I love how you can call anything a "hack" now. I recently clicked an article called something like "15 Summer Hair Hacks!" and it was just a bunch of shit you can buy, like dry shampoo and hot rollers. Sigh. If you're using a pre-made tool the way it's meant to be used, it's not a hack, it's just capitalism. Anyway, whatever, let's all share our "hacks"! Leave yours in the comments, please. Here are some of mine, apologies in advance for the faux-hacks. (For the uninitiated: "hacks" are just tips.)
- 2-Browser Hack: I need the Internet for work, so most of the time I can't just "go offline" in order to get shit done. So I divide my online life into two browsers, work-related (Firefox) and not-work-related (Chrome). In the morning, I open my work email and work browser right away and try to fire off as many tasks as possible before, say, 10 a.m. I put off checking my personal email as long as I can stand it, because I'll inevitably get distracted by other tasks related to that, or Twitter, etc. Later in the day, I'll sometimes bounce around between work and non-work stuff, but if I really need to concentrate, I'll close my non-work browser again.
- Distraction Hack: If you use Outlook for work, turn off the pop-up notifications. Needless distraction, you rarely need to respond to an email the very second it arrives.
- To-Do List Hack: I have a spiral notebook that serves as my work to-do list. For non-work tasks, which usually have softer deadlines (errands, poetry things I want/need to get done, etc.), I write each item on a Post-It note and stick them in clear view on the shelf above my computer. When I complete a task, I tear the Post-It down, which is very satisfying. Some stay up semi-permanently as a daily reminder (e.g. "BE AN ACTIVIST").
- Poetry Hack: The "muse," she doesn't come around as often as she used to, and if I sat around waiting for inspiration to strike in poem-length bursts I'd write about three pages a year. So I intentionally devise projects that can encompass much smaller-scale inspiration. For example, The Self Unstable is full of lines and ideas that I expressed (in different language) on Twitter or my blog, revisited and rearranged into "koans."
- Rice hack: I boil rice instead of using the absorption method. Details on how to do that here. You don't have to measure anything and I like the resulting texture better.
- Flavor balance hack: Use sugar like salt as a general seasoning. A pinch of sugar (or dab of honey) makes many savory foods taste more balanced: sauces, vinaigrette, soups, etc.
- Egg hack: Poach eggs in a thick liquid like tomato sauce (AKA eggs in purgatory) or salsa – way easier and more idiot-proof than doing it in water. Just heat up the liquid, crack in the eggs, cover and simmer over lowish heat for 5 minutes or so. (Pour the eggs and hot salsa over broken tortilla chips for instant chilaquiles.)
- Recipe remix hack: When trying a recipe for the first time, consider split testing it – i.e., split out half and either leave out or add an ingredient (or use a different brand, etc.) or cook it by a different method (e.g. on the stove vs. in the oven). Then you'll have a head start on knowing how to improve it next time.
- Herb hack: Fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley can last up to a week in the fridge if you use this cleaning/storage method: Within 24 hours of buying a bunch of herbs at the store, rinse them off (or dip and swish in a big bowl of water) and let them dry out on a paper towel on the counter. Then put the whole bunch, with the slightly damp paper towel underneath, in a large Ziploc bag. I recommend using some of the herbs on the first use so the bag isn't packed too full.
- Wine hack: Decant everything, even cheap wine, boxed wine, white wine! You can split-test and see for yourself, it does taste better.
- Wine hack 2: Chill your red wine for 10-20 minutes before opening and drinking, it's really meant to be served a bit cooler than room temperature and tastes much better this way.
- Photo hack: Squint in photos – just barely! – to convey intelligence/intensity. This is basically a variation on smizing.
- Haircut hack: I don't like paying for haircuts so I only cut my hair about twice a year. I do, however, like change so I get a lot cut off, 5 to 6 inches at a time. That means I can go gradually from bob to lob to long hair: three different styles for ~$60! (Note that this only works because I don't dye my hair or use a lot of heat tools, so visible damage/split ends are minimal even after six months.)
- Eye makeup hack: I use long-wearing cream eye shadows as a base on my lids instead of a dedicated eye primer. (Cheap drugstore version: Maybelline Color Tattoo, good but most of the colors are impractical. Less cheap version: Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow.) They serve the same purpose of making your powder shadow last longer and crease less, but provide the first layer of color on their own so you can skip a step.
- Body scrub hack: Make your own body scrub: mix coarse salt and/or sugar with any oil that's appropriate for rubbing over your body. Coconut oil is nice in the summer. Right now I've got one going based on the Target version of Neutrogena's body oil, which is nice and light and even gets a little foamy as you scrub. I store this in an old Talenti gelato container. Subhack: Buy Talenti gelato. It's delicious and comes in nice, reusable clear plastic pints with screw-on lids.
- Bathtub hack: I scrub out the tub with a mixture of baking soda and Dr. Bronner's almond soap. It's abrasive enough to get it spark-a-ling clean very quickly and the almond soap is one of my favorite smells, so all told it's a pleasant experience, compared to the toxic blue foam I used to use. (Otherwise, the Magic Eraser works for almost everything, it really is fucking magic.)
- Organization hack: If there's a place in your house where little doodads and craps tend to accumulate, put a bowl or a basket there. You don't have to actually "organize" it but having all the crap in a decorative container instead of scattered on the counter/table just looks better.