Lifehacking on the Economist

When you read something on the Economist, you know it’s serious, mainstream stuff. And this was just my reaction when first I read a feature on lifehacking on the June 10th-16th issue of the magazine, under the Technology Quarterly feature set.

From being “the programmer’s mentality to streamlining daily routines and getting things done,” lifehacking has jumped into popular culture, not just with geeks (of any kind), but also with people who simply want effective ways to get things done better. The Economist cites several sites, including lifehacker.com and 43folders.com, which are tools “well worth a visit” for people looking into being more productive. Of course, let’s not forget my favorite lifespy.com.

Quality, not Quantity

One concern I have with all this clamor for getting things done is the quality of things done. for me, it’s more of getting things done right, and getting things done well, rather than just GTD, per se. Sometimes we just want to do so much that we forget to prioritize and devote the necessary effort (and creativity) into the important stuff.

So in this case, lifehacking would come in handy in helping us lessen our time wading through or doing the useless stuff, and being more focused on the things that really matter, whether that be releasing that uber-clean code for your next uber-cool programming project, finishing that artistic masterpiece, or publishing that controversial blog post everyone will be talking about the next morning.

Lifehacking and the establishment

The Economist stresses, quite correctly, that lifehacking isn’t really meant to be in accordance with business concepts of efficiency and effectivity, that is getting more things done at less time or cost. Being productive is, indeed, a doule-edged sword. You get to do more things, but in the end you get to wonder if your life has become better as a result. In the end, it’s quality of life that matters. If hacking your life can enable you to do things faster and better, and earn you a well-deserved rest, then that’s great.

On the other hand, if your GTD and productivity efforts just make you efficiently cram more things into your already-stressful life, then you probably need to take a breather. Lifehacking should focus more on helping you feel less stressed out and overwhelmed.

The future

Lifehacking’s great. But please, I’d rather not have yet another “productivity” book coming out on bookstore shelves anytime soon.

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