Life Hacks

Things that make life easier.

How can I be more productive?

Egg Timer by openDemocracy

Egg Timer by openDemocracy

Over the past decade, I’ve really focused on becoming more productive. It wasn’t about just being a top performer, but about having time to sleep, let alone a social life. Over time, I realized that it wasn’t about being more efficient, but about being more effective; it’s not about doing more, but about doing what’s most important.

There are plenty of gadgets and programs meant to measure what we do and help us schedule and be more efficient. Some folks get so efficient in answering emails, that they don’t do anything else. The truth is, if you want to be more productive, it’s more about setting priorities and carving out time rather than finding more efficient ways to do more stuff.

1. At the end of the day, think, “What is the most important thing I need to get done tomorrow?” Write it down. Do not write down more than three. Choose the three most important things you need to work on and focus on those, preferably before doing anything else.

2. Set an auto reminder for every couple of hours which asks you, “Is this the most important thing I could be working on right now?” If not, adjust your schedule and find a way to focus on the most important things.

3. Group repetitive tasks together. Task-switching wastes time and lowers quality. Instead of stopping everything to check every email, set aside specific times, for example at 12pm and at 4pm to check your emails in bulk. If a certain response gets repeated more than a few times, save that as a template and easily paste it in as you go. This type of task grouping will not only save you time, but will help you focus and won’t distract you during your other tasks, and will lead to a less stressed/hectic and more productive workday.

4. Measure! There’s a great program called rescuetime ( which measures what you spend your computer time on. Actually look at those numbers and think, “Was that a good use of time? Is 3 hours on Outlook and 2 hours on Instant Messenger how I should be spending my workday?”

5. Set deadlines! A further deadline will just lead to you taking more time. Set shorter deadlines for yourself and hold yourself to them. Instead of gathering more and more less and less relevant information, you’ll be forced to make decisions and take action and make things happen. There are situations where one truly needs more information, but for the most part, a lot of the time folks stay in research mode to keep from taking action.

How can I lift more weight?

99, 100, 101: Lifting weights in the hangar bay by Official US Navy Page

99, 100, 101: Lifting weights in the hangar bay by Official US Navy Page

Lifting weight is no easy task. Everyone wants to be strong, whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or professional lifter. The number one goal of any lifter is to be healthy, lift appropriate weights, and to not over do it. Many people have tried too hard and pushed their bodies past a limit, resulting in consequences of injuries and torn muscles. With these several steps provided below, you will get the most out of your body without exhausting it, and keep  your heart and body healthy.

Just like with any exercise, your body needs to warm up. Your muscles are still fresh so they need to be warmed up with some small weight. With small weights, do some exercises you are going to do in the near future. Depending on what muscles you are working on, always take a smaller weight before going to the big ones. Remember the more repetitions you do with lighter weight, the faster it will be for you to become stronger. This will result in the ability to increase your weight gradually. Another important step before you start your workout is to not eat 30 minutes before, so your body won’t get cramps.

Weight training
Now that your body is ready and all warmed up, take a weight which you feel comfortable with, and make sure it isn’t too light for you but also not too heave. I usually check by seeing if I can do 10 curls and really feel it in my muscles. Always split up your exercises by days. For example on Monday: biceps, on Tuesday: legs and back, Wednesday: triceps and chest, Thursday: shoulder and forearms, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: rest. With these split days, your muscle groups get the proper rest in order to grow with time. When you lift, you want to constantly increase the weight by small increment such as 25, 30, 35lbs and then back to 25lbs. The reason you do this is because it’s like a latter effect for your muscles–you go up and stress your muscles a little, then you return to the lowest to give it that last push.

Proper finish
Now that you feel your muscles working, they will probably look big and feel big, meaning it’s time for you to cool down. Do a 10 minute stretch of all the muscles you feel are stiff. This will help you in the future to not feel too sore and have a quick muscle recovery. After you cool down, take a nice shower and enjoy a meal with a lot of protein. Add meat to as many meals as you can in order to help your muscles build mas,  resulting in strength to continue building.

What are some essential spices?

Every kitchen needs to have essential spices. If you would like food to taste good, mix various spices to make the meal taste delicious.

Seven essential spices

Paprika: This is a powder extracted from sweet red pepper pods. It has a rich red and smooth texture goes great with meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Bay Leaves: These dry leaves release the most appetizing smell and taste in any soup and stew.

Kosher Salt: A larger crystal of rich iodine salt makes it easier to control the amount to put on any meal. The taste is different than regular table salt.

Garlic Powder: The powerful smell and taste of garlic extracted powder makes your meal taste and smell delicious. Garlic powder is also very healthy and enhances flavors in mostly meats and vegetables.

