Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Taking Shortcuts


Hacking has become all the rage in the last decade or so. Not the computer type of hacking, but hacking life and work, study and play. You hear terms like life hacking, growth hacking, and study hacking.

At the core of that kind of hacking is a simple idea: find shortcuts to do things faster and more efficiently. Even though some people take hacks a bit too far, the idea is sound.

Some people, though, view taking those kinds of shortcuts as laziness or cheating. Or, they see shortcuts as a lack of commitment or a sign of shallowness.

I disagree.

Taking shortcuts can be useful, especially when you need to quickly gain a grounding or a working knowledge of a subject. Instead of starting from square one and methodically work your way to expertise of mastery, when you take a shortcut you go from A-B-C to N-O-P. There will be gaps in your knowledge, but you can cherry pick what you need to learn to do whatever it is you need to do.

There’s nothing wrong with working through something from beginning to end. That’s fine for some people. Remember, though, that not everyone’s reasons for doing things, for learning things are the same. As I wrote in the previous paragraph, circumstances sometimes require you to learn something quickly.

When you need to take a shortcut, you need to think in terms of minimum viable product. By that I mean the minimum amount of knowledge or skill that you need to get by. Then, you build you learning around that.

What about going deeper? If you need to, then shortcuts lay the foundation for future, more in-depth learning. If you need or want to, you can fill in the gaps. Having taken a shortcut or two, you have a platform on which to build a skill or to expand your knowledge.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.

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