“Maybe stop trying so hard to find shortcuts to “hack” your life. The best things are hard. Invest in the journey”, tweeted American endurance athlete Rich Roll recently, sparking a debate about the value of “lifehacks” – defined as strategies shared online for managing time and completing tasks in a more “efficient” way.
“Lifehacks” have become an immensely popular online phenomenon, but while shortcuts can sometimes save you time, money and effort, are there still some things you shouldn't “hack”?
1. Critical decision-making
Although there are reliably researched tricks you can use to help think through difficult decisions – such as pretending to advise a friend, or thinking ideas through in a second language – taking time to get things right is incredibly important.
In fact, some shortcuts could actually damage your ability to make balanced decisions. Are you guilty of any of these three decision-making villains which can mislead your choices?
- Confirmation bias – you look only for information that will confirm what you already believe
- Overconfidence – you believe you know more than you actually do
- Narrow framing – you reduce your focus to the smallest, most immediate choices to avoid dealing with the problem as a whole.
Critical decision-making is exactly that: critical. Creating more time to make decisions could give you the space you need to really evaluate your choices from more angles.
2. The things that really matter
There are approximately 5,840 waking hours in a year (if you’re lucky enough to sleep eight hours a night), and if you work full-time you probably spend 1,770 of them in the workplace. That leaves you with a limited amount of time to spend on yourself, your family, your friends and your life. While getting things done efficiently is important, it isn’t everything.
Why shouldn’t you try to hack the whole lot? Because some things benefit from a little extra care and attention, and the old idea that hard work equals a better result still holds true in some circumstances. For example, you can “hack” your inbox to sort your mail more efficiently, but you can’t “hack” making meaningful connections with the right people. Financially, you can shortcut ways to keep track of your spending, but planning effectively for the future can’t be done in ten minutes.
As a quick guide to determine what you shouldn’t try to shortcut, do a “burning house”: what are the things that would matter the most if you didn’t have them anymore? Anything from your relationships, work, home and finances, these are the big chunks of life that truly matter to you, and where you should invest the majority of your time. While a lifehack can show you how to cover a scratch on a chair by rubbing it with a walnut (ingenious), shortcuts can’t replace the effort and time needed to get results from the things that matter to you the most.
3. The things that do you good
Steering clear of discussing health foods and yoga, there are some things in life that you just know are good for you – physically, mentally and emotionally. While there are thousands of get-slim-fast supposed tricks to a better physique, there aren’t many for the slow enjoyment of things. You can’t really “hack” relaxation or good health, or the things that make you feel good.
A speed reading app could help you take in a big report before that crucial meeting at work, but when it comes to reading a great novel, you just can’t take shortcuts.
There can of course be something incredibly satisfying about working hard to achieve something and then reaching your goal – numerous psychology studies cite the power of old-fashioned work on mental health and general well-being. Hard work is also a key ingredient amongst the most financially successful people: Success guru Richard St John interviewed the 500 wealthiest people in the world and found that the majority shared a trojan-like work ethic.
And one thing you can “hack”...
You can lifehack the admin tasks in life – but the big decisions often take work, determination and true grit to get a payoff. You can’t shortcut effective financial planning, but you can make its constituent parts quicker to manage and digest. If you struggle with planning out a monthly budget, the award-winning MoneyHub tool offers a brilliant alternative to a clunky spreadsheet.
Using MoneyHub, you can aggregate all your accounts for just £1.49 a month to see the impact of everything from mortgages, loans and credit cards, to your savings, current accounts and investments, all in one convenient place. There’s also a host of calculators and nifty tools to help you make sense of your financial planning, long or short term.