Invariably I find myself looking for ways to streamline things. I seem to be wired that way, and if I can find a quicker and better way to do something, even if it means bending a rule or two then that’s fine by me. Of course, sometimes better means slower, and that’s fine too, it’s not about speed, it’s about better results. In that age old metric of work, you can only control three things, resource, speed, and quality, so it’s always a balancing act.
Now, I should point out that this was all borne back in my childhood. Our family home had two flights of stairs – the toilet was on the half-landing – and frequently items that needed to be upstairs were left on the bottom step. The maxim was ‘never go upstairs empty handed’. It’s something that has stuck to this day (and once again living in a place with stairs I find myself foisting it on my partner!) and was probably the first little life hack that I used, and that was WAY back before they were even things called life hacks, or hacks for that matter.
For example, for a few years now I have made sure to have a staging area near my front door (not so near that nasty people can sneakily hook car keys or the like through a letter box though!). It means my house keys, my work pass, my headphones, the car keys, all have a place to live so when I am leaving the house I don’t need to go searching for them. I have a similar area in our bedroom on top of my chest of drawers, on it is a small wooden tub into which I empty my pockets at night so that, in the morning, I know where to find my wallet and any spare change I wish to carry. My phone and watch are on chargers nearby so that helps streamline my morning. Little gains that make my life easier
Really it’s all about removing as many decisions as possible. The most famous recent example is Barack Obama who spent his presidency with two choices of colours of suit, black or dark blue. Anything else meant he had to make a choice and, as President, his entire day was built around making decisions so the fewer he had to make the more emotional energy he would have available to make them, and to make better decisions. A reasonably crucial piece of thinking for a President I’d have thought…
Ahhh but let’s not open that (orange tanned) kettle of (rotting and putrid to the core) fish. Obviously I’m not making Presidential decisions (can you even imagine!) but the basic premise stands true for everyone, if you can streamline your day a little it’ll has the potential to go better and leave you with more energy at the end of your day. This is just one example of the little things I’ve done to build my own little infrastructure to help myself.
Sometimes I have taken this too far, but that can be half the fun of trying something new. I didn’t always leave a bag hanging from the handle on the back of my front door to remind me to take it with me, and for the most part it worked except that one time I was tired, and rushing, and forgot that the bag had a bottle of wine in it and… well you know that moment when something happens and time slows, and the horror of what is happening descends, and you can’t do anything about it, and so you watch and hope and cringe and… thankfully the bottle didn’t smash but I took it as a sign to reconsider that idea.
There are many ways you can build your own systems, a quick google for life hacks will give you enough reading material for years, and all I can suggest is to pick the ones that solve something that irks you. That’s where it usually starts for me, a (very) minor annoyance is all it takes.
Recently, one of our dogs had an evening of unrest. Clearly had an upset stomach and so we were in and out with him for most of the night. We don’t have a back garden so every time he wanted out I’d get up, put on my jacket, take off my slippers and wrestle my feet into the shoes I keep by the front door for such an occasion. He was in and out almost every hour of the evening, and by the end I was fed up wrestling with the shoes. The laces were quite loose but couldn’t be undone any more or the shoes would fall off my feet.
Up until then, of course, this hadn’t been an issue. A very very minor moment of inconvenience a couple of times a night, but that night was the proverbial straw and off I headed to find a solution. The internet quickly provided me a solution which, as it happened, I already had at home. A few months previous I had gotten a new pair of running shoes in the vain hope of getting back to being able to jog more than the length of myself without dying. I used to jog frequently and when I did one of the best investments I made were elastic laces. I have wide flat feet so getting the lacing right was always an issue, but elastic laces sorted that out for me.
Cue me heading upstairs to confirm that I had, because I am indecisive, ordered two colours of elastic laces for said running shoes and so I had a spare set; a ready made solution to my ‘dog walking shoes’ issue.
Today all I need to do is slide my feet into the shoes and the elastic laces take care of the rest. Simple. It’s just another little thing but, when you add them up, and consider that over the years I’ve dealt with pretty much all my every day annoyances in this way, it means that the sum is far greater than the parts; the infrastructure that supports how I live my life won’t ever be complete (all part of being happily imperfect), but it works for me
Until it doesn’t. Thankfully I don’t live my life within some rigid, automaton, set of processes. Life, for me, is about happiness, joy, and so the occasional mishap isn’t that big a deal. The infrastructure is not critical. Just imagine if it was though, imagine a creaking infrastructure of roads, or IT systems, and everything that goes into them. How many individuals strands are tied together at crucial points; anyone stuck in a traffic jam knows how little it takes to break these things, one little rupture is all it takes.
Ruptures ruin the flow, and everything breaks down.