Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Waste Time Efficiently

That's right, just like John Lennon said, "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted."

At any given moment, during any given activity, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I enjoying what I'm doing? If yes, go on, if no...
  2. Is what I'm doing benefiting anybody or profitable? If no... 
  3. Am I obligated to do this? If no...
  4. Eliminate the activity! 
I was considering making a flowchart, but I figured I ought not stoop to that level of nerdiness. 

Or maybe it's because I deleted the flowchart...
EDIT: I threw together this one this morning.

Here you go, flowchart lovers!

Go forth and enjoy your lives!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Blog on (Exploiting) Extinct Animals (for Lifehacks)

And before you go off about this not being about life hacks, that's just not true.

This new blog offers up useful information to be exploited by the lifehacker-would-be-mad-scientist. Don't see how critters that haven't been around for ages could be used like that? Didn't you watch Jurassic Park?

Need I illustrate further?  Image from 'secndlogic'

If you're still not convinced, head over there now and show this new blog some love, OK?

In case you're a phobe when it comes to those sorts of links, here's the address: 

EDIT: That new link should work!

Just say the name a few times - you know you like it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

About Lucid Dreaming

I was about to write a post about lucid dreaming when I came across this blog post, which effectively did it for me. Go figure, right?

Regardless, you should check out that blog because it's pretty good stuff. I'll offer you the graphic included in the link, since it has a ton of useful information.

This pretty much covers it.

As the caption says, that graphic pretty much covers it.

My only contributions are from personal experience. Here are some of my reality checks: 

  • Push two fingers against the palm of the opposite hand - results in reality and dreams tend to differ. 
  • If there are light switches, flick them - generally nothing happens in dreams. 
  • Push against a wall - sometimes, in dreams, your hand will go through. 
  • Try pinching yourself hard - usually it does not hurt in dreams. 

I like the nose/breathing idea, I might also incorporate that. The text and mirror examples are context sensitive, but good, though the mirror test can be frightening at times.

Alright, I have a ton to do in the morning, so thanks for reading and check out that blog!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Waste Less Time

Most people waste an enormous amount of time - have you noticed? When was the last time you killed time on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or checking your email? People in modern society suffer from an information overload.

The solution?

A low information diet.

This doesn't mean you'll become ignorant or an ill-informed citizen. You're simply moderating your intake of information to 'need-to-know' only.


Stop watching the news and reading the newspapers - wait! - This won't mean you won't know what's going on, but just glance at headlines as you pass the papers and try asking your co-workers, colleagues, waiters, or whoever, what's big news in the world that day. Let the news junkies sift and distill for you.

EDIT: I originally posted this in the comments, but decided to include it in the main body of the post. This will work for problem websites as well as email: Though it says Mac, a Windows version is also available.

Now, it's time to attack your cellphone and your email. Settle down, it will be OK - everyone got along peachily before they came around and I am not advising you cut them out entirely, just moderate them. How?

Go into your email settings and create an autoresponse (sometimes called a vacation response) that tells people the two times of the day that you check your email - and that's all you will do! Do not make one of the times first thing in the morning - give yourself some time to be productive before you check your email. In your auto-response, give the times you check them and explain that you're doing this to increase your efficiency and effectiveness and, if it's truly urgent they can call you at <your phone number here.>

People can get along without you, even if the business setting, and this will dramatically cut down on the amount of time you spend sifting through your inbox and responding.

Now what about that cellphone? Keep conversations short, especially if they're not 'pleasure calls' from friends, family, etc. Be polite, but press that you're busy doing something right then and prompt them with something akin to: "Hey, I'm really busy right now and I have to <do whatever> in two minutes, how can I help you?"

If they keep dawdling, politely interrupt with, "I really need to run, could you shoot me an email about this?" or something similar.

Enforce these rules (both with yourself and others!) and you just may find that you have a lot more time on your hands for both work and play.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to Hack Your Studying

First off, here's a little note: Do not cram information if you want longterm retention.

Here's how to make the most out of your notes and hack your studying.

  • Do take notes, more reasons why later.
  • Keep your notes organized and legible. If you've never learned, I recommend the Cornell system. Examples and strategies also given here and here. If you're typing notes, check this out.
  • Write on only one side of the paper, which allows you to change the page order later on. 
  • Review your notes within 24 hours, sooner rather than later. I like to take a quick review immediately, as well as another read-through before bed. 
  • As the course progresses, go back and review earlier notes - what now seems important, what's trivial? Make markings to denote.
  • Study from both lecture notes and readings for the big exams. 

Besides the supposedly obvious, why else take notes?

Memory works on multiple levels. Auditory, visual, tactile, gustatory, olfactory, etc. Taking notes, the physical act of writing and sometimes typing, increases your experience with the material, which helps you to remember it better.

Also, caffeine. No, seriously. Caffeine has been found to increase memorization - feel free to peruse these - related abilities. Just don't drink so much you start twitching and have a seizure.

