35 Totally Random Life Hacks

I would preface these, but they’re totally random:

  1. You only need 7 hours of sleep. Probably. I know I feel better with 7 than 8, or 6.
  2. Every great person in modern history has read every day. You should, too.
  3. Speaking of reading, stop reading books cover-to-cover.
  4. Listen. It’s the secret of great leadership, great marriages, apologetics, winning arguments. Really listen. Ask good questions, and repeat back what you hear, until the other person is satisfied.
  5. Don’t try and remember everything you have to do. Write it down. Use digital calendars, todoist, etc. Check out this book for more.
  6. Get free audiobooks online. You can get them from your library’s digital downloads site, and why wouldn’t you?
  7. Work out. You may never feel like it beforehand, but you’ll never regret it after.
  8. When you pray in the morning, follow Jesus’ example. Here’s how I do it: “Father” – remind yourself of your adoption in Christ. “Hallowed” – tell God why His name is great. “Kingdom” – pray for God’s agenda in your home, neighborhood, work, city, and beyond. “Bread” – tell God what you need. “Debts” – ask God’s forgiveness through Christ. “Temptation” – pray against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  9. There’s a really easy way to lead a Bible study that everyone can do. Ask everyone: 1. What did you observe? What questions do you have? What did you learn about God? How is God speaking to you through this? Who will you share it with?
  10. Learn your spouse’s and kids’ and friends’ love language.
  11. Take 5 minutes every day to write three things you’re thankful for. This has proven to cure depression, increase happiness, eliminate pessimism and honor God.
  12. Every day, give your spouse a hug and tell them you love them.
  13. Tell people regularly how much you appreciate them. Thank them. Encourage them. Energize them with your words. Everyone can do this ministry.
  14. Make a budget. If you’re looking for free software that automatically carries over your expenses into categories, use mint.com.
  15. Before you make big decisions, get the wisest people in your life together and ask them for advice.
  16. Go outside.
  17. If you preach, write out your entire sermon word for word. You need this in order to think it through properly. But when you preach, take no more than a half-page of notes with you. Connecting with people eye-to-eye will do far more to win credibility for the gospel than the most eloquent of words.
  18. Have people over for dinner. Invade your home with mature Christians and total pagans.
  19. If you’re having trouble writing, pick up a pen. Writing on paper is proven to heighten creativity. It also heightens your comprehension when listening to sermons/lectures/your Uncle Marv’s war stories/etc.
  20. Always read aloud what you’ve written, and make adjustments until it sounds clean and bright and natural.
  21. Collect words. When you hear a word you’ve never heard, look it up.
  22. You can memorize anything with mnemonic devices. I wish I’d learned this before I went to seminary – during my last year, it helped me memorize vast quantities of information I never thought possible.
  23. If you lead a small group, take 10 minutes every week to connect with someone in it. The payoffs are phenomenal when you come together.
  24. Speaking of names – remember people’s names, and use them. It’s the best way to make a first impression.
  25. Ask. Ask people to help you reach your goals. Ask them to use their gifts. Benjamin Franklin made peace with his enemies by asking them for books. There’s no higher, more humble compliment than an ask.
  26. On Sunday morning, I never regret a single hour I poured into my sermon, unless it was to the neglect of my family. This is the priority of my ministry.
  27. Sometimes the best way to declutter your brain is to declutter your space.
  28. As a ministry leader, always, always, always carve out time to disciple faithful men. Looking back on the ministries I’ve had, it’s this discipleship that I always saw the most fruit from of any ministry.
  29. Set some goals, and spend some time day-dreaming about them. Picturing the future is a form of leadership. No – it is leadership.
  30. First things first. Good days begin with good mornings. Read scripture, pray, exercise, and if you’re a writer, write. You’ll go to work feeling incredible.
  31. Take a 20-minute nap. It’ll do wonders for your afternoon.
  32. If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, but could find out, you should say, “I don’t know, but I can find out.” That’s better than making something up.
  33. You can only say “yes” to the best when you learn to say “no” to most other things. The best way to do this is to say, “I’d love to, but I can’t.” Most times, this is true – I’d love to be all things to all people, but I just can’t.
  34. Don’t say “I’m sorry”, unless you accidentally bumped into someone. Say, “Please forgive me.” Likewise, don’t say “It’s okay”, or “no problem”, unless someone’s apology is totally out of line.
  35. To improve your writing, put it in public. You can’t hole up for 50 years then release it. Blog, join a writing group, read your story to your kids out loud – make it a community project. This infuses your writing with an essential ingredient: love.
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Posted in Leadership.


Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.