Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.



This thread is for posting any promising or interesting ideas for lifehacks you've come up with or heard of.  If you've implemented your idea, please share the results.  You are also encouraged to post lifehack ideas you've tried out that have not been successful, and why you think they weren't.  If you can, please give credit for ideas that you got from other people.

To any future posters of Lifehack Ideas threads, please remember to add the "lifehacks_thread" tag.

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44 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:19 PM

This might not be a hack, but it is useful information.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

Along these lines, I asked reddit last week for ideas of things that you can buy which will cost more upfront, but would eventually pay for themselves. My stipulation for the post was that they had to make the money back within one year, didn't require much more time or skill, and would have to be backed up with a calculation. YMMV based on your habits and climate, but here's what made the cut:

  • Switching from disposable razors to safety razors
  • Buying a weight set off craigslist and ditching a gym membership
  • Buying a chest freezer off craigslist and buying meat only in bulk or when on sale
  • Buying the tools for any home project rather than paying someone to fix it
  • Buying a cable modem rather than renting it (or ditching cable and using a chromecast paired with internet services)
  • Switching to a programmable thermostat
  • Buying an electric mattress pad and turning the heat down 10deg in the winter
  • Insulating your home
  • Switching to a low-flow shower nozzle
  • Keeping an herb garden/indoor plant rather than buying fresh herbs
  • Using a menstrual cup rather than tampons
  • Using cloth diapers rather than disposable ones
  • Buying a washing machine rather than going to a laundrymat
  • Buying a smartphone off-contract and getting a cheaper plan
  • Using a breadmaker rather than buying store bread
  • Homebrewing rather than buying beer (probably the most questionable ROI here because of the time and beer consumption needed)
  • Buying a haircut kit and cutting your own hair
  • Brewing your own coffee instead of buying it
  • If you smoke, rolling your own cigarettes or switching to an e-cig

The meta life-hack here is to make personal questions engaging and use the internet to source ideas.

Some of these assume your time is worth zero.

True, some of these require a time investment to learn the skills required (hair cutting, home repair, homebrewing), some require constant maintenance (homebrewing, keeping plants), and some take a bit more time per action (breadmaking), so you should probably discount those. Most of them are purely monetary tradeoffs though.

For some of the original actions (gym, haircuts, coffee, laundromat, going to buy cigarettes/diapers/razors), you should also keep in mind the saved commute time that you are cutting out.

Most of them are purely monetary tradeoffs though.

I disagree. A few are purely monetary trade-offs (e.g. buying your cable modem) but the great majority involve some trade-offs which typically involve time and/or quality of experience.

For example, sleeping on an electric mattress pad and having the room be 10 degrees colder is a rather different experience -- one that some people will be fine with, and others won't. A low-flow shower nozzle saves you a bit on the water bill, but the experience of the shower is different.

I am not saying the experience will be necessarily worse -- it might turn out to be better -- but I think it's misleading to think of these changes as "purely monetary trade-offs".

A low-flow shower nozzle saves you a bit on the water bill, but the experience of the shower is different.

In my experience, this isn't really true. When changing to a shower with a different water pressure, I will initially notice the difference, but after a few days the feeling of showering with the new pressure is the same as the feeling of showering with the old pressure.

In my experience, this isn't really true.

In my experience it is. I feel the difference and like high pressure much more.

I'd like to see a similar list involving time rather than money. What are things that you can spend a chunk of time on upfront, which will save more time than that within one year?

No specifics, but xkcd has a nice chart on how much time you should invest to automate something.

These probably aren't the best ones out there, just what came to mind easily:

  • For people who take a few different medications, those weekly pill box things - it takes less attention to do it all at once when non-groggy.

  • Keeping one's workspace clean and organized might be an example; a lot of people say they can pay attention more easily when things are clean.

  • Keep bicycle tires well pumped - makes you go a lot faster. (Also, having the correct kind of tires. Mountain bike tires are slow on pavement.)

  • Set up the computer/browser to automatically open the tabs/programs you use the most. (I know some people who do this on their work computers.)

  • "no 'poo" hair washing makes hair less oily so you need to wash it less often. Also cheaper. (baking soda + vinegar is the usual method.)

  • buying two weeks' worth of groceries at once so you don't have to shop as often

  • Dvorac and other alternative keyboard layouts

  • email inbox automation things (I've not used any, but people seem to like them)

The question can also be parsed into a cluster of overlapping prompts, some of which transition into general efficiency:

  • Learn how to do a single task faster.

Ex: Touch typing. Keyboard shortcuts. Find a shorter path. Automate bills. Use a flashcard program like anki.

  • Figure out how to do a task less frequently (minimize "in-between" time, set-up and tear-down time).

Ex: Learn what items you can buy in bulk. Cook in larger quantities. Schedule errands together.

