How I lifehacked my way into a corner

My latest Locus column is "How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful)," the story of how I was present at the birth of "lifehacking" and how, by diligently applying the precept that I should always actively choose how I prioritize my time, I have painted my way into a (generally pleasant) corner that I can't escape from.

Call it the paradox of mindful choosing: after 14 years of throwing away the things that do the least for me and preserving those things that do the most for me, I've pulled all the easy blocks out of my life's Jenga tower, and I've left myself with no moves to make.

The past 14 years have regularly featured junctures where I had to get rid of something I liked doing so I could do something I liked doing more. Some of that was low-hanging fruit (I haven't watched TV regularly in more than a decade), but after getting rid of the empty calories in my activity diet, I had to start making hard choices.

In retrospect, I observe that the biggest predictor of whether an activity surviving winnowing is whether it paid off in two or more of the aspects of my life and career. If something made me a better blogger – but not a bet­ter novelist and activist – it went. The more parts of my life were implicated in an activity, the more likely I was to keep the activity in my daily round.

Some of these choices were tough. I have all but given up on re-reading books, despite the undeniable pleasure and value to understanding the authors' craft, which is easier to unpick on subsequent readings. But I have more than 20 linear feet of books I've promised to read for blurbs and reviews, and reading those books also teaches me something about the craft, also brings me pleasure, also makes me a better reviewer, and also makes me a better citizen of science fiction, who contributes to the success of worthy new books.

Some social media tools – like Facebook – make for fun (if problematic) socializing, and all social media pays some dividend to authors who are hoping to sell books and activists who are hoping to win support, but Twitter also teaches me to be a better writer by making me think about brevity and sentence structure in very rigorous ways (and from an activist perspective, Twitter is a better choice because it, unlike Facebook, doesn't want the web to die and be replaced by its walled garden) – so Twitter is in, and Facebook is out.

There are some unexpected outcomes from this process, albeit ones that are obvious in hindsight.

How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful) [Cory Doctorow/Locus]