This is a guest post by Adrian Koh of Whakate.
The tussle between lifehacking and living the perfect life is as old as personal development itself. “Lifehacking” — a recently-coined word to refer to tips and tricks that lead to productivity boosts — focuses on a bottom-up approach of managing the input of work rather than goals and priorities.
To be clear, this tussle between hacking and living is not one of importance – when it comes to success, we would all agree that making sense of our priorities is far more important than being able to type 200 words a minute.
The real decision people face is which one should come first: lifestyle design or lifehacks? After all, lifehacks can help you gain control of work so that you can start making sense of higher priorities. But have lifehackers got it all backwards?
The Thing About Lifehacks (The Bottom-Up Perspective)
I have been a serial lifehacker for years. I must admit to having had tons of fun fiddling with gadgets to enhance my productivity. All those years of tweaking my system have not been frivolous, though. I’m proud to say that I’ve mastered the art of email management, task list management and how to get my head “clear” to focus on the issue at hand. Skills like these are terribly useful and have served me well at life and work.
Lifehacks made work a little more fun for me – and still do, to this day. I don’t think I would have been able to handle a promotion and a new family as well as I did with a good hack or two. However, once the excitement of increased efficiency wore off, there was a nagging suspicion that I didn’t really save the world with the hacks I had used. In fact, being at my productive best might have been a distraction from the more important issues in my life.
That’s when life design caught my attention.
The Thing About Lifestyle Design (The Top-down, All-round Perspective)
Whether you call it lifestyle design, life design, work-life balance, or enlightened self-management, the central idea is this: life should be lived consciously and deliberately, and not left to chance.
I first heard about the concept of designing your life in its entirety when speaking to the editors at Whakate. The essence of it struck me as a holistic approach to balancing your life. Starting with an understanding of my personality, responsibilities, roles and tasks, it set me on a discovery of “who” I was and “why” I did what I did.
The intention, of course, was to help me chart out a life designed with meaning defined by me – this is the “what” and “how” of life – and to get me to balance all my goals with the finite time that I had.
If that struck a chord with you, I’d like to show you how you could get started on life design too:
- Know who you are. Get an objective perspective of your personality with tests like MBTI. There are free versions available (here’s an example) and there’s significant research backing them. It’s unlikely you’ll get many surprises from the tests, but it’s always eye-opening to see how people with similar traits succeed in fields that you have always been interested in.
- Make use of your time. Monitor yourself and how you spend your time, identify and eliminate your time wasters, and start zeroing in on the things that you choose to be done. I can guarantee serious revelations into how you organize your day if you’ve never done this before.
- Get organised. At this point, tweak, hack or get a bottom-up perspective if you must, but the focus of life design is to get moving. In truth, the only time management or productivity system that works is the one that actually makes sense to you and gets you to move forward. The difference is that now you’re armed with knowledge of your personality and your priorities (the top-down perspective) giving you a good platform to do what matters most.
- Embrace your roles. Knowing what your roles are – whether in your career, family, or social circle – gives you a basis to set goals and develop the values you need to make your life work. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re getting it right the first time around. Our lives are a constant work in progress, with shifting goals and values as we go through life. The idea is to have an intimate knowledge of everything present in our life, and then start designing it for the desired outcome.
While there’s a logical flow to how life design should be approached, there’s no one formula or set of values that will make life successful. The emphasis of life design is to create a life that you consciously construct for yourself. This makes your achievements and outcomes unique and personally satisfying.
The question to ask, then, is not whether one should exclusively choose life design or lifehacking, or bottom-up versus a top-down approach. Used in combination, they are two parts of a powerful personal strategy to balance and gain control of life and work.
Adrian Koh is a writer, blogger, life designer, and budding life coach. He writes for Whakate , and loves no-nonsense, down-to-earth personal development tools that get people working at their peak. Above all, Adrian loves spending time with his family, who he believes makes life worth living for. More about Life Design the Whakate Way.