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Is Life Hacking Just Another Dumb Fad?

It seems like everyone on the blogsphere is life hacking. Just in the past few months I’ve noticed a substantial number blogs start up that are dedicated to life hacks or productivity. My reader is full of blogs dedicated to life hacks. I’m constantly reading articles or watching how to videos on short cuts for my life. I bore my wife with the things I learn.

But while I was driving today, a thought flashed across my mind: Life hacking is just another fad.

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing….

My interest in life hacks and productivity reminds me a lot of my interest in swing music back in high school. You all probably remember in the late 90’s swing made a strange come back. The nation was listening to music and doing dances that our grandparents took part in. How did swing make it’s come back?

During the 80’s, southern California punks started to take an interest Swing music. They started to listen to the music their grandparents listened to, wearing the clothes their grandparents wore, and dancing the dances that their grandparents danced. What’s more punk than liking old people stuff when everyone else is listening to Duran Duran and wearing stone washed jeans? You can’t get more punk than that.

That’s how I discovered swing music. In middle school and high school, I was into punk. My best friend and I started hearing about these old punk rockers starting swing bands like Royal Crown Revue and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. We thought wearing Vans and listening to Mustard Plug wasn’t counter culture enough, so we threw ourselves into the swing life style. I took swing dance lessons, bought a pocket watch, had a fedora, and wore two tone shoes to school. I even had a Cab Calloway jive dictionary and I started talking like I was from the 1940’s. We thought we were subverting the Abercrombie and Fitch wearing, Dave Matthews listening crowd. For a while, my best friend and I felt we were part of this secret club that only we were cool enough to be a part of. We were different. But that soon changed with the famous Gap khaki’s commercial.

Everyone was into swing after that. Every commercial seemed to have swing music in the background and stores started carrying retro clothing. Those Abercrombie kids started wearing 40’s retro clothes and started to listen to swing music. Swing was no longer cool because it was no longer different and it was commercial. My friend and I quickly found something else indy and cool to do. (We became Culture Jammers! You suck consumerism!)

What’s Swing Music Have to Do With Life Hacking?

Which leads me back to life hacking. To be honest, part of the appeal to me of sites like Lifehacker and 43 Folders is that it seems indy and kind of punk. I mean, what’s more punk than learning geek tips? You can’t get any more punk than that. I think many of these sites like Lifehacker and 43 Folders have purposely branded themselves in this way and they’ve done a good job doing it. But, it’s cool knowing all this stuff that “normal” people didn’t know like how to turn an Altoids can into a USB drive or 75 ways you can GTD! It’s cool being part of a counter culture that’s trying to change our society’s stressful and unproductive lifestyles! It gets me pumped up!

But I’m starting to feel the whole life hack/productivity niche is getting over-saturated and commercialized, just like swing music did in the 90s. Honestly, it’s starting to lose its allure to me. I hardly check Lifehacker or 43 folders or Lifehack anymore. I don’t think life hacking has had its Gap commercial moment, but I think it’s getting pretty close.

So, is life hacking just another dumb fad? Probably. Is that a bad thing? Not all. I think fads are great. If it weren’t for the neo swing fad, I wouldn’t have discovered or developed a love for great jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, or Benny Goodman. It’s the same with life hacking/productivity. I’ve learned a lot of useful things from these sites. I have become more productive and efficient with my energy and time. I have the life hack/productivity fad to thank.

Some might accuse me of not being a hardcore enough life hacker. Some might even call me a poser. If I were really a life hacker/productivity geek, I would stick with it even if it becomes mainstream. Maybe so. I’m not saying it’s lame. I also didn’t say I’m going to stop reading or writing about productivity. Again, I’ve learned a lot from all the life hackers out there. I’m just recognizing it for what it is. A fad. 10 years down the line, most of these sites probably won’t be around. However, I think the really good ones will still be. It’s like swing music. All the swing revival bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddies aren’t around anymore because they were just part of a musical fad, however, the masters, like Ellington and Goodman, have stood the test of time and will probably be with us forever. Only time will tell which blogs will become the productivity classics.

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[tags]GTD, Lifehacker, Merlin Mann, Lifehack[/tags]