11 Life Hacks That Are Actually Useful

Resolutions are for folks who buy into short-term fixes. Instead, find a life hack and drastically improve your life, for good.

by Ben Radding
Originally Published: 
Michael Bryant / 500px/500Px Unreleased/Getty Images

Resolutions are for folks who buy into short-term fixes. Which is exactly why they so often fail. Why put a timer on things you should be doing right now to start improving your life? We endorse finding better ways to work, exercise, and parent and putting them into action ASAP. We talked to a few experts, and here are just a few ways you could drastically improve your life for the long haul.

1. Turn Up Your Workout — By Making It Shorter

Most people think that working out three times per week, at about an hour per session, is the key to staying healthy. Well, that’s not really true anymore. Studies have shown that shorter, more intense workouts can yield similar results to going steady for longer. “[Longer workouts] are a very old-fashioned notion that everybody gets locked into,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out. “The reality is, short bursts of exercise are incredibly effective. Exercise science has discovered this, but our mindsets haven’t quite caught up.” Remember that seven-minute workout everyone got worked up over? Give it a shot. You’ll have more energy throughout the day — without having to commit to a gym — and you’ll have more time for work, friends, and family.

2. Increase Your 401(k) Contribution By 1%

Saving for retirement is essential — but so are your expenses. So it may be tempting to hold off contributing to that 401(k) and just letting the money in it grow for now. But that’s a mistake, says Jeff Rose, author of Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money. “You can take this step today — and benefit for years and decades to come,” he says. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but saving on some expenses and contributing just 1% more to that 401(k) can yield a lot of money down the line. “Remember that, thanks to the magic of compound interest, small amounts of money you save now have the potential to grow exponentially,” Rose says.

3. Get in the Rhythm

“Our bodies are made of rhythms,” says Linda Stone, creator of The Attention Project, “and the time we spend online or when we get overwhelmed, those things contribute to making us a little bit arrhythmic.” Our bodies love to move — and they love to move in rhythm — so Stone recommends making time to put rhythm into our schedule. “There was recent research that came out that indicated that those who sing show tunes have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, that those who ballroom dance have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s,” she says. So get some more rhythm into your life. She recommends singing, dancing, and, if you’re feeling a little goofy, a cup song. (The kids will love this one.)

4. Stick to the “Three Plate Rule”

Eating well is hard. Eating well when you’re trying to lose a little weight is harder. Stay away from weight gain with what Jordan Syatt, owner of Syatt Fitness, calls the “three plate rule.” “It allows you to sustainably lose weight without counting calories and still enjoying some of your favorite foods,” he says. The rule allows you to have three meals and two snacks per day — but each meal must fit on exactly one plate and have both vegetables and protein, and each snack can only fit in the palm of your hand and must contain a vegetable or a protein. “It sounds too simple but that’s why it works. It’s not complicated. Not overwhelming. Just simple, effective guidelines that work.”

5. Model Curiosity

You want smart kids? Then study up. Take a class. Learn a new skill. Try and fail. “What you’re doing with your kids when you learn how to do something new is you’re modeling making mistakes and taking a risk,” Stone says, “and not knowing how to do something and being okay with that.” You know your kids will take after their dad, so be a role model in a different way. Don’t sit at the computer — go out and learn. “One of the things that researchers talk about is the importance of grit, but the thing that fuels grit is curiosity,” Stone says. “The thing that fuels persistence is curiosity.”

6. Create A Dedicated Space for Yourself

“We are very responsive to our environments,” says Julie Morgenstern. That includes how we stay in shape. Create a dedicated space for your workouts at home. It doesn’t have to be a home gym, just a space where you can move. “If the space is dedicated and ready, then all you have to do is show up and do it,” Morgenstern says. “But if you have to clear toys out of the way, and move the coffee table, you’re never going do it. So you’ve got to have that space just waiting for you.” And feel free to connect with your kid during your workout. After all, they’re incredibly useful weights. “Kids can be a great universal machine at any age if you just seize the opportunity to play with them. Get down on the floor with them, run around with them. And then you’re modeling it for them as well.”

7. Automate Your Savings

Contributing regularly to you nest egg is easy, until you forget to do it. “Making your savings automatic is an easy hack that can pay off in a big way,” says Rose. “Whether you’re saving up an emergency fund or for a specific purchase, you can increase your chances of reaching your goals by setting up automatic contributions with your bank. Set up auto-deposits on payday or on a specific day of the month and you’ll save money easily without doing anything.” Payday is an excellent day to automatically dump some cash into your savings. That way, the money isn’t sitting in your bank, and you’re not tempted to dig into it.

8. Save Your Eyes After 7:00PM

Sleep is important, especially if you’re a working dad. So don’t ruin it by staring at your screen unprotected. According to several studies, light after dark can throw off our body’s biological clock, making it harder to sleep. If you’re going to be staring at the computer or TV after dark, Stone recommend buying some specialized glasses that block blue light. “It’s a good idea to use either orange UX glasses, or TrueDark glasses if you’re looking at a screen,” she says. “Getting that blue light at the wrong time of day affects your brain, and affects your circadian rhythm, and compromises your sleep.” Fall asleep easier — and stay asleep longer — with some special glasses dedicated to protecting your eyes.

9. Speaking Of, Start Breaking Mindless Screen Habits

“There’s three different things, broadly speaking, that we do on our screens,” says Morgenstern. “One is we work. Another connect. And the third thing is entertainment.” So it’s important, she says, to know which one you’re going in for — and allotting time to each. Set a timer. “Say, ‘I’m going to do email five times a day for 30 minutes,’ which is a lot, by the way,” says Morgenstern. “It’s like open door hours in your office. You open, you give it your undivided attention, you respond to people, clean out your email box, then you’re off.” Not so mindless now that it’s with intention, is it?

10. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is all the rage, for good reason. It’s been linked to weight loss and longer lifespans, and is a simple way of keeping your calories at bay. “It can help with managing everything from weight to inflammation when you give your body a 14-hour-a-day rest from food,” says Stone. “It can make a big difference in how you feel.”

11. Upgrade Your To-Do List

For Linda Stone, upgrading your to-do list means making an extra one. “I make the list of what I really need to get done, and I keep it short and achievable so that I can feel a sense of completion, and celebrate that I’ve actually really accomplished something,” Stone says . “I have another list of things that I know I need to do but I’m not going to get them done that day, or immediately, but I know that I don’t want to lose them.” Most people, Stone says, have a never-ending list of things they have to get done, and they just end up adding and adding stuff to it, never seeming to get anything done. “If my day starts feeling really clogged, I’ll put it to the side and I’ll really try to pick three to five things that really need focus. It’s part of managing attention versus managing time. I think that with the whole focus on time management, that we started to go a little crazy in terms of what we thought of as productivity.” Two lists — one that you need to get done ASAP, and longer-term stuff — will make you more productive and feel more accomplished.

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