I was hearing the other day about a “new” life hacks that I happen to have been doing for over 15 years. This made me ponder on whether I have other “life hacks” (what does that really mean, habit, personal rule? ) that I have developed over time, that might be able to help people. I have learnt a few bits and pieces in my time on this earth, so why not share them.

So here goes, here are my 11 life hacks.

Focus on what is important to you

This actually will drive loads of different hacks that help how you use your time effectively.  If it is important for you to up with the latest movies, or just enjoy them, then you will spend time at the movies. If your family is important, if you are trying to get a book written, a blog started, finish a project, then you need to decide and then allocate time to it.

So decide what is important and then make sure you move less important things, like keeping up on TV programs (basically any TV), Social Media, playing candy crush etc to a minimum, so you can concentrate on what is more important.

This hack drives some of the others, which is why it’s included here

Plan your clothes for the week

So it’s Sunday afternoon or evening. Give yourself a little bit of time to plan your work weeks outfits.

Early in my work career I realised that if I worked out what I was going to wear to work in the morning, I would never make it to work.

So I started planning my outfits, firstly the night before and then the Sunday before.

This is how it works. Sunday afternoon around 4 or 5 I go into my bedroom and think about the week ahead and what is on my schedule. I either take my phone with the weather app, or have checked it just before (so much easier than trying to catch the weeks weather on the news)

Then I lay outfits on my bed for the work week. Major presentation, make sure I have the very businessy outfit ready. Know walking will be involved, what are the best shoes and then design the outfit around that.

If it needs ironing, this happens the night before, unless I have evening activities, in which case I will iron a few days in advance.

Why is this helpful? 

It removes the decision making process for the week, making it super easy to get ready, one less thing to worry about in the morning.

It also means you don’t default to the same outfit every day (apologises to Steve Job and Mark Zuckerberg – but boring!)

What happens is the weather changes? 

If there is a dramatic change in weather, (hello climate change) adjust the outfit the night before. There is only about 2 days a year where I am too hot or too cold, based on what I have chosen to wear. That is less than 1% (I actually did the maths).

I dislike being cold more than hot, so always have a cardigan with me, especially in autumn, spring or Melbourne, when the weather can change throughout the day.

What about if I don’t feel like wearing that outfit? 

Sometimes when I am planning the week, I am not sure something will go or not feeling particularly good about myself, I will add alternates (extra top or extra bottoms)

BTW – This was the supposed new ‘life hack’, that inspired this post.

Only two nights out in a work week

This might be obvious to most people, but it took me a while to work it out. Going out during the week, even if you don’t drink (as an Aussie – ever social occasion is an occasion for alcohol) just makes me tired. Happy to be called a nana.

I also have things I want to get done, books to read and possibly write (blatant self promotion moment – get Working your Mojo right here), or projects to work on and having a few nights a week off enables me to do that.  It also means I get to spend time with my family – also super important.

For me I also add things that I do every week into the two nights count, such as my piano lesson. Therefore, technically only 1 night a work week is available for other events.

The key is to decide what is important to you and make that the focus of your time.

I know people who work late every week night so they can spend the whole weekend with their family, or who get up super early to exercise. The point is work out how you are going to do the stuff that matters and work your regimes around it.

Why is this helpful? 

Sleep is soooo good and I just find without enough sleep I don’t perform very well and get sick easier.

Also not being the best sleeper, every night counts and if I have a couple of days of not so good sleep I feel it, big time.

But, I have a large social set? 

Tell me about it. I know this can be hard, when you have loads and loads of friends.  But, as this is about hacks that help, then work out what works for you. Maybe for you 3 or 4 nights would be better. Good friends will have no problems, call it a personal rule – if that makes it easier to explain.

Only one weekend away a month

Completely related to the one above.  I have a day job, so have limited time for podcasting, blogging and creating, so I like to spend a bunch of time on the weekends working on those and the other 27 (I have not actually counted – that might be interesting) projects I have going at any time.

Why is this helpful? 

I really like creating, sleep, hanging out with my family and did I mention sleep. Being creative gives me a buzz – it’s the something from nothing, and/or solving a problem that is just fabulous fun!

Am I super productive every weekend? No of course not.  But, if I am also away every second weekend it really makes a big impact on what stuff I get done.

Allow time for BIG thinking

Ideally, this would be something you schedule, so you always have time and space for it. I am less structured at this, but I do know when I need it.  When I need it, I get it happening, toot sweet. This is about allowing yourself to have some time, where you Netflix the whole day, or colour or do something just for fun.  We are now so ON Every… Single… Day… and every now and then you just need space to think..BIG THINKING… Even little thinking every day is helpful, although not compared to the concentrated big thinking.

Set your contextual beacon/intention for the year

The guru that is Dr Jason Fox talks about setting goals that are SMART are counter intuitive in a world where live is anything but predictable.  As an alternative, how about setting your intention for the year or your contextual beacon (I love the fanciful nature of it) with a one word theme.

Here is a blog post all about it here.

Why is this helpful?

For one, it’s easier to do then massive goal planning (that is coming from someone who loves planning). Secondly, it does guide decision making.  Last year for 2016 my theme was Pioneer. When I was making decisions on what path would be the right path for me & Incahoots, I could instantly recall my beacon and decide accordingly.