Also, Bach. As in Johann Sebastian. Personally, I'm a 'Classical' music freak - I listen to everything from the past five hundred years or so quite happily (except Handel... and Purcell. Forget those guys. [I'll have you know a very different word was originally italicized.]) and Bach is, of course, a favorite. Besides foisting my passions on you and before you run screaming, you might want to read this. My only concern is, does the music have to be playing during the examination for the recall to work?

Johann Sebastian Bach - The Consummate Bad Ass.


Regardless, I recommend the following: Take notes. Afterward review your notes silently, ask questions about them, etc. Later on in the day, or another day entirely, review your notes out loud. Why? Speaking about them, as well as hearing your own voice talk about them, will help you to better recall and comprehend the information. I recommend taking this step before moving into group discussions of information, which can further increase your retention, comprehension, etc.

Now, about those readings. When you're taking notes on that stuff, don't just dive in. First, ask yourself why you're reading it - how does it relate to the coursework?

Next, skim, especially if it's just a chapter or two. If it's a book, read any introductions as well as the first chapter, then read the last chapter and any end material. Then skim the chapters, taking note of headings, key words or main ideas that pop-up - this should be a quick process, avoid skimming through every paragraph of the chapter or section - if it helps, keep to the first and last paragraph of each chapter/section, then gradually move in. Look for what the main points are, the key concepts and vocabulary. Write them down somewhere, try to explore those ideas, write questions and try to answer them.

Ever heard of speed reading? Do you know how to train yourself to do it? Well, for just $14.95 you can -- just kidding. This isn't a course or a complete guide, but here's how to hack speed reading: it's all about your peripheral vision. Try moving your eyes from about the third word of a sentence to the third from the end - see how your eyes can still make out the surrounding words? The 'trick' is practice and, with time, your speed will increase without leaving your retention and comprehension in the dust.

There's always more to say, but my time is up and this should give you a good basis to work from. Your thoughts?

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to Hack Your Sleep: Polyphasic Sleep for Fun & Profit

How to Hack Your Sleep: Polyphasic Sleep for Fun and Profit

Sounds a little like a business self-help book, doesn't it? In a way, it is - except it's more of a strategy.

Polyphasic sleep comes in a variety of intensities - there's the hardcore polyphasic sleeper, who sleeps for 20 minutes every four hours or so; but, there are lighter degrees of polyphasic sleeping.

Before we begin, I need to give a word of warning. Transitioning to polyphasic sleep can be difficult for a variety of reasons. One of the least considered is the social difficulty of running on an entirely different schedule from everybody else you know. You won't be getting much in the way of cuddles if you're only taking a 20 minute nap every four hours.

That being said, polyphasic sleep can dramatically increase your productivity by freeing up as many as 40+ hours per week that would normally be spent sleeping. Is this safe? Yes, so far as we all know. Polyphasic sleepers are perfectly healthy, functioning people; but, I can't speak for the truly longterm problems, if there are any.

How does polyphasic sleep work? It's based on optimizing your brain to immediately shift into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is what has been found to be the most restorative portion of the sleep cycle. On any given night you only spend 1 - 2 hours in REM. Polyphasic sleep works by training your body to enter REM sleep in short spurts, spreading it into 20 minute segments throughout the day instead of in one big lump at night.

Monophasic sleepers are what most people have grown up as, particularly in cultures that do not promote napping (aka, la siesta!) - this means 8 hours of core sleep and only 2 hours of REM every night, or 5 more or less wasted hours. The siesta gives a portion of restorative sleep in the afternoon allowing for less required sleep at night. Give an hour, take an hour, basically.

This man takes his siesta very seriously.
To step up the polyphasic sleep schedule, I recommend going 'cold turkey' and sticking to a pattern for months.

Two twenty-minute naps during the day and be sure to schedule them to take into consideration the time it takes to fall asleep! These two twenty-minute naps reduce your core sleep time at night to four and a half hours, giving 5.2 total hours of sleep time -- without sacrificing restorative REM sleep!

Or try three 20 minute naps per day and 3 hours of core sleep at night, yielding 4 total hours. That's a total of 20 hours per day for work and play - while still feeling rested!

For example, you could take your core sleep from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM at this stage and take your naps around 8:30/9:00 AM; 12:30 PM and 3:00/4:00 PM - or whatever scheduling works best for you.

Or try stepping it up to four 20 minute naps and 1 and a half hours of core sleep, giving a total of 2.8 hours. An example of this schedule: Core sleep from midnight to 1:30 AM; 20 minute naps at 7AM, 11:30AM, 1PM and 6PM.

Or the epic polyphasic sleep model, which is simply six 20 minute naps at four hour intervals throughout the day, yielding a total time of 2 hours of pure REM sleep.

