Getting things done with Lifehacker

One of the first blogs I ever subscribed to was Lifehacker. It’s an award-winning blog that features tips, shortcuts, and downloads for getting things done smarter and more efficiently. For those who don’t know, a hack is a clever new way to get something done. While the hacks on Lifehacker focus mostly on technology, they also extend to other aspects of life.

What’s it all about?

Different people find Lifehacker useful in different ways, but it’s the productivity angle I find most worthwhile. It’s all about organization, efficiency, and getting things done. A couple of months ago, they posted Top 10 Productivity Basics Explained. Although I feel that the post doesn’t aptly sum up their GTD philosophy, the following principles partially comprise some of the core habits and techniques they advocate on the blog:

  • Doable to-do lists—the simplest method for getting things done.
  • Remind your future self—planners and calendars are essential.
  • Ubiquitous capture—making sure that ideas and information you come across now will be available to you later on.
  • Working in dashes—seeing tasks as small challenges within a larger project.
  • Keyboard shortcuts—using the keyboard for more productivity.

In general, it’s best not to take all the posts too seriously. To get the most out of Lifehacker, I usually try out the tips that seem useful, ignore those that don’t apply to me, and keep the rest in mind for a later time. I find that trying out the tips that seem relevant often pays off, even though it does take some work. Installing new applications, fiddling with command lines and menus, and experimenting with new methods take time and effort at the outset, but they can enhance your workflow in the long run.

Lots of good stuff

I often use Lifehacker for discovering software and web applications. In fact, my favorite section on Lifehacker is the Hive Five. Hive Fives come in two parts. In the call for contenders, the editors ask readers to nominate the best tool (usually software) to accomplish a task. In the actual Hive Five post, they report the top five or six nominations and ask readers to vote for the best. Thousands of people vote, so if you’re in the same demographic as the Lifehacker crowd, the top pick will most probably turn out to be the best solution for you. Hive Five is so useful that if I’m looking for recommendations for a specific type of software, I make Lifehacker one of my first destinations. Recent examples of Hive Fives are Best Video Players, Best PDF Readers, and Best Instant Messengers.

My least favorite sections on Lifehacker are Featured Workspace and Featured Desktop. Featured Workspace seems only to be useful once every few years, for workspace renovation inspiration. Featured Desktop isn’t relevant to me, as my desktop consists of a pretty wallpaper and essential files, folders, and shortcuts—and I have no interest in changing this simple setup.

Avoiding information overload

Lifehacker posts new entries around 17 times a day, and you could get overwhelmed if you read the feed daily. Fortunately, Lifehacker has various feeds to help limit what you read.

  • Top Stories feed—the best posts of the day as chosen by the editors. 3 to 8 feed items a day.
  • Highlights feed—the week’s most popular posts in one feed item a week. I would recommend this feed for most people.
  • Feature feed—features are longer-form original articles by Lifehacker editors and guests. This sends out one feed item a day.
  • Tag feeds—posts on a specific topic. Every tag at Lifehacker has a feed. Visit their archives page to see all tags. Once you get to a tag page, e.g., http://lifehacker.com/tag/open-source/, add index.xml at the end of the URL to get to the feed.

In general, you can get posts on your preferred topics by combining and excluding categories.

Personally, I subscribe to the complete feed and check it once or twice a month, reading only the subject lines. I read the full post when I find the title interesting.

Selected posts from last week

The following is a sampler of Lifehacker posts, just to give you an idea of what their posts are like. These were my favorites from the week of August 10 to 16, 2009.

As you can see, the blog features articles not only on productivity, organization, and technology, but also on health and fitness, learning, and personal finance. Enjoy!

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Hello! I’m Madeline Ong, a web designer, avid reader, and tech enthusiast. Magic Lantern is an online journal where I write about design, literature, technology, and other subjects of interest. Thank you for your visit. Please make yourself at home.

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