Lifehacks as Narrative Models For Your Life
I was reading a productivity article, and the article itself was fine. However, my subjective response to the article was one of total misery. I've read so many articles that I've had diminishing hopes for any one article to improve my life.
I've even gotten better at skimming them! Once you identify the pseudoscience anecdote and incomplete cognitive study and venture capitalist anecdote and historical anecdote and data visualization abuse, you don't need to read the exact words. (But I keep reading: hoping this article is the one that fixes anything, nonetheless.)
I found myself, mid-article, totally tired of my own cynicism. I'm able to take each line of a self-improvement article and point out why it is self-promoting or self-deceptive but that is a terrible and dull way to be living (and definitely makes the reading experience unenjoyable).
A different perspective: don't read any of these articles - productivity, motivation, self-improvement, whatever - as something trying to assert a factual system. Beyond some fundamentals, it seems unlikely that Writing Down Index Cards secretly fires more neurons than Writing Down Journal Pages.
However: instead read these as something trying to build a Narrative Model for what you want to experience, and all the convincing anecdotes and soundbites are just part of building those mental connections to make it happen.
A narrative model takes the bits of your life and gives you an idea of the direction of actions you should take, and the direction of outcomes you can expect. A good model should mirror your actual life events, reflect your values and goals, and sustainably lead you in future actions. To some extent, you find out if it's a good model by trying it out.
But critically: a good model isn't particularly true, and it's truthfulness is irrelevant. It is simply a perspective you're accepting so that you can re-order your subjective world and goals a bit.
A more concrete example: the Getting Things Done omega productivity system. I finally feel able to say: there's no particular objective way that it's more effective, for everyone, to do its series of obsessive rules, and there's no guarantee that handwringing over inboxes and context lists will make you a CEO.
But: you should do it if that is how you want to live. When you look it with that perspective, you no longer have to fight with what is objectively true (or risk being objectively wrong), and instead just do whatever you want to do.
Let me illustrate with a different example: OOTD (Only One Thing Daily), a system where you pick one thing in the morning to get done, and once it's done you try your best to do nothing for the rest of the day except play video games. I just came up with this.
I could come up with some charts about why it maps our paleolithic savannah psychology or whatever, but more critically: do you like this model? Does your life match something where you can get just one thing done a day? Does it fit your values to play many video games while getting one thing done a day? And is it sustainable to keep doing this that way? If so, then OOTD - a system that seems silly on its face - is a great fit for you, and you should keep reading all those anecdotes to build up that narrative model.
In other words, this is a reframing for why I'm going to keep reading articles like that if I want to, but without the tedious cynical voice filtering every line. Because I'm tried of living like that, and I want a different narrative model for my life, and this overall principle is a lifehack, too.