Hacking, it’s not just for computers anymore. Technology today hacks things like note taking and to do lists making them much easier, more accessible, and most importantly quicker. Athletes hack their workouts to maximize gains and wins. Companies try to hack the business processes to maximize income and productivity while employees try to hack the amount of time needed to complete due tasks and to improve their pay to hours worked ratio. The most successful life hackers change their lives in the most curious ways to get more free time or more return on investment while inputting less time, money and elbow-grease. Today’s article is about looking for small and large ways to improve your life similarly through changes in established routines and processes.
Humans are creatures of habit. We incessantly create routines that work for us. We wake up the same way every day. We pick out clothes, dress, brush our hair and teeth the same. Then we eat breakfast, commute to work, work, take breaks, commute home, eat dinner, hang out with our families similarly. We brush our hair and teeth, and finally go to bed basically the same way every day as well. Every day always the same. What if one minor adjustment to one of these routines added thirty minutes to an hour of free time to your day? That sounds pretty awesome considering time is such a valuable and scarce commodity in the modern world. It’s curious that it’s called free time since there is such a high expense to most people to find more of it.
Our jobs are definitely not going to tell us, “Why don’t you come in a few hours late and leave early today?” The more likely request will sound more like “I need you early. I need to to skip lunch? And I definitely need you to stay late. By the way I’ll need you in on that next day off you thought you had.”
Some jobs allow employees to get time off when a project, deal, or preset goal has been hit. This is more the exception then the rule. Most jobs do not reward you when you finish early. They will typically dump more crap on your plate and tell you to eat up. I was having some issues at work due to an overwhelming amount of customer appointments and interactions coming into my work space throughout the work day. This abundance of contact did create more sales opportunities, particularly in the volume of tickets I could write. Very important things were not happening though. First I was not taking breaks. My body was telling me through various ways that it would not accept ten to eleven hours per day of standing on a concrete floors with no breaks. I had minimal to no chance to sit down and relax or just rest my legs. I developed circulation issues in my legs and I even burst a blood vessel in my eye due to the stress. My health was worsening even though the pay checks were good and consistent.
I knew there was something seriously wrong though. I confided in a few of my close personal advisors to determine what I subconsciously knew already. One of my confidants is a class-mate from my kung fu school, Thomas. Thomas told me that if he has an employee who continually turns in work early and completes projects quickly that he just gives more and more work. He also told me if that employee was willing to take it then he wouldn’t let up. He continued on that if an employee told him they needed a break and told him that those breaks would improve them as an employee and increase their productivity in the end he would not only give them those breaks that happen to be government mandated, but he would also respect them more. I definitely had to reflect on his statements and their pure simplicity.
I began taking breaks. I committed to lunch breaks where I came back refreshed and reset mentally and emotionally. I took more fifteen minute breaks and I sat down more. My attitude and performance in the second half of the day was significantly improved. My health was immediately better and it addressed a second issue related to the pace of customer interaction. Coming back refreshed created quantifiable increases in customer satisfaction scores as well as improved average dollars per tickets sold. With the additional energy I was able to truly invest myself in my customer connections instead of just checking them in, making a sale, and checking them out. Inevitably when the customer connections were great real trust would get established. My sales would take on an advisory role versus routine quantity selling. I sold a lot more and felt more fulfilled by my work. I became happier immediately and my health improved. This was a simple hack of a routine and bad habit I had created for myself that paid financial and emotional dividends.
A simple hack I picked up has improved my ability to attack my day from a more positive, fun, and high energy way. The Art of Charm is a self-improvement program and podcast that started as dating and relationship advise for men who struggled with talking to and hooking up with women. As the fellows who started it and those they have helped have grown and achieved their intended results with women they recognized that improvement and adding value do not and should not stop at just dating and relationships. The company has evolved and now focus on personal growth and improvement.
Art of Charm, or AOC, is a driving force in much of my own drive to improve. It put me on the path of my consistent writing. I reflect on and improve my own ability to read people and assess myself and my interpersonal interactions because of content in their shows. See Chase Your Happiness, my most recent article for some examples. I even increased the quality of my communication with my wife, daughter, as well as communication with my coworkers and bosses. I view myself as a young, successful professional in lue of how I underappreciated myself and life before I discovered AOC.