  • Identity something you can stop doing, or do significantly less of at modest cost.

Ex: Procrastination? Apply the 80/20 heuristic? This category is probably quite personal.

  • Learn how to better schedule or overlap tasks.

Ex: Learn to cook multiple things at once. Learning to schedule errands at low-traffic time. Listen to an audiobook, or call a friend, or practice singing, etc. while doing mentally undemanding things like chores.

The electric blanket/programmable thermostat combo means that you don't need to wake up cold in the morning.

/r/buyitforlife is dedicated to this (though durability is the focus above frugality).

Not related to upfront costs per se, but here are some additional thrift tips.

  1. A top-loading freezer loses less heat when opened than a front-loading freezer. Regardless of which kind you have, though, packing all the space not taken up by food with bottled tap water will greatly reduce the heat loss and save you money on your electrical bill.

  2. If you're in the US, you're probably using fabric softener when you do laundry. I have experimented with the concentration of liquid fabric softener, and found that you can dilute it with water down to about 5-10% of its original strength and it still softens the clothing. I do laundry for a family of 3, and I only have to buy fabric softener once every six months or so, if that.

  3. Laundry detergent is not quite as extreme as fabric softener, but I've found that diluting it (or if powder, just using less) to about 80% of its original concentration works fine, unless your clothes are really dirty or really smelly.

  4. Still on the topic of laundry. Most of the time, there is no reason to wash your clothes with hot water. Unless they are really disgusting, cold water works fine, and save electricity.

  5. If you don't want to switch from disposable razors, you can greatly extend their life by stropping them (against your arm works fine; just remember not to do it in the damaging direction).

  6. If you eat out (not very thrifty to begin with, but sometimes time is precious), remember that even a non-alcoholic beverage is probably adding $2 to your bill ($2.40 with tip). Switch to water when eating out, and if you do so once a week, you're saving about $125/year.

Diluting (liquid) laundry detergent instead of just using less sounds weird to me, but maybe your washer works differently than mine.

In similar vein: slightly counterintuitively, front-loading washers are more efficient than top-loading. If water is expensive where you live, selling off the old one and switching is a good fiscal choice. Also consider getting newer toilets, if yours are old and use a lot of water per flush; the new designs are a lot more efficient.

Another perk of the "bottles of water in the fridge/freezer" trick is that it will keep food cold much longer if your power goes out. In some parts of the world (or if you're just expecting huge windstorms, as apparently much of the US west coast is right now) this is valuable. Just remember not to fully fill the bottles (or gallon milk jugs, or whatever you're using) and then cap them!

If you drive to work each day and could take the bus (or train or other mass transit), look closely at what you spend on gas, tolls (if applicable), and car maintenance (my rule of thumb: the car maintenance is probably about as much as you spend on gas, though this obvious varies with the price of gas, age of the car, and how good you are at doing your own maintenance). A bus pass may end up being significantly cheaper, even at the cost of some time. If you have to pay for parking at work, the bus is almost undoubtedly cheaper... and all this assumes your employer won't offer discount or free transit passes, which skews the advantage even harder. If transit isn't available, look at setting up a carpool. All of these options also mean more time to do things like read a book (or the Sequences, as I'm currently doing), work on a personal project, or get an early start on the workday (by answering email if nothing else).

Alternatively, in good weather, consider a bicycle; even if you have to buy the bike you'll come out ahead if you can use it semi-regularly (especially if you consider the benefit of the exercise). A serviceable bike for road / paved trail riding is pretty cheap.

If you're dating, learn to prepare some good / commonly-liked food at home; it'll cost a lot less than a night out, gives you a chance to give your partner something you made yourself (or together, which some people find fun), and snuggling on the couch for a movie is a lot nicer (and more private) than a commercial cinema.

As far as boots go, is there a good guide on buying shoes for nerds somewhere?

The article about Eric Rheinhart in The New Yorker says the following:

In an effort to optimize the dressing process, he alternates between two pairs of jeans, and orders nylon or polyester T-shirts from Amazon, wearing them for a few weeks before donating them. When the clothes get smelly, he puts them in the freezer, to get rid of the odor. “Sometimes, during the day, a couple of hours will do it,” he told me. “I’ll wear a towel.”

I tried that over the summer, where I would wear the same black polyester T-shirt as an undershirt every day, then I would hang it up overnight to air it out. It took on the odor of my underarm deodorant, and the freezer trick sort of works. But eventually I would have to launder the T-shirt anyway after a couple weeks and then hang it up to dry.

Because of current economic trends, I suspect our standards of personal hygiene in the U.S. will see regression towards the mean in the coming years, where we'll learn to tolerate body odor again and wear clothing cleaned less often to match.

