8 "Life Hacks" You Shouldn't Bother With

Photo: Ryan Ritchie

Life hacks — or tricks intended to make life easier — are everywhere. There are life hacks for food, family, work, and everything else under the sun. But not all hacks are really beneficial. Some will just add another step to your daily routine. Some may wind up costing you much more than just your time. (See also: My Personal Productivity Rules...What Are Yours?)

1. Unlocking a Door Without a Key — in a Way That Requires the Door to Be Open Already

There are a lot of life hacks that may seem useful, like this one from Buzzfeed, but leave you with a solution for which there is no problem. If you can unlock a door to begin with, you probably have access to the key, and if you make it so that you can open the door without a key, anyone else can, too.

2. Extending a Deadline By Sending the Wrong File Type

I’ve heard this trick — sending a file as a .png rather than the expected .doc — recommended both for work and school situations, and I consider it downright dishonest. It may get you the end result that you want, but that’s not good enough. If a hack crosses the line into unethical or even illegal behavior, it’s not a good hack.

3. Using Doritos as a Seasoning

There may be a few people for whom that Dorito flavor is the greatest flavor ever, but it’s certainly one of the least appealing cooking hacks I’ve personally seen.

4. Taking Prescription Drugs in a Non-Prescribed Manner

You can find a lot of different hacks that involve taking prescribed medication for affects not intended by doctors, like making it easier to study. Unless you have a degree in pharmacology, though, it’s generally a bad idea to muck around with drugs without your doctor’s advice. If you really want to try such a hack, get your doctor to sign off on it first.

5. Multitasking

Many life hacks offer ways to do more than one thing at a time. But research has established that multitasking doesn’t work. You just wind up with two tasks that are both completed at a lower level. It’s better to just focus on one task and get through it quickly — and well.

6. Changing Your Family Traditions

Every year around the holidays, I’ll see a post or two that recommend hacking some other aspect of your holiday celebrations. The danger that you risk, though, is that you’re not just hacking your own life at that point — you’re changing how you interact with your family. There may be some changes that would be mutually beneficial, but it’s rare that you can change the status quo and still keep an extended family happy.

7. Anything That Requires Buying More Gear, Tools, or Apps

Most life hacks are inexpensive, but there’s always another piece of software you can buy to make your life easier or a new gadget that will change everything, at least according to the marketing team. The reality is that, most of the time, the change isn’t enough to make up for the money you’d have to spend, so it’s better to just hold on to your cash.

8. Continuously Tweaking Your Hacks

The pursuit of complete productivity is alluring, but you can wind up focusing just on perfecting your system rather than using the time you’ve saved to live. This recent essay on Lifehacker lays out the experiences of someone who went too far in his life hacks.

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Guest's picture

I have to disagree with #6. Family traditions need to evolve and change over time. We caused a stir years ago when, as parents with small children who travelled to family member's homes for every single holiday because we always gathered at our parent's homes (for generations), we decided to choose one holiday - Thanksgiving - and stay home to make our own traditions. We told the family that they were welcome to spend the holiday with us, but we're not leaving our house. No one was happy about it at the time and boy, did we hear about it for several years, but after a while, as the rest of our siblings began having families of their own, they were grateful to be able to stay home and enjoy their own families. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind...

Guest's picture

Multitasking only works when you can let one task run in the background while you do the other one. For example, I'm making a batch of beer, and I need to boil my wort for half an hour. So while the wort is boiling, I'm emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen counters. That's effective multitasking.

Guest's picture

I agree with most of this list. Some are truly unethical (wrong file, off label use of drugs) and some add hassle instead of subtracting it (more gear, multitasking).

But we take exception to the one about changing traditions. Certainly family members can be considered but not to the exclusion of one's own contentment. My spouse and I have dropped traditions inherited from our birth families concerning holiday celebration until they are now all gone.

Our friends and most relatives couldn't be more supportive of our decisions and those who aren't have learned to live with it. Their disapproval is far less burdensome than us being in inauthentic or doing things by rote, in an insincere way. Ugh to that.

How do you think traditions get started in the first place? By people doing what they enjoy!

Guest's picture

re: "7. Anything That Requires Buying More Gear, Tools, or Apps"
This brings to mind that most life hacks are pretty much just cyber gadgets!

Guest's picture

Hey great article - one of those things that people would rather not write about ("what? but all hacks are useful!")

Especially for no. 2, doing this kind of trickery when attaching the wrong file can hurt your reputation more than anything else. We all know what it means; and if you are that colleague who does this then I know you are the lazy, dishonest one. It'll only hurt you.

Guest's picture

I thought it was interesting when you mentioned number 5- multitasking, and then as I thought about it your completely right. Its a much better idea to have all of your focus on one thing at a time to complete it with quality and efficiency rather than trying to do more than one thing and it turning out less than perfect. I really liked this article.