So, what's the catch? The more naps (and thus less total sleep time) you take, the more rigorously you have to guard the scheduled times. At the 'few naps per day' levels you can be off a couple hours and still be OK, whereas at the six nap level you generally need it within half an hour. If you fail here you'll mess up your schedule and probably be tired for days.

The other 'catch' is that you do have to train your body to do this - the first few days, especially of the six nap mode, might be hell; however, it is doable and, if you can make it through the first few days, your body will adjust and you'll start feeling peachy.

Enjoy your new levels of productivity!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Streamlining Your Mornings, Part II

Now that your ass is out of bed, what do you do? If you're like me, you start making coffee and take a shower. Simple enough, so where are the life hacks I keep going on about?

Wonderfully bubbly coffee.
Don't question the bubbles.
Let's take a look at that coffee. Assuming you're not like me, you probably make pretty gross coffee in the morning - kudos if you don't - so what's the problem? Is it bitter, tinny, too weak? If your refrigerator doesn't offer filtered water, invest in a Brita filter and fill the coffee maker with cold water the morning you make it, not the night before. If you can, buy whole beans and grind them yourself as you need them to maximize freshness - though generally coffee you buy in the store isn't truly fresh anyway, but that's another story.

Last lifehack for bitter coffee, besides adjusting the ratio of grounds to water? A dash of salt on the grounds. It works.

I feel exhilarated already. 
Let's talk about how to be a lifehacker in the shower. Most people waste time, water and money in the shower and sabotage their energy levels by taking unnecessarily long showers with hot water, especially when it's cold outside. Am I right?

The life hacks may already be obvious to you, but you might be too much of a pansy to do them: Navy showers with cold to lukewarm water. 

What is this nonsense? The so-called 'Navy shower' was used by the Navy due to limited fresh water supplies on ships. It's also a super easy way to use less water, save money, and take faster showers.

Here's how to do it:
  1. Turn on the shower and wet your body and hair. 
  2. Turn off the water, lather and scrub. 
  3. Rinse - repeat if you condition. 
Total time: Two minutes or less. 
Total water used: circa 11 liters/3 gallons. 

An average ten minute shower uses up to 230 liters/60 gallons -- and it takes ten minutes. These statistics, by the way, are thanks to this PDF put out by the University of Florida. 

Speed showering with cold to room temperature water also works really well for getting you pumped for the day. 

Like her.
Lastly, and perhaps most lamely, if you're reading this blog you probably read several. Well, the lifehacker way to read all these blogs - and any other websites you like to keep pace with - is called Morning Coffee  

Morning Coffee is a Firefox add-on that allows you to add websites to a list, as well as give them a frequency rating, which will all be brought up in different tabs by clicking on the icon - this way you can easily catch up with them all while you enjoy your now delicious morning coffee. 

Like him.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Streamlining Your Mornings, Part I

Your alarm goes off and you open your eyes blearily, flailing to switch it off. Maybe at this point you get up. Maybe you listen to that little subconscious voice saying, "Oh, it's OK, just a few more minutes won't hurt. Feel how comfortable the bed is? Just a couple more minutes..."

Next thing you know it's an hour later and you have five minutes to get ready for work, if you're lucky.

Why does this happen? Why is it so easy to give in, snooze and mess up your schedule?

Because your subconscious is a selfish, malevolent sociopath hellbent on foiling your plans in a cozy prison cell of warm sheets and comfy pillows.

How to Hack it

The lifehack here is pretty straightforward: Ignore that lying, two-faced siren.

But how?

With an iron will that would make Stalin and Beethoven whimper... and with practice, of course. After all, you know what they say about getting to Carnegie Hall: You have to get the fuck out of bed.

Try this: Sometime during the day, set your alarm to a few minutes later. Get in bed and, when your alarm goes off, open your eyes, take a deep breath and immediately get out of bed for a little stretch, then walk away. Start walking towards and even doing what you want yourself to do as part of a morning routine.

If that's exercise, get dressed for it and start putting your shoes on or whatever. If it's update your blog, head for your computer and, if it's a laptop, you'd better use it at a table.

Do this several times. I mean it. At least five times, preferably more. Follow up with more practice the next day and take note of any progress on getting your lazy bum out of bed and into activity. For me, results were immediate, but your experience may vary.

Why? You are training your body to respond to the stimulus of your alarm a certain way. The more repetition you have the better - think Pavlov's dogs.

Training your body to automatically get out of bed allows you to more easily ignore your inner dialogue, which is exactly what you need.

Do not listen to yourself when you wake up!

If you've found this interesting, informative, entertaining, tedious, repulsive, or even if you'd just like to know more or have suggestions, please comment and follow the blog!

New Blog, New Poll, Life is Good.

Welcome to the blog!

Please vote for what sort of life hacks you would like to see by clicking a couple buttons on the poll over there... off to the bottom right.

See it?

Don't strain yourself, but let me know what sort of thing you want to see so I can deliver the hacks!

Lifehacks will be coming very soon.