Because of current economic trends, I suspect our standards of personal hygiene in the U.S. will see regression towards the mean in the coming years, where we'll learn to tolerate body odor again and wear clothing cleaned less often to match.

With what probability do you estimate this will occur?


Impressive, but electric mattresses probably consume more money than simlpy stacking on the blankets. Also, they do funny things to your thermoregulation.

[not sure if this strictly qualifies as a lifehack, but it seems to be in the general ballpark]

I have been practising a slightly modified version of alternate-day intermittent fasting since mid-January this year. Basically, every second day, I eat a small breakfast and then nothing until midnight (or at least I try to, in practice I sometimes have a snack at 10-11 pm). There seems to be some evidence that this is good for human health, and I have found it to be rather low-cost - I am still able to do moderately strenuous physical activity on fasting days (namely cycling from university to my home, which is half an hour away and mostly uphill), and do not get particularly hungry either (although I sometimes desire certain foods, hence the snacking). All in all, this seems like the sort of thing that is worth trying.

I do a slightly different form of intermittent fasting where everyday I only have Bulletproof coffee (just fats) from 10 PM to 4:00 PM. You write " I am still able to do moderately strenuous physical activity on fasting days " While I'm not an expert, ideally you should not be weaker while fasting because your body is gaining energy from ketosis.

Why would he be in ketosis? If he isn't eating low carb on his non-fasting days he should have an ample supply of glycogen, right?

While I'm far from an expert, I think if you go from breakfast until midnight without eating anything you will go into ketosis if you are keto-adapted, and if you are not, you will be in extreme discomfort.

That actually depends. In my case (n = 1) if I stop eating while NOT being keto-adapted, after some period of time I will feel physically weak and mentally slow for a while. That's my blood sugar crashing, but subjectively it just feels as being weak and slow, not "extreme discomfort" at all. I don't normally get serious pangs of hunger.

I don't think I'm typical in this respect, but I would be surprised to learn that I'm only one in a thousand or so.

To clarify: although my wording made it sound like I was slightly weaker while fasting, I haven't noticed a difference in strength, which is what I wanted that quote to illustrate. Incidentally, I just realised that a better example of that is that I have started weightlifting recently, and have not noticed a difference between fasting and non-fasting days.

I've been fasting one day a week since the beginning of May of this year. I usually start Sunday evening and fast through Monday evening or Tuesday morning, around 24 to 36 hours, and this fits my schedule pretty well—alternate-day would be considerably more difficult. The trickiest part is declining offers from coworkers to go to lunch and then having to explain why. Sleeping through the night on Monday can be a little uncomfortable if I'm doing a longer fast.

I've fasted erratically for years (when I felt like it, which turned out to be once every month or two), but started the weekly cadence because I found out I had very high total cholesterol (~280 mg/dL) when I went to the doctor in May. When I donated blood in October my total cholesterol was down to ~190 mg/dL.

It's hard to know how much of this effect to attribute to fasting, since I did make some other minor systematic changes to my diet (more fish, fewer pastries, a shift from butter to olive oil in cooking) and there might be other changes that I don't know about or haven't considered. Since I'm comfortable with this amount of fasting and since there are non-health-related benefits I suspect the VoI of a more careful experiment is low to negative. (I can imagine finding out there's no fasting -> cholesterol lowering effect, stopping the habit because of this, and losing out on the less tangible benefits.)

I did a similar thing to this for (iirc) around 6 months. It seemed to help me lose weight and I had no problems with it most of the time, until getting a girlfriend made the scheduling much more of a hassle.

That's an interesting schedule. Do you find it easier to fast during the day, vs the commonly recommended "don't eat anything after 6pm until 1pm the next day"?

I have only tried alternate-day fasting, so I can't really say with confidence. That being said, I think that I would have trouble keeping to the 1pm - 6pm eating window - I have tried going without breakfast on a fasting day, and did not enjoy it at all. Also, eating only between 1pm-6pm every day sounds much more unpleasant to me than not eating every second day, although this might just be an illusion on my part.

(I doubt this is original)

To help yourself do something regularly on a computer, put a direct link on your bookmarks bar.

Example: you want to keep a diary. Write it in a Google doc document and put the direct link to it in your bookmarks bar, so that one click is all it takes to open it. Not in your bookmarks somewhere else, not in a shortcut on the desktop (your browser is open all the time anyway), not a separate fancy diary-keeping software, but just one click in a place that's always in front of you. If you're like me, that'll help a lot.

Perhaps anti-intuitively, the difference in results is huge even between "one click in the bookmarks bar" and "one click to open a folder in the bookmarks bar and one click on the right link in that folder".

P.S. Alerts are also good, but this method helps where alerts aren't helpful. You want to train yourself to write a quick review of every book once you finish it. There's no way to set an alert to go off when you turn the last page in Kindle. But put a link on your bookmarks bar.

