I've never been a shortcut-to-success kind of guy. But I do enjoy a simple solution to a more complex problem every now and again. As a society we are bombarded by information constantly and in the information overload age we live in, it's always fun to have a way to save money, time or to make life easier. Most of the life hacks I have run across are simply tricks to teach myself, new skills to learn or novel method of accomplishing a task.
Here are a series of hacks that will help you save money, time and effort:
When you cash a check or get money from the bank, get bigger bills than you normally would. You have probably trained your brain to think it's so easy to spend one dollar bills and five dollar bills (especially when they are worn). Crisp twenties and fifties are much more challenging to spend. Studies have proven that people put much more value in a crisp $50 bill than two twenties and a $10 bill. The $50 bill (especially when crisp) tends to stay in your wallet longer and although you will eventually spend it, studies show you will give pause for a bit longer before you spend it.
Get yourself a VISA gift card. Are you the type of person who doesn't cancel a monthly subscription service even after you are not interested in the membership any longer or when the free trial has expired? A great money hack is to use a VISA gift card to sign up for the free trial. If you do stick around after the free trial your liability is limited only by the amount on the gift card and not by your credit card limit.
Sell your old smartphone instead of trading it in, it's amazing what the resell market will bring. With every upgrade of my iPhone, I sold my old model on eBay. I have gotten significantly more money than AT&T was offering for the trade-in. Each phone I have sold has brought in $150-$190. I'm not getting rich, but it's better in my pocket than my carrier's.
Know what your time is worth and write that number down. Look at your income from last year and roughly determine what your hourly income was after approximating how many hours you work a week. Don't get hung up here, just do your best to get to an hourly dollar figure. Write that on a sticky note and post it on your computer. When you find yourself getting off track or distracted (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest will do this to you) determine how much money you just spent in unproductive time. For example, it may be useful to know that if you are worth $250 per hour, the 30 minutes you just spent on Facebook cost you $125.
Schedule yourself to arrive 20 minutes before appointments. If you have meetings outside of your office or home office, plan on arriving 20 minutes before the actual appointment time. When you arrive, spend the early time you have completing email and tasks that can be done on your smartphone. We fill our day with many tasks, like email, that have no deadline. By giving yourself only 20 minutes (give or take a few minutes) to complete short tasks you will still complete the task instead of letting it go on indefinitely.
Actually schedule "You Time" on your schedule. Stop working, take a break, stand up, stretch, take a nap or chill out for a few minutes. Studies prove that taking a 5-10 minute break an hour will make you more productive and focused. If you don't feel like you can take a break every hour, take a 15 minute break every two hours. The key here is to actually schedule it on your calendar. Just saying your are going to do it won't work. If it's written down, you will have a greater likelihood of doing it.
Get good at saying "no." Without being impolite, learn to say no properly. Most people don't say no because they simply don't have the right words to say to someone asking for their time. First, go back to Time Hacks above and see how much saying "yes" just cost you in time. If that doesn't convince you, have a prepared "Statement of No." Try this one our for size - "I'd like to help you, I really would, but I'm working hard on a few high priority things and am afraid I won't be able to give your task the time it deserves." If you write that statement down and own it when you say it, saying no will be much easier.
Cut the number of meetings in half. Statistically, if you work in an office environment with 5 or more people, meetings can account for 25-50% of your day. Reduce the number of meetings in your day by suggesting alternatives like group email, a quick phone call or Skype. If you do have to have a face to face meeting, If you are in control, make sure you have an agenda for the meeting and come to the meeting prepared with goals and potential outcomes. If you don't know why the meeting is being called do your best to determine why these types of meetings are ongoing. I have found most meetings are 90% fluff and 10% substance.
Build productivity and efficiency momentum. Look over your task list for the day (you are writing a task/to-do list right?). Build momentum first thing by tackling three to five 2-minute tasks and then head into a big task. Your brain will be tricked into thinking all tasks are short and work more efficiently to tackle the big task as well. You will likely shave minutes off of the bigger tasks too since you will be hitting it with a wave of momentum. Trying this first thing in the morning when your day starts is best (assuming you work starting around 8:30 or so) since you are at your freshest in the morning.
I'm curious to hear any hacks, shortcuts, habits or routines that you use to save time, money and effort. Please leave them in the comments area below.