Life hacks

I like to do weird things with my life. In particular, I like to try out major changes to see how effective they are on long-term health and wellbeing. This page lists all the hacks I've tried so far and how successful they've been.

Successful hacks

Switching to Dvorak keyboard

In 2012 I switched to a British variant of the Dvorak keyboard layout. The main objective was to try to reduce the amount of repetitive strain injury.

In total it took around 1 month to get comfortable with the layout (this was extremely painful though). I can now type on Dvorak just as fast as I used to type on QWERTY (if I try really hard I can do 100 wpm).

The repetitive strain injury is gone and so this is now a permanent change.

The only real inconvenience was that Windows doesn't natively support UK Dvorak and I had to write a custom driver (available on my website). When I use machines with Linux I don't even get VKEYS and so I'm forced to return back to QWERTY which is now annoying.

Buying keyboards in Dvorak in the UK is also impossible, so you have to buy a QWERTY keyboard and mod it. I prefer a backlit keyboard with Cherry MX brown switches, so this makes life harder. With the keyboard I have right now, I managed to get the letters in the right place, but the symbol keys aren't correctly positioned (although this isn't a massive problem as I touch-type and don't have to look at them any more anyway).

Switching glasses to dark lenses

In 2017 I switched my main prescription glasses to dark sunglasses in an attempt to reduce eye strain headaches. Since then I have seen ~25% reduction in headaches caused by eye strain.

Hacks in progress

Using feminizing hormone therapy as a treatment for adrenal dysfunction

In March 2020 I started taking estradiol and androgen blockers (male-to-female hormone replacement therapy) in order to treat an adrenal enzyme birth defect which was causing a large number of mental and physical health issues. Estradiol is not typically used as a treatment for adrenal enzyme defects, but I did not want to take glucocorticoids due to complicated and severe side-effects. In this instance, the adrenal dysfunction was only mild, and also eventually resulted in gender dysphoria, making me a good candidate for use of MTF HRT instead.

Raising estradiol via use of feminizing hormone therapy resulted in almost a three-fold increase to blood cortisol level, which in this instance suppressed adrenal function enough to counter the vast majority of health issues. Up to 40% reduction in DHEAS levels was seen, and around 90% remission of symptoms was observed. For treating the adrenal problem I would therefore consider this unconventional medication method a success.

I also have a newfound calm relaxation that I never had before, which has made life a million times better - far more bearable and way less stressful. The improvement for me is so profound it's almost like a religious experience :)

The huge improvement to my living quality from taking this medication combo makes it probably the biggest and most important discovery of my entire life.

The local NHS endocrinologist has reviewed my case, and agreed that discontinuing the HRT would be unwise given the circumstances, so I'm recommended to pursue gender reassignment. (I have to keep my testosterone level under 5 nmol/L though)

The primary consequence is that, by technicality, I'm now a transgender woman and I'm left with the complicated process of full gender transition, which is likely to take some years, cost large amounts of money, and may never be fully completed. So this hack is not necessarily considered 'fully successful' yet. But I'm fully accepting of my situation, and I have good support from close friends, so hopefully things go well.

Hacks with partial success

Use of Huel powdered food as meal replacement

In 2016 I started using the Huel powdered food as a meal replacement, as an alternative to buying takeout for every single evening meal.

I found the cost per meal to be really good, and the Huel powder to be extremely versatile for sweet meals, but not very good for savoury ones. The shakes themselves are also pretty filling.

The main problem in the end was that I got bored of drinking Huel every day. I'm no longer eating it due to living with parents again and a stack of it ended up expiring and had to be thrown out.

Hacks which failed

Polyphasic sleeping

In 2011, and then again (repeatedly) in 2017, I attempted to try to adapt to a polyphasic sleeping pattern (sleeping multiple times per day to reduce total time spent asleep). I was able to achieve partial sleep compression as shown by EEG, but it was not sufficient enough to able to adapt. I later discovered that I suffer from partial obstructive sleep apnea, along with hormonally-driven sleep disturbances caused by my adrenal birth defect, and that adapting to any polyphasic sleeping pattern for me is consequently likely impossible.

While I do think that adapting to polyphasic sleep is possible for a limited number of people, I'm fundamentally sceptical about the actual benefit of doing so. I found that gaining extra time awake in the middle of the night was not very useful, and the extra time was mostly wasted on leisure activities like watching TV or playing video games. In contrast, the inconvenience of having to sleep in the middle of the day (during working hours or socialization time) and having to schedule everything around precisely-timed sleeps was enormous. The risk of failing the schedule is also extremely high and adapting is very tough. I would therefore not personally recommend for anyone to attempt polyphasic sleep.