February 28th, 2007

new year


Here's a word that's just come over the horizon at me: lifehacking.

I've been apahacking for some years now. In that usage, the hacking part has some of the sense of a hack writer, one who puts out a lot of words without much attention to the possible art of it, maybe encouraged by a looming deadline. Lifehacking seems to owe a little more of its connotation to the computer programmers' world, in which hacking is a bit of programming that works around or into another program for previously unintended uses.

Okay, it was someone in my writing group thing_in_150 who first alerted me to the word, by directing me to the Zen Habits blog. This has got so many links every which way and outward into the blogosphere that for a recovering disorganized person like me, it is taking days to work through all the nifty stuff and encouraging ideas I find. Mr Zen Habits refers back to the FlyLady, who is still washing my brain (quite a big job that) but also to the Getting Things Done or GTD phenomenon (I give up on making nice links to all these things, as you can find plenty of them yourself by the usual methods of following the one I already gave you, or putting the term into a google search).

Anyway, last night I was following his "GTD Implementations" links, which took me into a strange but interesting and dare I say brave new world. An implementation is one of those systems that the FlyLady points out most of us have lying around in stacks, the book or card file or notebook or calendar or laptop program that has promised to get our life all organized and shipshape. It is kinda fun to describe what your personal system is. What works for you? This is your implementation. Your tools, your set of organizational implements and how you use them.

In the high and far-off times, when computers were first brought into offices, o best beloved, we discovered that a computer system was useless in a workplace that had no systematic procedures in place already. This is still true, that if you have a system for doing things, a processor can increase your "throughput" (O that our ancient anglosaxon words should have been compounded together into such a hilariously abominable coinage, but I digress.) But if you don't have a system, first you have to make one. It should be no surprise that many bright young minds have devised entirely computerized methods in a variety of programs for taking care of things that other bright young minds handle by making lists in leather binders, or on 3x5 cards, or the backs of envelopes. I think it is the formidable volume of things To Do in modern life here in the future that has made all this so essential.

The most fun lifehack I have found is described at http://gtd-r.blogspot.com/, the work of a bright young Japanese engineer who describes his Implementation in charmingly fractured English. I love the way he calls making your lists "thrashing out" the tasks; it sounds so headbanging. He has devised a system entirely on paper, using cards or notepapers approximately 1/8 the size of letter paper (A7), with six little origami-folded pockets to file them in -- no scissors or adhesives required! -- and a colorful game board to sort them out each day. All can be downloaded free. You win every day by clearing the board: all the notes that constitute your In Basket are sorted, and everything you have to do Today is done. The other little pockets are for This Week, This Month, Someday, and Hold (when you are waiting for someone else to get back to you). The system is compact and portable, like a paperback book. Nothing but a pack of cards!

What gives me pause before I embark on such a scheme is the sheer number of projects that I would have to document and classify. I suspect most of them are lurking in the virtual Someday, all those unwritten novels for instance. This is just me coming around to notice that I am not going to be able to do Everything.