Like most people, I’m a disgusting mess which terrifies both man and beast. But I want to get better, unlike the rest of you flesh-piles, and that must count for something.
“Some new wallpaper might help with this.”
Which is why I’ve spent countless hours scouring the Internet for tips on improving myself, my equipment, and my circumstances, sometimes becoming so dedicated to the task of self-improvement that I neglect my work and hygiene.
And still, somehow, I’m a shambles.
It was only recently, while cowering under a bridge to escape the villagers’ taunts, that I paused to reflect on why all these self-help guides and lifehacks had failed me. Because I’m a stupid garbage baby, yes, but not entirely. It’s because there’s some serious fundamental problems with lifehacks in the first place.
#5. Most Of Them Are Not Written By Experts
Because how-to guides and lifehacks are popular, the Internet keeps demanding they get cranked out. Which gives you a big hint what the first problem is. As a rule, good things are rarely “cranked out.”
Excepting torque, the smell of pencil shavings, and of course, knee-shaking, toe-curling pasta.
Many of these guides are written by basic idiots looking to make content quickly. Yes, we have pride in our work, and yes, we have editors to get our work past, so we can’t just submit crap. I promise. But we’re not experts on everything, and there is necessarily going to be a limit to the amount of detail we can provide. Although everything you read on Cracked is true and wise (so wise — shrewd, even), that might not be the case for lesser sites.
So stay on the expert-staffed super-sites like Cracked all the time. That’s the first solution. But even then there might be problems, like …
#4. You Can Spend More Time On A Lifehack Than You Save
This rears its head a lot with tips about how to customize hardware or equipment. You end up spending gobs of time getting something just right, with no mind to the actual benefit you’ll derive from it. This is either because you’re fussing over something cosmetic, tweaking something you never use, or doing something you’ll end up redoing within a month.
Your shit is meant for doing shit. If the only shit you do is customize your shit to do shit better, you aren’t shit.
Also, whatever fix you make to your whatever almost never works quite as well as you thought, does it? It always needs other hacks and workarounds to function. And then those hacks and workarounds become new irritations which you inevitably try to improve. Eventually, you end up with a computer that’s great, except you need to hold the mouse vertically for it to work. Or a car that can’t use the radio and turn left at the same time.
#3. We Get Addicted To Them
All these simple little improvements don’t improve your life so much as they feed an addiction to simple little improvements. You can fall into this trap without the lifehack articles, but because they provide itemized lists of all the things you could be doing better, they inevitably make things worse.
“HERE ARE THE THINGS YOU’RE DOING WRONG, LOSER”
They don’t improve your life as much as they become to-do lists, feeding a cycle that never ends. Because any time we fix something, we’re practically guaranteed to observe a new problem shortly thereafter. And it’s not like this process leads to a measurably better life; all these tiny improvements don’t add up to much. Is that custom desktop really making you that much more sexually desirable? Are those new knife-sharpening tips really saving you that much time?
Given that my knife-sharpening regimen was “never” before, this actually saves me negative time.
#2. Tips Can’t Replace Education
Think of something you’re good at. Something you’re really good at — as in, you earn a living doing it, or it’s something all your friends admire you for.
Or what they fear you for.
Now go read an article full of tips about that activity. (Turn on Incognito Mode if necessary.) You’ll likely be looking at something meant for beginners, full of tips which are incredibly infantile. Worse, these tips might have serious gaps in how well they explain the subject, gaps which could lead a beginner astray. You may even read something which is just flat-out wrong.
“No, you child. Kick through the horse. Through it.”
You generally don’t notice these flaws when reading an article on a subject unfamiliar to you, but they’re almost always there. There’s no way a 500-word article can replace a few years of education and experience.
Sure, sometimes it doesn’t need to. Sometimes, you do just want to boost your Wi-Fi reception without learning everything about the entire electro-goddamned-magnetic spectrum. But these tip articles have a hard time distinguishing between the two, invariably blending simple advice with oversimplified advice. You see those a lot with computer tips, where the process is quick and simple if everything goes right, and nightmarish otherwise. Here’s a story of me completely detonating my computer in part because of some bad advice I got from someone else’s sloppily-assembled guide.
Nothing is my fault, ever.
What if that had been something actually consequential? What if I’d done something truly insane, like follow Internet medical advice? I’d have collapsed like a dying star. Which brings me to the final problem …
#1. A Lot of “Simple” Lifehacks Are Insanely Difficult
We’ve all seen them. Click-friendly articles full of tips which breezily underestimate the amount of effort necessary to complete them.
“Building your own sphinx is a fun project you can complete in an afternoon.”
The worst of these are the ones that require lifestyle changes, which is always far harder than most people realize. Just about every article about how to lose weight (and keep it off) is destined to have a 95 percent failure rate — losing weight over the long term is almost impossible without significant surgery. The lifestyle changes are just too massive to get over. But even less imposing subjects pose the same problem. Those New Years’ back-to-the-gym articles? Doomed. Tips on how to make vegetables more palatable? Doomed. Tips on how to stop procrastinating? Do……………….
……omed. Any article which casually suggests you should change your habits has no idea how deeply ingrained those habits are. Which is why you should definitely give up your addiction to lifehacks, like I just casually sugges– … oh.
“That’s OK. I love calls to inaction a lot too.”