levels of creativity, quality, productivity and efficiency in what might already be high performance. It gives you the framework to target and systematically improve behaviors that are significant to you. So, when it comes to managing the behavior of self and others, even just a basic understanding of behavioral science can be the ultimate life hack. An understanding of a few core principles from behavioral science will help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the jumble of life hacks and personal improvement strategies out there while giving you the tools to build your own for your many ventures. The behavioral science tools and principles that can help you increase your productivity, creativity and expedite learning and fluency are many. The creative and effective use of reinforcement alone is one of the most powerful life hacks I can think of. To assess or develop your own behavior-influencing life hacks, consider this starter set of tools and concepts:
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.”
Hemingway decreased the amount of effort for getting into the flow of writing by always leaving a partially full page to begin with the next day. Although I use this for my writing, an understanding of behavior has helped me generalize this approach to several other tasks. For example, I get my workout clothes and equipment sorted, next to my bed and ready to put on for those much too early 5:30am workouts. If I need to get up and start a search for my workout clothes, fitness tracker and water bottle, I may end up slapping that snooze button instead. That additional effort might be too much to sustain the desired behavior. The point is to never start on a blank page. Set yourself up with a head start and increase the likelihood you will engage in the desired behavior.
Think of behavioral interventions (including life hacks) as recipes for improvement. Behavioral principles are the ingredients that will produce the optimization you are looking for in your own as well as other people’s behavior. A solid understanding of a few behavioral principles will give you the ingredients to build your own recipes for behavior change. These days it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the limitless amount of information pitching us different approaches to improving our physical and mental health, relationships, and management styles, to name a few. It’s a challenge to choose the most effective method in the face of so many options. Before we undergo medical treatment most of us expect for the methodology to have been tested through the rigor of the scientific method. The above tools and concepts are derived from the systematic study and application of behavioral principles supported by over a century of research. When investing in a life hack intended to influence your behavior and that of others, why wouldn’t you rely on scientifically proven tools and principles to lead your way?
You may also want to check out The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs to Make Life Easier.
© Aubrey Daniels International, Inc. All rights reserved. 2023