Cumin Powder: If you are a fan of Indian, Middle Eastern, Cuban, or Mexican cuisines, this will work wonders for you. With cumin powder, these meals will taste unbelievably unique.

Red Pepper Flakes: The red pepper flakes consist of dried hot chilis of the ancho, bell, and cayenne varieties. This spice will go great with Italian, Chinese, and Caribbean food.

Cinnamon: This is a very unique spice because you can use it to enhance the flavor of both sweet and salty foods. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal and coffee, as well as meats and soups.

How do I get a good deal on clothing?

Clothes barn by net_efekt

Clothes barn by net_efekt

Clothing is a basic necessity, but it is important to be frugal, as well as stylish. Trends in the fashion world come and go, so it may be expensive to stay up to date. Fortunately, there are a lot of different ways to be stylish and frugal at the same time.

Sign up for free mailing lists and memberships
Your favorite store most likely has a newsletter, either in email or mail form. Sign up for these mailing lists, since they are free. They will alert you of any upcoming sales and promotions they’re having, and may send you coupons. Some stores have free memberships or frequent buyer cards where if you spend a certain amount of money, you are rewarded with a gift or additional discount. Getting promotional information straight from the store is the best way to stay updated with savings.

Shop during the holiday season
A lot of stores offer sales and promotions closer to holidays, like Christmas and Labor Day. If a store is open on an actual holiday, chances are there is some sort of sale going on. The most popular day for sales is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. This day marks the beginning of the winter holiday season, like Christmas and Hanukkah. Some stores will be open on Friday at midnight, and people will camp out just to redeem the good deals.

Shop online
If you shopping for an item with a specific description, the internet may be your best bet. Stores like Amazon and eBay offer an array of items, arguably at a lower price. Search engines like ShopStyle and Google Shopping can lay out the selection of the item you’re looking for, making it easy to find it at a good price.

If you feel comfortable buy second hand clothing, do so–stores like Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange have trendy and name brand clothing at an affordable price.

Which cooking oil should I use?

Olive Oil

Olive Oil by (Smabs Sputzer)

Do you love food? Did you know that just a few drops of oil can make your dishes taste even better? It may seem like there is an overwhelming amount of oils to choose from, but the following four are a great place to start:

Avocado Oil as the name states, is pressed from Avocado and has a nice nutty taste. Avocado oil is usually used for salads, fish, chicken, and sweet potatoes.

Corn Oil is extracted from corn kernel and is a light tasting oil with a little hint of both sweet and salty flavors. It is perfect to season meats and vegetables and goes well with pepper and garlic flavors.

Olive Oil is the oldest known culinary oil and is still quite popular. It can be used to cook any foods, and is great for the preparation of salads, grilled vegetables, and hummus.

Sesame Oil is high in antioxidants. It is best used in sauces and dressings and tastes delicious when mixed in with some sesame seeds.

How do I join a fraternity or sorority?

Boston/Cambridge MA by Rusty Clark

Boston/Cambridge MA by Rusty Clark

Many college freshman arrive to college feeling wide-eyed and somewhat nervous about their future. While most stress derives from challenging academia, students also wonder how they’re going to engage in the local social scene. Some may choose to join academic clubs, while others may find enjoyment in joining sports clubs. Some students may opt to join the Greek system, which recruits students to join a specific fraternity or sorority. Each fraternity has its own technique to choose individuals that are fit for their family. In general, Greek system is very big and every Greek organization has its positives and negatives.

First step

At every school, most fraternities present a week called Rush Week. To promote this week, flyers and booths are placed all over campus to alert students. Come up to each fraternity, take their fliers and schedules for Rush Week, and spark up a short conversation with each. Which ever one appeals to you, go to their rush events. These rush events are meant to be like a intro week for you to get to know the members of that fraternity as well as them to get to know you. Go to a couple different fraternities’ rush events and if you find a specific one you like, attend more than one of these events. With time, the fraternity will recognize you as a possible candidate since you’ve been showing up at the rush events, meaning you are interested.

Second step

Once the fraternity lays eyes on you, they will ask you if you would like a bid. A bid means that a certain amount of members want you to join the fraternity so they vote for you to go on to the next stage. If you accept, you are entering the second stage before entering a fraternity known as “pledging”. You will be tested in various ways by the members along with other people that want to join the fraternity. Through this process, you will get very close to the members and guys that are just like you trying to join. If all events and tasks are executed properly, the members with recognize you as one of their own and you will have a ceremony for you and the others who passed. Then you are officially a member.

Final step

Treat these group of people like your family, because that’s how they are intending to treat you. Becoming a member of a fraternity is a huge step in everyone’s college career so take advantage of all the opportunities. Each member is another connection and college friend you have–you never know this person might be your best friend, co-worker or even an employer later. Have fun, stay safe and enjoy!