I have a list of sites I visit every day, and I put my diary-project-equivalent in that list of sites. Works wel lfor me.

I do the same. This also works wonderfully for when I find something that would be interesting to read but for which I don't have the time right now. I just put it in that folder and the next day it pops up automatically when I do my daily check.

Nice. I use Pocket for that.

I choreograph my morning routines to a specific playlist. I know what I'm supposed to be doing during each specific song, and I get things done on time without distractions. I started in highschool when I would occasionally miss the bus and I never missed the bus after I started.

I should try this again. I did it during high school; I would play the song in my head while I was getting dressed.

I do need to find a way to do this without waking up my roommate, though.

I love these posts and would love to see this become a monthly post. Not enough to write it in future but enough to upvote it whenever I see it.

I wrote up some anecdotal ideas on improving sleep quality. Based on my personal experiences, so definitely could be "broscience".

Thanks for writing these up. I'm curious which dimension you're referring to when up say that melatonin sucks at higher doses - health effect or cognitive effect?

Also, for reference, I take about 75 mcg when I want to fall asleep quickly and consider upward of .5mg quite a bit.

The main problem I've had with it is that a too-large dose makes me feel sleepy the next day. (3mg, felt extremely sleepy for 4 hours after getting up, and I'd slept in a bit more than normal, too.) My results are a bit strange, though, because another medication I take interacts with it. 1/4mg (guesstimated by cutting the pills with a knife) is usually enough for me.

health effect or cognitive effect?

Er... Sleep quality enhancing effect? Is that a thing?

I take about 75 mcg when I want to fall asleep quickly and consider upward of .5mg quite a bit.

Where do you find such small doses? I think 5mg is pretty high, and I used to cut the pills in half, but recently I've been too lazy to cut them.

Gotcha. With too much I feel drugged rather than sleepy, and groggy the next day.

Here and break in fourths:

Not sure how easily transmittable the skill is, but I can easily break those into fourths by hand by placing thumb and pointer of each hand on one half and twisting one half slightly away from me and the other half toward me. Helps that those are a bit softer than others I've encountered

Read Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography to see some examples of lifehacks in the 18th Century, including dietary experiments, time management and behavior modification.


Not for everyone, but: if you have small kids and are chronically at sea what game to play, buy a durable map of the world (that can be rolled out on the floor) for children, with cute pictures of animals, popular characters, atmospheric phenomena etc. Bonus points if there is enough space to put your own stickers on it, then you can have a stash for a rainy day/sickness. Put the rolled map in a corner where it is out of the way but easy to notice. When you suffer imagination collapse, take it out, think of the kid's favorite story character and set him wandering. Semiactive game, not for just before bed.

ETA: my son started playing with it sometime after 2.5 yr, simply 'driving' toy cars across the map. Then, we began learning what different pictures mean. We'd go to South America for tomatoes, etc. After that, when he had learned several objects, we introduced 'repetition'. On the next day after rolling out the map, I'd tell him how the Kitten woke his Owner asking for breakfast. 'What do you want to eat?' 'Mt. Kilimanjaro!' 'Ooh, trouble. It's in Africa, we'd have to take a plane. And it is not tasty - there are all those rocks.' 'Then I want to eat an iceberg.' 'Ooh, trouble. An iceberg is a large piece of ice in the sea near the Pole. It's cold, you'll get sick. And it is still too far away - we'd have to take a train.' [a couple more iterations, but it's better to change the 'foods' day after day then to make the game too long.] 'Then I want - OATMEAL!' [cue in triumphant parental grin and waggling eyebrows.] 'Wonderful! Let's make it!' They go into the kitchen, the Kitten sits down at the table and the Owner stands beside the stove. (This part I use to teach him spelling.) The Kitten reads out the recipe (nouns only), like 'w-a-t-e-r', the Owner does something with the named thing. [...] They eat. Finis.

After a few times, start encouraging the kid to tell you what 'Kilimanjaro', 'iceberg', ... mean and why you can't eat them. When you roll out the map, find new things to 'want for breakfast.' Show him a real cookbook with colourful illustrations and let him be 'the Kitten' - might help if you have to do something in the kitchen - so he can 'read you the recipe' while you are busy.

...just don't expect it to work as Porridge Propaganda.

(The Kitten and Owner are Findus and Pettersson. Lovely books. After we started playing with the map, fanfiction just... evolved. Now they travel all around the world.)

Get in the habit of smiling. Smile when you are greeting someone, smile at the cashier when they ring up your groceries, smile to yourself when you are alone.

As far as I understand it, the physical act of smiling (for whatever reason) improves your mood. Personally, I've tried to make it a point to smile whenever it occurs to me, and I've found that it generally improves my day. In particular, I find myself feeling more positive and optimistic.

"Smile with your eyes" as an alternative.

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