“Hacking” is a term used in the tech industry for writing software code that does not follow the rules of how code should be written. Sometimes it is “well-written and elegant”, and sometimes it is “pretty messy and ugly” – either way, if it should take days, weeks or months to write a project and someone manages to hack it out in a few hours by “violating the laws of code”, that’s a hack that has increased efficiency and saved time.
“Life hacking” has come to mean a similar thing, but in our day-to-day lives. It’s a trick, shortcut or other method that can increase productivity and efficiency. For example; painting your set of silver keys with different shades of nail varnish so you know which key is for which door (thus saving you time and stress), or hulling strawberries using a straw (see pic below – amazing).
I find myself drawn to reading books, listening to podcasts and going to talks by what in some circles might be called “self-help”. Not because I think I need “help” per se (!), but rather because I think self-knowledge is the key to happiness – and happiness is the key to getting anything meaningful in life done.
I used to feel guilty about all of this introspection, but I think this is important to realise and took me a long while to grasp: Understanding yourself and what makes you tick does not make you selfish or self-centred; when we help ourselves first, then we can begin to help others.
Self-hacking is essentially that – understanding yourself so you can live a more efficient and productive life. Here are some examples from my own life:
- Knowing when – and what – to eat (regularly, fresh & healthy, always with carbs).
- Understanding that I’m an introvert (ISFJ) who needs down time after a social event. If I don’t allow myself that, I get super tired and sometimes sick. I try to create a schedule that reflects that.
- Recognising that I’m an early bird, and taking advantage of this by doing the important stuff before lunch (writing, exercising, making important phone calls). Afternoons are for admin or less “taxing” errands.
- Knowing that an untidy environment makes me feel really stressed, a tidy one much calmer. I make my bed and tidy up often to avoid “overwhelm” and anxiety.
- Knowing that I’m much more likely to do something if I promise someone I will (vs. promising myself, or not telling anyone at all).
- If I’m stressed or confused, knowing that my go-to fix it plan is either to write it down, or to call one of my nearest & dearest (BFF, sister, husband).
These are just a few of my self-hack examples – ones that I use to ensure that I stay healthy, get daily exercise in, and do my best work. I’ll be using these and similar principles to make sure I become a better, happier, more efficient Mum, too. (6 weeks to go!)
Since all of us have different personalities, anatomies and motivations, your own “self-hacks” are likely to be different. So how can you figure out yours? Here are a few “personality-finder” type tests to help you a) understand yourself better and b) self-hack off the back of your results.
- Find out which one of Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies you have: are you an Upholder, an Obliger, a Rebel or a Questioner? This is fascinating stuff – and I recommend you send it to your partner or family members to better understand them, too. Take the quiz here.
- See if you’re an Introvert or Extrovert. This may surprise you – the definition of a true Introvert or Extrovert is often misunderstood and misused by many of us. I was surprised to learn that my Mum was an extrovert, but now it makes total sense to me why her energy levels are so vastly different to mine. You can take a Myers-Briggs type test to discover your true personality type here or here.
- Read about The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This is a concept we learned about in our ante-natal class – understanding not only how we prefer to be shown love, but also how our partners prefer to have love expressed to them. It’s pretty insightful stuff and great for strengthening relationships (not just romantic ones), especially during a stressful or busy time (parenthood!) – take the quiz from the homepage.
- Ask yourself if you’re a Morning or Evening person. No quiz necessary – you likely already know when you do your best “work” (include non-paid work in this definition) and when you’re much slower / less focused / more hopeless! If not, start monitoring your energy levels and productivity throughout the day and it will soon become clear.
- Figure out how much sleep you really need. Again, no quiz necessary. In some cases though it might help to track your sleep and mood to see if you’re getting too much or too little. There are some apps to help with this – see Live Science’s review of the top sleeping apps here.
- Understand the basic needs. If you’re feeling unmotivated or low energy, ask yourself: are you cold, thirsty, hungry or tired? In order to be able to function at our best, attending to these basic needs is the first critical step, upon which everything else can be built. This is the basic principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see the bottom of his pyramid below – Physiological needs), a great foundation for which to build your own self hacks and those of your kids!
What do you think – do you have any “self-hacks” that make you be a better parent, help you to stay healthy, make sure you get that run in even when you don’t feel like it? I’d love to hear about them!