Be mindful/meditate every day

Before I was mindful every day I had read ALL the research about how helpful it was, but was not convinced I could do it. How could I keep my mind still for 1sec, let alone 10 mins.

Now I know more, and it is NOT about successfully having a clear mind (does anyone have the image of Kath from Kath and Kim, when you say clear your mind. I do every time). It’s about not attaching your attention to the random thoughts. In my mind mindfulness is about deliberate intention, directing my attention to where I want it. Right now as I am mediating it is about being mindful of your thoughts and giving your brain quiet (this can be mind space every day – see hack ‘Allow time for BIG thinking’)

I also now know that you can start small, start with 1 min, then build. There are great apps that guide and direct you, I use Headspace, but you also try Smiling Mind or Budify. They are very good at gamifying it and showing progress.

My practice is to do this first thing in the morning after the usual absolutions. I can do it on public transport at a push, I am just not as successful, removing the distractions.

Why is this helpful?

With our always ON minds we are not allowing space for insights and calm. This is about teaching us that habit.  The practice is about taking our minds back to where we want it to focus, deliberately.

I found that within 1 week I slept better. Now after 3/4 years of practice, if I happen to miss a day, I really notice the difference. But more importantly, I am better focused, calmer, more deliberate in understanding how I am feeling, more in control of internal dialogue and emotions and surprisingly more creative. That is some fancy benefits right there!

Journal every night

I started my journaling about 2 years before mindfulness, so that is about 5/6 years (it could even be more). It took a little while to get what works for me down pat. So this is what I do…

I firstly, dump out the day. What happened, how it made me feel, any insights I gained. Whatever feels relevant. Sometimes this is a lot and sometimes it is just the highlights or lowlights depending on the day.

Occasionally, actions pop out. I capture those on a seperate piece of paper or post it note,  so I can grab them it in the morning.

Secondly, and lastly, I write a list of all things I am grateful for. There is a research (see Martin Seligman – I think) that you should capture at least 3 things you are grateful for every day. This habit will then mean that you will find more and more grateful things every day.  Where you focus your attention will grow – having things to be grateful for growing is a top thing. If you are starting out this might be a good target, just 3 tiny things a day, easy. For me I write as many as I feel on the day. They can be big things, e.g. grateful for the love of my family or being able to travel or a big milestone reached or little things to be  grateful for, e.g. clean sheets or a nice colour pen to write with. This is a space where you can be grateful of whatever you like, its a no judgement zone.

Why is this helpful?

I think my two step process works because any angst from the day is written out of my head and not bumping around in there all night while I am trying to sleep. Then it finishes on a positive note, leaving me feeling good vibes.

Drink a glass of water first thing

Simple idea,  drinking a glass of water sets my day up and means that I have started with a benefit to my body.  Plus if I don’t get water for a little while, at least I have one glass to kick start my day.

Why is this helpful? 

Seriously, do I need to tell you how helpful water is, you are smarter than that. Considering as humans we are 50-65% water, I would say it probably helps. It also means we are less likely to mistake being thirsty for hunger. Personally, I think we feel balanced and calm near oceans and other natural waterways, because we are so full of water, it becomes like we are coming home to the mothership.

Book your next hair appointment before you leave the hairdresser

Everyone like to feel and look as nice as they can. So instead of going, “argh – I desperately need a haircut, dye etc and then try and find time in your diary that matches up to when your hairdresser is free”, book it all in before you even leave the salon. Completely one less thing to worry about.

I also book all the bits and pieces in, waxing, laser, eyebrows and nails. It can feel like a grease and oil change at times, but it does all get done in one go & then I am sorted until the next time.

Why is this helpful? 

I always try to look my best and it is one less thing to worry about. Of course you can always change it if something comes up.

Packing – lay the total outfit out

When travelling I lay the whole outfit out, clothes, shoes, jewellery etc. Laying it all out on the bed, means I can see in one glance that I have the right outfits for whatever the purpose of the trip is and any different occasions it might entail.

Why is this helpful? 

I find if I do this, then I don’t miss anything important, like shoes or necklaces. It also means I can look at what I can reduce, maybe those shoes will go with more than one outfit. Maybe I can dress that outfit up in the evening by adding earrings or a different necklace. Saves on packing and I don’t miss anything.

So that is 11 of my life hacks, but that is not all.  Not only do you get 11 tried and tested hacks, you also get a bonus 3 additional life hacks from my friend Melissa.

Use Sticky tape for emergency defluffing

Wrap sticky tape, sticky side up around the fingers on your hand and then use that to remove human and animal fur from your clothing. A very simple and effective on the go tool.

Don’t put pink post-it notes on ceaserstone benchtops

This is a lesson for everyone to take note. Very vibrant post it note colours, while super helpful and fun, can leave dye on more porous surfaces, such as kitchen benches, especially if wet.

Keep your post it notes away from water is probably a good lesson for everyone, really.

Fishing tackle box for earrings

If you have loads of earrings and nowhere to easily store them, then a fishing tackle box can be an excellent and relatively cheap way to store them. As fishing is sooooo boring it’s a better use of the tool I say.