Tuesday, September 24

College ‘life hacks,’ tested


"Life hack" articles are a genre unto itself. (Google Images)

"Life hack" articles are a genre unto itself. (Google Images)


As students, it is almost a given that we find innovative new ways of making our lives more manageable. However, as easy and useful as these “hacks” may seem on Pinterest or Buzzfeed, where they seem to grow exponentially, reality doesn’t always match up. Doubtful, I decided to test the functionality of several of these life hacks.

Snack incentive

This is one of the more common student life hacks that I’ve seen – where gummy bears or other small candies are placed periodically throughout assigned readings to motivate students to focus with the promise of sugar. However, when I tried doing this, the candies fell off when I tried to read with my book on my lap, which might have been a good thing, since it forced me to work at a desk and probably improved my posture. But the candies also made it very difficult to track my reading with my finger, or to take notes in my book, since doing so misplaced the candies I hadn’t eaten yet. Unless the candies are slightly sticky, they tend to fall off form the slightest movement of the book, making it difficult to use this technique early on in textbooks.

Aside from the technical difficulties of the hack, there are also more fundamental problems. The sugar intake alone hyped me up, and I found myself skimming to the next candy faster, which is the exact opposite of what I wanted with this trick.

The verdict: DON’T.

Put phone in cup to amplify alarm clock

This is a hack that I’ve heard also works well for small get-togethers in order to amplify the music from a phone just enough so everyone can hear it, so it made sense to apply it to the alarm in the mornings. However, I may have used a cup that wasn’t the right shape and/or the right material (i.e., not glass), since my phone’s sound was actually muffled when it went off. When I tested it during the day in a different cup, the sound was slightly improved, but not significantly enough to wake me up anymore than it would without the cup. And during my struggles to turn it off, my phone somehow got wedged in the bottom of the glass which made it much harder to get out of the cup. The struggle did wake me up a bit more, though.

The verdict: DON’T.

Snack bowl out of chips

The snack bowl hack seems so simple, but somehow, while trying to roll up the bottom of my bag of chips, about half of my chips ended up on the ground while the handful of chips at the bottom of the bag were thoroughly crushed. Aside from the difficulty of actually getting to the “bowl,” the final result, conveniently propped up and accessible, was awesome.

The satisfaction that comes with the success of rolling up the bag, and the ease of reaching into the container made me want to keep using this. The trick seems like a skill that can be developed with each bag of chips eaten.

BONUS: Once the snacks are all eaten, the bowls can be used as stand-up trash cans!

The verdict: DO.

Post-it notes to clean keyboards

This hack is more work than it’s worth. The problem with sticky notes is that they pick up more dust than anything, which makes the adhesive utterly useless. Too many sticky notes are needed to actually clean out a keyboard, and even then they end being forced under keys on accident, which often resulted in some mild panic that I would destroy my laptop keyboard right before an essay was due. With different laptops, certain sizes of Post-its are needed to actually fit between the keys, which poses an entirely different problem. Instead, it might be best to use compressed air or Q-tips to clean between the keys.

The verdict: DON’T.

File and fold clothes

This one requires enough clothes to go inside a drawer so that the clothes can actually be filed and not just strewn about. In order to actually see the shirts or other articles of clothing being filed, it helps to fold all the shirts into thirds lengthwise and then fourths widthwise, and match all other articles of clothing to the same size as the shirts. Then put the stacks of clothes into the drawer to keep the clothes upright in their filing positions.

From there, the hack does what it’s supposed to: make clothes easier to identify and limit the amount of clothing pulled out while dressing. But it’s not necessarily faster, since clothes must be pulled out carefully to avoid upsetting the tightly packed order.

The verdict: DO.

Listening to ambient music versus unfamiliar music versus favorite music

Apparently, studying with unfamiliar music or ambient noise increases productivity more than familiar or favorite music does. So, I used a noisemaker where you can adjust your own assortment of white noises, from rain to coffee shops to fire crackling. You can’t (and shouldn’t) make it sound like a coffee shop is on fire, though. The lack of music made me more productive, if only because I was unable to zone out with the constantly changing and unfamiliar noises. It also helped that I wasn’t constantly trying to change the music in an effort to find the right song to work to.

The verdict: DO.

Unfamiliar music, however, did not work as well. It was easier to zone out and I felt considerably less guilty when I goofed off on the computer than I had when I could pretend that the birds from the noisemaker were judging me every time I strayed from work.

The verdict: DON’T.

Binder clip in fridge

Even with only miniature binder clips on hand, this hack worked fantastically. I was able to build a solid pyramid in the mini fridge, although I do suggest that all previously opened bottles are checked to be solidly closed. I’m also not sure how much space the pyramid actually saved in the fridge, but it definitely looked cooler than a bunch of upright bottles.

The verdict: DO.

Some of these life hacks were far more useful than others, and some clearly required different supplies than someone like myself may have on hand. But overall, the hacks were inexpensive and fairly easy to do, but the functionality varied for each hack. So give each – or some, or none – a shot and see how it works for yourself.

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