Stuck in a rut, Lana Petrovic wanted to optimise her life. So, she tried hacking it, every part of it, for a whole day. The results... were varied.
I love the promise of life hacks. I love the thrill of opening up an article titled '40 Simple Hacks That Will Change Your Life' and bracing myself for a new existence where I become smarter while saving vast amounts of time and money. If you're unfamiliar with life hacks, they're in theory a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one's time and daily activities in a more efficient way.
In reality, instead of useful tips that enhance my life effortlessly, I'm more often than not faced with suggestions to cut a tennis ball in half to hold my car keys, or put pancake batter into an old ketchup bottle to make it easier to squirt. Harmless, sure, but hardly revolutionary. … Or are they?
Recently faced with an impending redundancy and a move overseas, I was feeling lost. I wanted structure! I wanted to maximise my time! I wanted to stop spending so much money! So instead of creating good routines, deleting Instagram, or uninstalling UberEats, I wondered if maybe I could ‘hack’ my entire life. Inspired, I Googled 'how to hack my entire life'. I came across a website called LifeHack.org which proudly promised to improve health, happiness, productivity, relationships, and 'more'. Ding ding ding! Armed with pages and pages of promising hacks, I found tips for every aspect of my life. One Monday I tried them all out, one after the other. I was ready for the most efficient and perfect day of my entire life.
I searched ‘how to wake up early’ because according to many articles I’ve read about billionaires, all you need to do to be successful (i.e, amass more wealth than would ever be necessary for one human) is wake up early. Though I have absolutely no intention or desire to become a billionaire (whatsoever) (like, at all) (please don't think I admire billionaires because I absolutely do not), waking up early can't be a bad thing.
One hack suggested, ‘find an alarm that doesn't turn you into the Hulk’. Easy! I downloaded an app that wakes you up with birdsong and waterfalls. It ended up being so gentle that it incorporated itself into a dream I was having (suddenly I was in a forest and really needed to wee) and I ended up hitting "dismiss" instead of snooze. Oops.
I woke up an hour later, not too bad! Still optimistic! Next up: brushing teeth. You can't really 'hack' brushing teeth as I believe the invention of the electric toothbrush has hacked this as far as it will go (I'll probably regret saying this when Apple invent Toothbrush 2.0 or something). I ended up choosing a hack to whiten my gently coffee-stained teeth. I was instructed to mash three strawberries with sea salt and baking soda. I then had to apply 'generously' to my teeth and leave it on for five minutes. I left it on for a whole 30 seconds before the taste of salty, bitter strawberry dripping onto my tongue made me physically ill and I spat it out. I brushed my teeth the normie way with toothpaste to get rid of the taste. A waste of strawberries and my time.
To hack getting dressed I was directed to a website called Show Me Suburban. It sounded like a nightmare, but I continued forward. This time-saving, life-changing, hair-raising tip said, "Dresses are a busy gal's secret weapon and an awesome wardrobe hack [because] they're an instant outfit."
Colour me hopeful! Ignoring the weird #GirlBoss-speak, I love an instant outfit. So I put a dress on. The article didn't mention underwear or shoes but I put those on too. Still pretty quick. Not sure what I'll do in winter, but in the height of a humid Auckland summer this works fine. Thanks, Show Me Suburban!
Not to sound like a novelty mug at Typo, but Coffee Is The Main Reason I Wake Up In The Morning. I already have a super reliable way of making it (instant coffee + soy milk + hot water), but I reminded myself that (jot this down) nothing changes if nothing changes! I came across an article on HelloGiggles titled ‘9 coffee hacks that will upgrade your morning with basically no effort’. My eyes lit up at those last three words. One tip suggested I add coconut oil or butter to my morning coffee; claiming it would keep me fuller for longer and kick my metabolism into “high gear”. Being of the vegan persuasion, I opted for the oil. I’d describe the taste as “sunscreen-forward” and it left a greasy film in my mouth. Did it kickstart my metabolism? Sure, why not.
I don’t usually eat breakfast but when I saw Mashed.com promising me breakfast hacks that would change my life, the desperate in me jumped out. I skipped the prompt to mix coffee with yoghurt into some sort of disgusting brown viscous liquid to ‘save time’ (someone please try this and report back), and instead opted to make smoothie cubes. For this you need to make a smoothie on some other day when you have time, freeze it in an ice cube tray, and then blitz up the cubes when you need it. Cool. Easy, breezy, fruity, tasty. While I felt like a dummy making a smoothie just so Future Me could save five minutes, the convenience did feel nice on the day.
Ah, my commute from Glendene to Mount Wellington, how I loathe thee. Instead of listening to the Hamilton musical soundtrack for the 296th time, I heeded the advice of Success.com and listened to a podcast at 1.5x speed. Stuff You Should Know is a fantastic podcast with standalone episodes, each one dedicated to teaching you something new. Today I learned about whether anarchism can work (maybe!). What a way to start the day. I fully endorse this hack.
Unfortunately, my job as a television programmer is too niche to hack, so I settled on Googling general productivity hacks. Most articles I read had two tips in common: hide your phone, and turn on ambient noise. I kissed my phone goodbye- not literally, although I was close-, typed ‘rain and jazz’ into YouTube, and hit play. I worked for three solid hours. Three! I didn’t know what time it was. I missed four messages on Instagram, three tags in memes, and a text from my mum, but I got so much done. As a bonus, my anxiety dulled significantly! A clear win.
Lunch time! I had to scroll through pages and pages of rotisserie chicken salads and tuna on crackers, but then I stumbled across a Metro UK article listing all kinds of aesthetically pleasing lunches that were vegan-friendly. I went for the noodle jar. I added veggies, seaweed, and rice noodles to a jar the night before and when I got to work I added miso paste and boiling water. The result? Weirdly cooked vegetables, not enough flavour for the broth, and ugly presentation. Sad!
