The life hack article has no simple root. I suspect that the idea of the lifehack arose from schoolyard or watercooler gossip mixed with self-help advice books and e-mail chain letters, and evolved into the listicle behemoth we know and love today. Some of these have actually helped me, like the article that told me about the benefits of 15 minute naps, which leave you feeling awake and energized as opposed to the groggy headache-ridden 30 minute nap will. Unfortunately it seems like the vast majority of the others are not helpful in the least bit. These are a few categories of life hacks that just don’t make the cut -
1. Anything that involves drinking water
Drinking water to relieve a headache is not a lifehack. That is the way the human body works, that is the way that hydration works. Drinking water to keep yourself feeling less hungry is not a life hack, that is, again, the way that hydration works. Ordering water at a restaurant to save money is not a life hack, that is common knowledge.
2. Nearly anything that involves fast food
One of the things that makes fast food restaurants so fast is the fact that almost everything is automated or at least structured. This is why your food at McDonald’s, or really any other restaurant, is listed out numerically. If you are a picky eater, this is a dangerous game. One of the most popular pieces of fast food advice I’ve read recently is the “fresh fries” trick, where you ask a McDonald’s employee to make you a batch of unsalted fries. Since people rarely actually desire unsalted fries at McDonald’s (which makes them an impeccable amount of flavorless), they’ll have to make new fries specially for you. One article advised readers to ask for salt on the side, which I think is a new level of being difficult for no reason. The problem I have with fast food life hacks is that they destroy the speed upon which the industry is both based. Unless you go to a place like Burger King or Taco Bell, where it’s either stated or generally accepted that customers can make variations on their food, you’re holding up a line that should never have been held up.
3. Anything that is common knowledge already
I went on a lifehack website and saw a diagram for advice on parallel parking. There was no new information on the parallel parking game, it advised people to pull ahead of the car next to the spot and pull backwards, which is exactly what you’re taught to do in Driver’s Ed and supposed to do, what literally everyone else does. This is like calling a door stop a lifehack. This is like calling long division a life hack. This is like saying “get the membership card at your local grocery store. It’s typically free, and it’ll save you money in the long run” and calling it a life hack. This is a mix of information we were all supposed to already know and the redundancy of not bringing anything new to the table.
4. Theft is not a life hack
Telling college students to subscribe to magazines under “bill me later” so that they won’t get billed until they leave their dorm is less “hacking” and more “just stealing”. It’s passive theft, sure, you’re not walking out of a CVS with a bag of Peanut M&Ms, but you’re still stealing. Personally, I don’t consider making use of free trials to be a life hack, because the whole point of the free trial. Be wary of when a life hack is fraud. Really, just be wary of any advice you read from a listicle. Rarely is anything that simple and easy going to actually help in the long run. Often, the best way to save money is the most obvious one. It's not easy to save money, and the really easy ways to save money are typically the most illegal ways.