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Seven simple life hacks for enablers of change

Are you looking for some quick tips to improve your life as an enabler of change? In this episode, we’re sharing our top seven simple life hacks that you might find handy!

A life hack is a tip, trick, or shortcut that helps us solve a problem, save time, or make our lives easier in some way. They can range from simple and practical solutions to more complex and creative ideas. Life hacks are useful in many ways as they offer creative and innovative solutions to everyday problems, making our lives easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

At the top of our list, is using checklists. In an earlier episode we talked about how checklists can help us sleep better at night, but they can also save us time. This is particularly true when it is a complex task that we do not undertake very often or if it’s important that we get it right the first time. For example, checklists are widely used in aviation to ensure that all necessary safety procedures are followed before takeoff, in-flight, and landing. One famous example of a checklist saving lives is documented in the movie ‘Sully’, based on how Captain Sullenberger safely landed a plane on the Hudson River after both engines were disabled following bird strike. Sully credits his training and the use of checklists for the successful outcome of the emergency landing. Checklists are also routinely used in healthcare and have been shown to reduce medical errors and improve patient outcomes in hospitals and clinics. One study found that a surgical safety checklist implemented by the World Health Organization reduced the rate of complications by 36% and the rate of deaths by 47%. 

The second life hack we’ve found handy is storing useful information in online documents, such as Google docs. For example, John has one for common computer settings and shortcuts that he only occasionally uses. When he’s working on a large Word doc with lots of headings, tables and figures, he knows he needs to update all the cross-references but often can’t remember the keystrokes involved. Five seconds later, thanks to his trusty Google doc, John knows it’s Control A to select all the text and then F9 to update all the codes. While we can Google that, it’s quicker to open that Google doc than it is to think of how to appropriately describe the question for a Google search. Other items John keeps in that trusty Google doc refer to tips for Word, PowerPoint and Excel (just how do you count the occurrence of an item in a spreadsheet again?).

It seems that we’re all getting used to travelling for work again now. An added complication these days is that it’s not unusual for flights to be delayed and sometimes cancelled at the last minute. That can be somewhat catastrophic if we’re travelling to facilitate a large meeting that is dependent on our being there. To add some buffer and reduce stress, we now tend to fly the day before the scheduled event, so if the worst happens, we can still hopefully catch a later flight. The other benefit of this is that it sometimes gives us the opportunity to catch up with friends and family, or slip in some professional networking beforehand. 

A bonus travel tip from John relates to the creased clothes as they come out of a backpack (as John rarely takes a suitcase that needs to go in the hold of the plane anymore – in contrast to Denise who always overpacks!). Instead of ironing the creased clothes, John suggests packing an empty 20 ml spray bottle (that you can buy as a craft item in discount stores). Fill that with water and lightly spray it over any creases on clothes. As they are mostly cotton, the water helps relax the fabric and the creases disappear! It’s a bit like the idea of hanging the shirts near a hot shower so they absorb the steam. 

One of the things Denise has been using more over the last few years are templates. This is having an already set up process or framework for reports, plans, funding proposals, work planswhatever you use pretty regularly. One particular template that might be useful as an enabler of change is having a runsheet template. This is just as it sounds! Denise has a regular list of resources (you might even call that a checklist!) that’s on her runsheet as it’s easy to forget crucial equipment like blu-tak if you don’t have a reminder. Something Denise is going to add to her template is to re-spray the sticky wall so it’s sticky and ready to roll!

We all dislike tedious chores don’t we? So here are some ideas of how to make them less so. John has outsourced menial tasks and used UpWork a few times when he needed some extra hands (or is that heads?) to get a task completed. When John was leading the FutureBeef eExtension team, they rebuilt the FutureBeef website and the web developers hadn’t included resources for manually copying 3000 events from the old event calendar to the new one, as they had all assumed they would be able to be imported. However the new plugin didn’t have that capability and the team calculated it would take over 40 hours (that’s 5 days!) to do it manually. John used Upwork to source a suitable overseas provider who was able to undertake the task for $100. Plus their team from India were happy to do it over the Easter long weekend, since they didn’t celebrate that. John sent the file to him on Thursday and by the following Tuesday he provided the updated document to send to the developers. John has also used other providers on UpWork to fix his website, create eBooks and most recently, analyse a huge dataset and create graphs to summarise the results.

The last simple life hack relates to using the latest in artificial intelligence (AI). We’ve already done an episode on how we might use ChatGPT and what we’ve discovered is that the trick is to ask good questions. Instead of asking ‘what is community-based social marketing’ it may be better to ask ‘explain community-based social marketing so that a 12 year old would understand, include compelling reasons why someone working in agricultural extension in Australia or New Zealand would use it, include examples’. We’ll let you copy and paste that into ChatGPT and see the results! This article on ‘How to… use ChatGPT to boost your writing’ is useful as well. The take home messages are that we’re writing a prompt, not having a conversation; and that more elaborate and specific prompts work better. 

Well, you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to hear yours! Add a comment below and tell us some of your favourite hacks, so we can all benefit from them. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversationjoin in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

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1 year ago

Great tips and very timely especially the travel ones. I remember forever the first (and last) time I attempted to facilitate over my phone from a rental car as I drove to a workshop – late due to a flight delay!

1 year ago
Reply to  John James

Thanks John. I survived it OK but the workshop was ‘compromised’. So I wasn’t really a hero on the day. Not to be recommended.

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