Although I rarely attend meetings and never hold any myself, I couldn’t help but type ‘how to hack work meetings’ into Google. Tips I found on GetMinute.com included making everybody stand up, using a timer to create a sense of urgency, and forcing everyone to leave their phones and laptops at the door. If one day I ever get the confidence to ask those things of senior members of staff, I will throw a party to celebrate my new personality.
Home time, baby. I used the Reader's Digest website for this one. I ignored tips saying ‘leave 30 minutes earlier’ (not a realistic option), and taping up a family photo in my car (weird). For the drive home I chose to ‘take the route with less stop-go traffic’. I have to admit, this genuinely has changed my life. I dread the North Western motorway at peak traffic time; it’s like people forget how to drive in the rush to get home. Today I chose the ‘avoid highways’ option on Google maps. It took 15 minutes longer and I used more petrol, but it was approximately 85% less stressful and I’d do it again! Commute: hacked.
I was pumped to have a go at hacking the gym! The gym is a bizarre, unnatural-feeling place and I was ready to make it moreso in the name of efficiency. I looked at MuscleAndStrength.com and was immediately attacked:
“Life hacks are all the rage these days; everybody wants to know how to cure cancer and solve global warming with a rubber band, some masking tape, and an iPhone.”
So sue me! Despite feeling negged by their stupid intro, I used their hack to ‘get creative with foam rolling’. Foam rollers help relieve muscle tension, inflammation and a bunch of other good stuff. I don’t know where they keep them at my gym and at this point I’m too scared to ask, but the website suggested I use a water bottle instead. However, there’s a reason they’re foam rollers and not stainless steel water bottle rollers. It hurt. Real bad. Hard metal pushed into sore hamstrings is not a good time. I also got a lot of weird looks, which is the last thing I need at the gym amirite ladies?!
Time to tackle grocery shopping. I went to Business Insider seeking thrifty tips- I thought they must know what they’re talking about because they have the word ‘business’ in their name. One hack that really caught my eye was ‘shop the perimeter of the store’. Their thinking is that all of the unnecessary/processed/costly stuff is in the middle. So I went to Countdown and shopped around the outside. I bought produce, bread, and frozen stuff; then gazed longingly at the middle aisles holding taco kits and wasabi mayo chips. Not today, old friends. Could I survive this way forever? No, I need washing powder and that dark chocolate that also has coffee in it. But I could do this sometimes!
I’m exhausted. At this point I feel like I’ve done more hacking than Trinity from The Matrix, but I need to hack dinner. I chose an article called ‘9 Life Hacks for Busy Moms!’ even though I’m not busy or a mom. They suggested I ‘keep it simple’ by making a snack dinner. Genius! I made Quorn nuggets, peanut butter toast with banana, and threw some pickles on a plate. Healthy? Kind of. Quick? Defs. Viable as an everyday option? Nope, but good enough for today! All hail the snack dinner.
I took a risk here and got advice from a Bustle article called “8 Weird Skin & Hair Hacks to Use in the Shower That Are Actually Genius”. None one of the suggestions were weird or genius, and it was just a sponsored article getting you to buy things. God I hate the internet. I went with the thriftiest one: shaving your legs with coconut oil. I thought it couldn’t be as bad as coconut oil in my coffee, but this was the worst. Maybe I did it wrong, but it clogged up the razor, was annoying to apply, made the shower floor slippery, and would most likely clog up my drains with regular use. Never again.
Most articles I read on how to hack watching television just said ‘throw away your TV or you’ll get worms in your brain and waste your life away!’ Yawn. If I waste my life by constantly rewatching Brooklyn Nine-Nine then I will die a happy gal. I finally came across the less-judgy ‘10 Smarter Ways to Watch TV’. One hack was for watching shows that aren’t available on local streaming sites by downloading a Virtual Private Network (VPN), creating a private link between you and the internet. I was intrigued, but fearful. What if the internet piracy police come knocking at my door? What if I end up getting a virus? What if I do all of this and I still can’t watch the second season of Fleabag? I couldn’t do it. I didn’t do it. I know everyone is doing it, and I’m happy for them. Honestly. I just didn’t have it in me. Instead, I stuck to my legal Netflix like a sucker and watched You. Which I ended up hating.
Although I could rest easy knowing I hadn’t downloaded a VPN tonight, I searched up hacks for going to sleep. I was routed back to LifeHack.org. I’d come full-circle, and the satisfaction of that alone was enough to put me soundly to sleep. I went all out for this one, trying five hacks. FIVE! I was serious about ending the day on a high note. I read some of a book, I drank warm (coconut) milk, I did yoga, I turned off all of my electronics, and I meditated. I actually fell asleep while I was meditating. Probably because I was meditating in the dark, lying down. It the most relaxing, sleep-inducing bedtime routine ever. Bedtime, hacked.
The next day I awoke to the sound of waterfalls and birds, and didn't hit snooze. I reflected on the previous day; it wasn't life-changing but it also wasn't a disaster. I felt indifferent. What started as a fun experiment to distract myself from a crazy time of change ended up making me feel a bit like a robot. Not a cool robot like Alexa, but a lame robot like Ausca, whose only function is to cook eggs.
The staggering number of hacks available made me think about the conditions which had created the demand for them in the first place. Lying half-asleep in my bed, I grabbed my phone and blearily typed ‘how to hack capitalism’ into Google. It returned more than 5,340,000 results. I put my phone down next to me and closed my eyes. Maybe I’ll try that next week.