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I just made toast.

Not to brag, but we always have bread for toast because I learned a Life Hack from a friend of my mum’s. We keep a loaf of thick sliced bread in the freezer. So we always have toast bread. We have also developed the ability to pry apart frozen slices of bread with our bare hands, that is simply an added benefit.

I love Life Hacks, those tips that suddenly make life easier, get jobs done with less fuss and lower costs.

But, do Life Hacks have a place in the workplace? They surely do. No-one likes having me watch them using Excel. Confession. I get a little frustrated when the simplest job becomes a labour of love. I also stop the flow of jobs to ask ‘what did you just do?’. People who are not geekish about Excel (or Life Hacks) normally look bewildered at this point. They tentatively repeat a series of keystrokes or obtuse set of mouse clicks. And I beam with delight as I learn something new that could shave precious minutes off an Excel emergency.

Are life hacks new? Nope, magazines have been publishing tips for years and we can see the idea of continuous improvement in history.

  • The first recorded success of applying many small changes came in the 19th century. World Chess Champion, Steinitz, stayed at the top of his game for 20 years thanks to the Steinitz Accumulation Theory.
  • The rules of Formula One force incremental improvements, which has led to amazing advances in technology.
  • The German football team, considered by many to be the best national side ever, employed 40 sports scientists to find and implement every conceivable advantage.
  • In business, a key plank of the Toyota Production System empowered all employees to create continuous improvement.
  • Google runs thousands of experiments every year to hunt out small opportunities. A fairly well known one was lightening the colour of the Google Toolbar.

However, while suggesting we would benefit from spending more time looking for performance improvement, these examples also propose a rigorous regime. And rigorous regimes don’t appeal to many people. They also run the risk of becoming a business fad we all remember fondly.

It is a dreadfully prescriptive science, reducing all the spontaneity of life to a matter of routine. Oliver Brown, Chief Sports Feature Writer, Daily Telegraph (2 March 2017)

However, I believe embracing Life Hacks is simply a choice.

Once you decide to work out efficient ways of working

Once you take pleasure in being knowledgeable

Once you start to share your Life Hacks with a bit of pride

You will need no complex system.

No guru will be able to tempt you to exchange your hard-earned cash for a five-point plan, you will have less frustration in your day and your customers will thank you.

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