Melanie Pinola writes about technology, productivity, and “life hacks” (most notably for Lifehacker, ITworld, and About.com Mobile Office Technology). Her book LinkedIn in 30 Minutes is due out in May 2013.
Good things to read.
Poetry. Any kind will do. Poems are really music without sound. Whether you like the bold crassness of Charles Bukowski, the exquisite darkness of Mark Strand, or the brilliant pondering of Adrienne Rich, reading a poem is like getting a concentrated dose of inspiration. Ironically, though, while poems are usually short enough to read at any moment, you can only read so many without getting too intoxicated and overwhelmed. (Is it a copout to choose a whole genre? Very well then, see the complete poems of E. E. Cummings, where you’ll find the most beautiful love poems. Really.)
Smart bloggers. We’re lucky to have so many good writers putting up/sharing free content all the time. Off the top of my head, I think you should check out the insanely honest and funny James Altucher, enlightening Derek Sivers, and flat-out productive person Jeff Atwood (who wrote one of the best posts about parenthood ever). Master curators Maria Popova on Brain Pickings, Jason Kottke on Kottke.org, and Dave Pell on Next Draft should also be in your feeds.
And, to be practical: Real Simple, the magazine and website, which covers everything from home organization to wardrobe shortcuts to unusual uses for old things. Like Lifehacker, it’s all about making life simpler and easier (although Real Simple has less of a tech bent).
Good things to watch.
America’s Test Kitchen. On YouTube and PBS. It’s the science of good cooking: tested recipes, equipment, and techniques. Because, really, we all should be making and eating great food.
Mythbusters. They put all the most interesting myths to the test. The latest episode: MacGyver Myths. Could he really have flown a plane made of bamboo? Created a hole in a wall with pure sodium? Epic.
Game of Thrones. I have no productivity-related reason to recommend this, other than it just rocks. It’s reason enough to subscribe to HBO. One word of advice, though: Don’t read the books before the related season. You’ll be in purgatory waiting for the show to catch up and wondering why the characters on screen are still alive. (It’s pure torture.)
Good things to use.
Automation tools. Automate as much as you can. App-connecting service IFTTT is truly awesome: You can send starred Gmail messages to Evernote, automatically download Facebook photos to Dropbox, get text message notifications of important news items, and so much more. Similarly, save time and hassle by using Amazon Subscribe & Save for your regular bulk items, an online grocery to get your food delivered with a weekly list, and maybe even a complete meal delivery service like Blue Apron. Cut out all the little things that consume so much time (like weekly meal planning and shopping) and you have time for the more important ones.
A good pair of sneakers. I try to walk as much as I can. Part of this is just for exercise. Part of it is to support my local businesses when I go shopping. And the other part is to get some much needed sunlight as often as I can. It makes for better sleep, better moods, and better ideas.
Your relationships. Not that you should “use” them, of course, but time and again studies have shown that happiness is most closely tied to the quality of your relationships (the latest study was a 75-year-old one on Harvard students). I’m an introvert. I don’t care to be around too many people too often. But I know people matter the most, and those extra steps showing gratitude, being helpful, and otherwise participating in our loved ones’ lives is the reason why we’re all here anyway.
Connect with Melanie on Twitter @melaniepinola