19 December 2014

Life Hacking: The Series Begins

OK, update on the whole weight loss thing... did you know that you can suddenly start losing weight for no reason if you become diabetic?  Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until the seasons change a bit before I can get back to testing the sunlight thing.  Or if I can figure out a way to get some sun in relative privacy beforehand, then I can test.

The "seasons" where I live aren't the traditional Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring.  They're "Oh dear God it's unbearably hot", "Finally, it's starting to get less unbearable", "It's finally cool enough to go outside without an environment suit", and "Oh, no, it's getting hotter again!"  No, the problem isn't that it's too cold to get some sun.  It's the position of the shadows of the trees in the back yard.

So, on to other topics... I'm going to start a new Life Hacker series here on my blog.  I've seen lots of "hacks" on the Lifehacker website, but many of them are disappointing.  Not because they don't apply to me, because it makes sense that many things that apply to one person won't apply to another, but because nearly all of the "hacks" I read involved invoking or evoking a deity.  If I want to read advice that says to pray the stress away or something like that, I'll visit an overtly religious website.

But I don't.

Now, I should be clear on this... When I say "hack", I generally am not referring to the word as it has come to be used, which is not the correct meaning at all.  To "hack" did not originally mean to crack a code and steal someone's nude selfies.  Cutting-related origin aside, in computers, to "hack" originally meant "to find a simple, elegant, creative solution to a complicated programming problem".  The original "hackers" were clever programmers who found ways to do things with code that made their professors scratch their heads.  At some point, this translated into computer pranks (one of my favorite pastimes) and penetrating security measures (again, one of my favorite pastimes), but originally, it was basically about finding clever solutions and new, better ways of doing things.

These days, the term is no longer used simply in computers, but in many areas of life.  And this is where I want to focus my new series.  I don't yet have an outline of the series, because I'm just putting together the beginning details.  I know I need certain things.

  • I need to shorten my commute to work or increase my productivity.
  • I need to find a new place to live.
  • In that new place to live, I need to contrive a work space.
  • I need to have room for my daughter to live with me without either of us losing basic privacy.
  • I need to work on my health.
  • I need to find a way to reduce the cost of groceries and other living expenses.
  • I need to find additional income.
  • I need to spend more time with my dog.
  • I need to increase my overall productivity, both at work and in my personal life.
  • I need to work on my personal appearance.
  • I need to further my education.
  • I need to work on my blog more often.
  • And I need to do all of this within the bounds of a fairly small salary.

The obvious solution starts with having a job that pays well, or money to fall back on, but those aren't options for me at this time.  Therefore, hacks.  New, clever ways of doing things.  My financial resources are limited, and my time is currently limited.  Some of the bullet points above will help with that, but there has to be a starting point.  Therefore, I'm going to hack my life.  I don't know exactly how I'm going to start, but I'm working on putting together a plan, and I'll share what I learn in my new Life Hacking series.

I have to set my goals.  I started with the basics.  If you look at a build-it-yourself project, like on the Make Magazine website, it starts with a list of "materials and tools you'll need".  Well, for the most basic of these, I need a job - Check.  I just spent half a year unemployed, so I'm still working on getting caught up, but that's in progress, so soon I'll be able to move on.  That said....

Hack 1: Set up payments.  If you owe money from a period of hardship, you can usually set up automated payments.  Take your expenses, figure out the most you can afford to pay back each pay period, and then cut that in half.  That's the amount you should pay each pay period.  If you have something set up, then you don't have to worry about it after that.  It should take care of itself.   Just try to figure out when it will be paid and then make sure the payments stop at that time.  Some companies will continue to charge as long as you allow them to do so.  I owe a little money to my bank, so I have them take a small portion of my direct deposit.  In two weeks, that should be paid off.

Hack 2: Prioritize the things that you need to catch up on.  If you've been unemployed or otherwise financially burdened, you might have several things to pay up.  You need to set your priorities.

  1. Things that will get you arrested are priority one.  Get your car's registration and insurance done, pay any fines owed, that sort of thing.
  2. Things that affect your health and welfare are next.
  3. Things that affect other things are next.  Get your car serviced if it needs service, because that car might be needed to get to work.  Make sure to get your phone bill paid.  Internet access can also fall here, if it's necessary for your work or other IMPORTANT things.  If you only use it for entertainment, it can fall to the bottom of the list.
It's all about priorities.  Make a list of things that need to be paid off, in order from most dire and immediate to least dire.  If you really think about what's the most important, you might just decide that some things you've been paying for for years aren't worth keeping around.

These are two starter hacks.  Simple, yes, straightforward, yes, and obvious, maybe.  But things that seem obvious are often overlooked.  That priorities list is something I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere, but that I've never done before.

So, here's the deal... I'm looking at changing my life.  It's not a bad life, really, but I think it could be improved.  The improvement will involve all areas of my life, hopefully making them work better together, and, in the end, improve my quality and enjoyment of life.  And I want to share anything I figure out that helps.  I'm going to change my life for the better, period, and if I can help you change yours for the better, then everyone wins.

So that's what the new series is about.  I got back on my feet, so next I need to find a place to live, and then I need to work on the things dependent on having a home, and so on, and I want to do a better job than I've done up to this point, and I want to share anything I learn.  I hope I'm able to convey information that helps people out there, and I look forward to seeing what happens.

On a side note, this could become a collaborative project.  It's the biggest thing I've ever worked on, and I've worked on some doozies, and yes, I know that I ended a sentence fragment with a preposition, and I would like to hear any non-preposition suggestions, comments, or questions.  If you don't want to add a comment to this blog, you can e-mail me.

Insert clever ending here, and let's get hacking!