By Sara Hundt • December 12, 2014•Law School, Pre-Law, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
The holiday ornaments are up in my office building’s lobby, so you know it’s official: festivus is nigh. As I somehow move into smaller and smaller apartments in this pastoral, no-name town that is San Francisco, my yearning for things has been replaced by the reality that I just don’t have the space for a bunch of gifts this season. Not to be that woman who looks a gift horse in the mouth, but I’m asking friends and family who are so kind to inquire about my interests for all things practical, consumable, or portable, as anything I do receive will eventually be schlepped to yet another new apartment wherever I end up in law school. Plus, I know that a life in law means lots of travel and periods of limited free time. Having less clutter and less stuff on your plate paves the way for a simpler existence. With this in mind, and with my recently purchased menorah ready to go for the upcoming Jewish Festival of Lights, I offer up my own gifts, in the form of the most useful thing I can imagine: LIFE HACKS, brought to you by the 8 Nights of Chanukah:
CHANUKAH NIGHT ONE: The Life-Hack Gift of Organization
I’ll admit that I have a problem with organization of my own materials. Triple track my appointments in a digital, paper and mental calendar? You bet. I'm hyper-organized at work, in school, and even with my social calendar. But when it comes to my personal possessions, I seem to always be misplacing my keys, phone charger and ID to get into my office building. It’s sort of ridiculous. Then one day, my boyfriend suggested something so simple, I thought him a wizard: keep your important stuff in one set place, all the time.
What? But half my cardio comes from rummaging through all my belongings just to find my car keys in my left sneaker!
But, I have to say, it’s not a bad idea…
Something like the above is cute, but really anything will do. I repurposed this doohickey that one carried candies to now serve as my personal organizer.
Now if I could only remember where I put it...
For a bit of a more luxurious option, you can opt for Tile—a Bluetooth chip that will literally track down any item that adorns it. Now that may just solve my problem altogether—thanks, technology!
The real key to organization, I find, is finding a system that works for you. So maybe you tend to leave your keys in the fridge right next to the piece of chocolate cake you were sampling because that’s just the kind of cool, innovative person you are. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Find what fits your style, use it, and repeat.
CHANUKAH NIGHT TWO: The Life Hack Gift of Self-Acceptance
This is something I am working on as we speak—learning how to stop apologizing for things not needing a pardon. Think of what you could accomplish with all those minutes you aren’t wasting fretting and saying sorry. Learn more here from the source of all life hacks, Lifehack.org.
CHANUKAH NIGHT THREE: The Life Hack Gift of Instantaneous Transactions
Sometimes the best way to tackle something on your to-do list is to simply tackle it on the spot. Normally, I’m into scheduling tasks, but for very simple, quick transactions that can take place through an app or a one minute visit to a website, I’m all for the quick and easy follow-up. Reimbursements through Venmo, Paypal, Bank of America transfers, or Splitwise are convenient and secure ways to return the $30.00 you spotted from a friend for groceries. These tools also ensure your tab doesn’t get too high, leaving you with a whopping sum to pay later that may exceed your weekly budget.
Pick a medium that works for you and make it your business to wrap up transactions quickly. Save the longer, more thought-intensive tasks for a time more convenient for you other than right now.
It is totally legitimate to prohibit constant interruptions from disturbing your work flow. If you can’t do complete the task within a minute or less, do it later.
CHANUKAH NIGHT FOUR: The Life Hack Gift of Exercising With Friends
Time for lawyers—and all people—is limited. Balancing everything on my agenda means trying to find ways to maximize my time, or better yet, combining my social time with friends and family with exercise. Both things make me happy and are necessary for me to lead a healthy, fulfilled lifestyle. Plus, human bonding research tells us that recounting shared experiences—like a fun run, exciting hike, or peaceful walk—strengthens bonds. Use your lunch break, or skip a happy hour and pick a buddy to jog out some stress and build friendships. Your body, mind and soul will thank you later.
CHANUKAH NIGHT FIVE: The Life Hack Gift of Growing Your Own Food
Depending on where you live, having your own full-blown vegetable garden may or may not be a feasible option. However, having an herb garden requires minimal effort, looks gorgeous, and is a great, cost-effective way to keep your meals fresh with flavor. While at my brother Nathaniel’s house for dinner earlier this week, I spotted this crafty herb planter on his windowsill.
He grows this family of herbs from his urban, Nob Hill apartment in San Francisco. Netting from Home Depot, planter box from a flea market in Treasure Island, herbs from various garden stores around the Bay Area. Now his dishes are always sprinkled with yummy, fresh herbs! This may be the life hack winner of the week—good job, brother!
CHANUKAH NIGHT SIX: The Life Hack Gift of Reducing E-mail Clutter
Inbox by Gmail. Enough said. Sort and enjoy.
CHANUKAH NIGHT SEVEN: The Life Hack Gift of Brand Loyalty
Dressing appropriately is key for attorneys who are judged in seconds by juries and prospective clients. In and out of the courtroom, you have to look good. For someone like me who detests shopping, picking a few brands that fit me well and sticking with them for life makes my life easier. Of course, I sprinkle in a few pieces here and there from other stores, but when a button pops or a shirt springs a hole beyond repair, it is nice to know which labels I can always count on to boost up my wardrobe count. From head to toe, here’s a fashion sampling:
On top: BCBG. My go-to for formal dresses (wait until they go on sale) and tops. They tend to cater to the shorter in stature among us, and for that, I say, “thank you, BCBG.”
Underneath: Calvin Klein. Quality and often discounted at department stores.
Bottom: BCBG for dress pants, Seven For All Mankind for jeans. I despise jeans shopping more than anything, so finding something that always has my size and is not too frayed, torn, or whatever the latest craze is, is a big lifesaver.
On the feet: Cole Haan for formal wear, Brooks for running. Ms. JD’s Laura Bladow recommends Steve Madden Heaven flats. Tieks boasts that their flats are manna for your feet: foldable ballet flats that fit in your purse and look chic, too.
CHANUKAH NIGHT EIGHT: The Life Hack Gift of Cutting Out Waste
The best way to find life hacks is to let them come to you, and that only happens when you focus on waste. Where are the hours in the day when you seem to be least productive? I noticed a trend in college that between 5-6 PM, my work pace in the library seemed to slow to a dull. Rather than putzing around, not getting anything done, I made that block of time my go-to exercise hour. Or perhaps what irks you is your monetary waste. Download Level Money and track your spending habits. Figure out where you can improve and take a step forward towards making your life a bit better.
There you have it—one life hack for every night of Chanukah. The gift that keeps on giving!
Try ‘em out, let us know if they work for you, and if not, what you’d recommend instead. We want to hear from you!
Ms. JD invites its readers to share their favorite life hacks in the comments for this article—so go on, tell us: what are your favorite life hacks?