Another interview. This one is with Lifehacker.com, as part of their series on “How I Work”, in which they ask people about their working routines and try to get them to reveal productivity tips. I was very happy to do this interview because I’ve long been interested in life hacking, but I’m quite sceptical about it; in my experience, reading life-hacking tips is what you do when you are trying to avoid doing any work. As I explain in the interview:
I have a connection with life-hacking that goes back quite a long way, and I’ve internalized some of its earliest and most effective nostrums. I’ve known Danny O’Brien, who coined the term, since the 1990s when we were both covering the emergence of the Internet. Then in 2006 Cory Doctorow was telling me about how Danny and Merlin Mann had been asked to write a book on life-hacking to improve productivity but had hilariously not managed to get around to it. So I asked Cory to write a piece for The Economist on life-hacking and we did a box with a few of the best hacks. My favorites: parking on a downhill slope; declaring vertical days dedicated to a single project; use a “dash” to make a task seem more approachable. I’ve been using all of those hacks ever since. My son, who is nine, loves watching life-hacking videos on YouTube, but they are all useless things like how to open packets of Doritos more efficiently, as far as I can tell. I think the life-hacking movement identified the easy wins early on. It’s now become an industry that helps people put off doing real work, but in a way that convinces them that they will be much more productive when they get back to doing real work, which is kind of ironic. The old life-hacks are the best, it would seem.