This program replaced mindless podcasts I used to listen to involving sports talk or bathroom humor driven comedians. I was listening for an hour or two a day while I went about my routines. I hacked my life by just changing the type of information and entertainment I was consuming.
One specific hack of the many I’ve picked up from AOC is the Power Pose. When I start my work day I raise my hands to the heavens and stretch them out wide in a ‘V’. I try to mimic the pose the referee makes when a touch down or goal is scored. I stretch out backwards and breath deeply. This opens my body up to success and victory to start my day. It sets the tone and my mindset. It is difficult to hold this pose and stretch backwards and breath, but somehow it works wonders. This morning my Power Pose became a Power Pose dance as “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede played on the overhead. I was really feeling the energy. I held the pose while dancing for over a minute. I felt absolutely great and ready for my day after.
This coming Memorial Day I will participating in a local 10K called the Bolder Boulder. Running World has ranked it one of America’s top 10K races. Fifty thousand people will converge on Boulder Colorado this weekend. These runners range from elite international athletes to run/walkers in super-hero and pro wrestler costumes. Fifty thousand competitors will run the streets of the city. They will end at the University of Colorado’s football stadium, Folsom Field where a huge Memorial Day party and gathering will be held. The whole scene is awesome and I am excited to be participating.
The race is such a huge event that most folks say it is not worth running competitively because it is too crowded. I am a gamer and will run hard and fast like I have done for the last two years. Last year I ended with a fantastic time that was three minutes better than the previous year. In the end I learned that I ran an additional half mile than the race course is measured. This occurred because I was zig-zagging my way through the slower runners who started ahead or had passed me earlier in the race. I knew I could hack my time just by picking a much more direct path past my competition. If I could cut the half mile I could hack three and a half to four minutes off my total time.
Fast forward to this training season. Due to life and priorities above a silly race-party I have not trained as much or as diligently as I did last year. Through distance I found a way to improve my time. I also handicapped my gain through less work on maintaining my running fitness base. On a recent run about a week and a half ago I ran a time four minutes slower than my target of fifty minutes.
I connected with a distance runner who laughs at the minuscule distance I will be running compared to his ultra marathons. Six miles to this guy is a light warm-up at best. I asked him what can I do for the most gain in such a short time? I wanted to hack my abbreviated training schedule. He suggested running intervals. The next training run I embarked on I took his advice. I ran light for the first half mile to warm up. Then I ran hard and fast for the next mile. I went half mile light and a mile hard alternating for four miles. I shaved fifty four seconds off each mile when compared to the run prior. I am back on my pace and ready to peak on race day.
I believe the hack will be successful enough to use on Monday. I will post an amazing sub-fifty time to my social media after I catch my breath and drink some water post-race. I know I am peaking at the perfect time and I am ready to conquer the race.
The last example of hacks in action I’ve observed recently is from another fellow kung fu student in my school. One of the more advanced and tenured students, Peter has such a fantastic mind for taking complex forms and body mechanics and hacking them into simpler easy-to-use techniques that even a inept novice like myself can utilize.
We have a technique that involves two people. One person punches. The other uses a reflexive combination of a block that bounces the punch away and continues into an open palm strike targeting the jaw of the initial puncher. The first puncher then has to counter back by grabbing the jaw-striking hand out of the air and twist the arm back disabling the second person’s arm and counterattack.
The grab of the hand in the air is incredibly difficult. It requires an immense amount of speed and precision. I was having tremendous difficulty doing it effectively. Peter saw me struggling. He showed me that you can trap the attempt at a jaw strike against your shoulder before twisting the arm back. It is so effective. Before being shown this I would catch one or two hands a class. Now I can catch nearly every one.
Peter has found the matrix for many techniques. I am astonished every time he shows me something new. He is an example of someone who sees the need for improvement and develops or learns a way to hack to gain advantage. We should each continue to look for ways to hack apart time waste, excessive work and communication failure, and general everyday nonsense. Unfortunately much of the time this stuff is self-inflicted through routine and habit. It’s never too late to teach yourself some new tricks. Good luck.
Acknowledgement to Yury Vilk for holding my hand and answering some dumb questions about WordPress. Without you I would never be able to learn stuff like re-sharing posts or setting up the links as I did in today’s article. Yury has great vision and the best piece of advice he gave me regarding Failing Upward is to keep on writing. Thank you, Yury.