I just made toast. Not to brag, but we always have bread for toast because I learned a Life Hack from a friend of my mum’s (after a boozy night out, which goes to show that life lessons can come at any time). We keep a loaf of thick sliced bread in the freezer. So we always have toast bread and have developed the ability to pry apart frozen slices of bread with our bare hands.
I love Life Hacks, me; this is the new ‘cool kids’ term for the hints and tips you find in magazines. Apparently, calling them Life Hacks give them a modern era vibe.
But, do Life Hacks have a place in the workplace? They surely do. No-one likes having me watch them using Excel. Confession, I get a little frustrated when the simplest job becomes a labour of love (especially when accompanied by the attitude that I am too important or too normal to use Excel). I also stop the flow of jobs to ask ‘what did you just do?’. People who are not geekish about Excel (or Life Hacks) normally look bewildered at this point and tentatively repeat a key stroke or obtuse set of mouse clicks. And I beam with delight as I learn something new that could shave precious minutes off an Excel emergency.
I realise that I have only sold the idea of Life Hacks, or as I like to call them small, productivity gains, to a few die hard process enthusiasts and a bunch of Excel geeks. Should Life Hacks have a place in the heart of normal people? (Don’t be offended, I proudly subscribe to both of the aforementioned ‘abnormal’ categories.)
- The first recorded success of applying many small changes came in the 19th century and is called the Steinitz Accumulation Theory because it kept Steinitz (its inventor) World Chess Champion for 20 years.
- The rules of Formula Once force incremental improvements, which has led to amazing technological advances.
- The German football team, considered by many to be the best national side ever, employed 40 sports scientists to find and implement every conceivable advantage.
- In business, a key flank of the Toyota Production System empowered all employees to create continuous improvement.
- Google runs thousands of experiments every year to hunt out small opportunities, like lightening the colour of the Google Toolbar.
However, while suggesting we would benefit from spending more time looking for performance improvement, these examples also propose a rigorous regime that isn’t appealing and has the potential to become a business fad we all remember fondly in years to come.
It is a dreadfully prescriptive science, reducing all the spontaneity of life to a matter of routine. Oliver Brown, Chief Sports Feature Writer, Daily Telegraph (2 March 2017) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cycling/2017/03/02/marginal-gains-spare-us-management-speak-get-basics-right/
However, I would like to suggest that embracing Life Hacks is simply a choice. Once you decide it is cool to work out efficient ways of working, once you take pleasure in being knowledgeable, once you start to share your Life Hacks with a bit of pride, you will need no complex system. No guru will be able to tempt you to exchange your hard-earned cash for a five-point plan, and you will have less frustration in your day.