September 23, 2018

Shortcuts and hacks to make life easier


I don’t know about you. But I believe there’s a shortcut to everything.

Very often things that look like difficult tasks can be solved with no effort at all with very simple steps – if you know which buttons to push.

I was visiting a friend once who was trying to set up a streaming gadget to work with his TV. Not knowing what he was doing, he bought a device that was all wrong for him – an Android based device that could do all sort of things, including streaming videos to the TV. But you had to be a programmer to set it up, and my friend was not one, to put it mildly.

I happened to have a Chromecast with me, and offered to immediately install and set it up, but my friend declined. We spent several minutes arguing about it. I couldn’t understand why my friend wouldn’t take me up on my offer, and he kept refusing. And suddenly it hit me.

‘How about I leave you my Chromecast and take your device instead?’ – I said. ‘It’s a pretty cool gadget and I could make a good use of it.’

My friend agreed immediately.

Turns out he didn’t want the old gadget to go to waste. Once he knew it would be put to good use, he was happy to let me set him up with a Chromecast.

One sentence settled a long argument – you just had to know which sentence to use.

There are plenty of tricks like that around, and if we find and learn them, our life will become a lot easier.


Especially since these tricks can be used not only on others, but also on your own brain.

Take affirmations, for example. Trying to persuade yourself of something by repeating it. The old and hard way is to repeat the words every morning in front of the mirror, while shaving. Did you know you can make an affirmation your computer password?

You’re welcome.

These are the words you have to type each day several times a day. And once one idea is in your head, just move to the next one. No extra effort to remember the words or to repeat them.

Are you struggling to make sure you don’t read your phone before sleep? I used to. I would collect all of my willpower not to pick up my phone – and then pick it up anyway. Until I read about a very simple hack – just leave it charging in the next room. Now I don’t read my phone in bed, because it’s nowhere near my bed. And my phone is perfectly charged every morning. Sounds stupid, but it works. It works because you have no sympathy to your need to read in bed before you actually are in bed, so it’s really easy to leave the phone charging in another room. And getting out of bed to get to your phone is a bit much – so you fall asleep like you are supposed to.

This is actually a universal rule – if there’s something you shouldn’t be doing, make it not accessible by the time you normally want to do it. If you are trying to quit smoking, make sure there are no cigarettes in the house. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t leave cakes around the house just in case. And so on.

A number of tricks like this are linked with cognitive biases (a huge topic in itself). Take framing effect – if  you are trying to lose weight, you can decrease the amount of food you eat just by switching to smaller plates. Or sunk cost fallacy. Your girlfriend is asking you to go on a ski trip, yet you are too lazy to do it and find excuses not to. Buy a non-refundable ski trip in summer – the money you invested will make sure you get on that slope!

Another type of hack is to appeal to the sense of identity. People are relaxed about the things they do; they are much less relaxed about who they think they are. ‘Don’t cheat’ has a lot less weight than ‘don’t be a cheater’. Thinking of yourself as an exercise junkie will make you go and exercise.

One more trick is making your brain think in reverse. For example, if you behave like you are in a good mood, your mood will start to improve. And if someone asks us for our help, we may start liking that person once we help them. Because we usually help people we like – and since we helped that person, then we must like them!

Finally, you can convert a real life problem into an imaginary one. Solving an imaginary problem is pretty easy – but a problem solved in your imagination is easier to solve in your life.

If you are angry, you can imagine that your anger is a red baloon, getting bigger and bigger. And then prick it with a pin and watch your anger disappear.

If you need to do something you are actively resisting, you can imagine that  your resistance is a mountain road going up the hill. The road is steep and walking up is hard. Then imagine a powerful tank (or a tractor, or an SUV – whatever works for you). Get into the tank and start driving up the road – and get on with the task. Works wonders.

Be on the lookout for hacks like these. Collect them or invent them (you can do that too). And once you find the hack to becoming a billionaire (and I am pretty sure there is one), drop me a quick email.

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