A day in the Lifehacker

Lifehacker.com is one of the Top 20 blogs on the Internet, was named one of the 50 Coolest Web Sites by Time magazine and has been nominated for 12 Bloggies, the Weblog community’s Oscars.

The blog catalogues technology tricks to squeeze more productivity out of your day. A new book version collects 88 tech tricks to get more out of your day.

Computing Canada spoke to Java programmer and Web designer Gina Trapani, the editor of the Lifehacker blog and author of Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tricks to Supercharge Your Day (Wiley Publishing Inc.) from her office in San Diego. 

Computing Canada: What’s a lifehack?

Gina Trapani: A lifehack is a productivity trick, kind of an unexpected way to get something done faster, more efficiently.

CC: Can you give us a couple examples?

GT: Like backing up your files to your iPod. Most people use their iPod to listen to music, but you can store your documents there. Or, say, PayPalling your buddy the balance from your dinner bill with your cell phone. That sort of thing. 

CC: You wrote that a lifehacker is someone who would rather spend two hours and 59 minutes automating a three hour task than do it manually. Is this for everyone?

GT: I think it’s very much a computer programmers’ mindset, but it’s a mindset that would benefit everyone. I don’t know that everyone has that mindset … if you save one minute the first time, especially for a task that you do more than once, you can save hours later on.

CC: IIn the book, you’ve organized the hacks into 10 categories, like freeing up mantal RAM and Firewalling Your Attention. Where do  we have the most to gain in terms of productivity?

GT: It depends a lot on what your job is like. If you’re someone who gets interrupted a lot, who spends the whole day running around putting out fires, then firewalling your attention and getting some focus time would help the most. If you’re someone whose mind is always reeling about other things, freeing up mental RAM is probably where it is for you. If you’re someone who does a lot of repetitive work, then automating tasks is for you. It really depends on what your sore points are. 

CC: Everybody loses a lot of productivity. But you’ve got a proposal in your book to keep the inbox empty by using only three subfolders, and frankly, I find that terrifying.

GT: I think we still … have this metaphor of our electronic documents as paper documents. You’d never think you could fill a physical drawer with letters, a big pile of them, and just pluck out the one you need out right away, but the fact is digitally you can do that and you can have one big archive folder. For example, as G-mail has proven to us, you can find just about anything you need with the right search query. So it might sound terrifying, but if you know what to search and what you need, it’s actually not that bad. 

CC: What is your favourite hack in the book?

GT: It depends on what your job is, where you’re going to gain the most. Being a blogger and someone who deals with dozens of e-mails every day which have the same kind of answers, the one where I get the most – well, one of the ones, I actually love all of them, like my children – is Hack 27, Saving Time With Text Substitution. I have a bunch of little macros that I’ve set up. I just type a keyword and it magically fills in the repetitive phrase that I was looking for automatically, and that’s one I don’t think I could possibly live without.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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