Lifehacking abounds these days, on sites like Quora, Reddit, startup blogs, even NPR. It’s a perfectly rational trend for society to adopt. Lifehacking promises not only to help us do things better, it promises to make us happier and give us more time in our lives. Anyone who follows this trend realizes how closely lifehacking is tied to Silicon Valley culture. (There’s a reason three out of four links above are from Quora, Reddit, and the hugely popular social media startup Buffer.) Decomposing the phrase “life hack” itself should tell you this; it co-opts the term “hack” which has only recently taken on positive connotations through unironic evangelizing by the respected tech establishment. Hacking refers to subverting a traditional system through well thought out side roads. In the lifehacking sense, it’s productivity arbitrage.
I can’t help but read deeper meaning into this connection between lifehacking and Silicon Valley. Tellingly, lifehacking is rarely focused on improving your productivity for the sake of work. Instead, it’s focused on improving your productivity for one of two things: a) personal fulfillment or b) personal efficiency. That personal focus is key: lifehackers lifehack for entirely selfish purposes. (How many lifehacking articles start with, “20 Ways To Maximize Your Value To Your Employer”?) Which leads to the question, is it a coincidence that the originators of the “as-a-Service” movement are so desperately seeking ways to improve their own personal productivity? No. In fact, I’d argue lifehacking is the enabler of a new “as-a-Service” movement: Labor-as-a-Service (obviously, LaaS).