How to hack your life
Time to skip the boring bits and get right to the good stuff.
HOW TO THROW A FABULOUS DINNER PARTY WITH 30 MINUTES NOTICE
So you want to be one of those people who, on a whim, invites friends over for relaxed yet chic soirees but you’re also that person whose fridge contains only eye masks and a Diet Coke from 2007. Enter Meredith Steele, a recipe developer and blogger who has written a book on the subject of effortless entertaining. (Actually, that’s what her forthcoming cookbook is called.) Here are her top tips for an “Oh, this? I just threw a few things together” fete:
1. EASY ON THE EATS. “A cocktail party with a good cheese or charcuterie board and a few small bites is always a winner. I keep cheese, cured meats, nuts, olives, crackers and dried fruit on hand at all times just for this reason. Quick appetizers like crostini, dips, olives warmed in olive oil with garlic, herbs and citrus, and toasted nuts tossed with fresh herbs and sea salt are on my menu as well.”
2. LET YOUR GUESTS DO THE WORK. “Set up a self-serve bar. It’s easy to do and not only keeps everyone happy but also keeps you from working too hard throughout the night. Pick an area that can handle a lot of traffic and create a makeshift bar: large buckets filled with ice for wine and beer, a few select liquors and mixers, a jug of water and ice for drinks. If I have time, I’ll whip up a pitcher cocktail to pour for guests when they arrive. And if children will be attending, they get their own table with water, juice and snacks.”
3. DON’T TRY TOO HARD. “Don’t fuss. Try to keep in mind that everyone knows you didn’t plan on having a party but they are certainly glad you did. It’s all about enjoying time with the people around you, and if that means you open the door in your bare feet, so be it.” S.L.
HOW TO LIFE-HACK LIKE A CELEB
We polled some of our favourite famous folk for their number-one tip/general secret to life success.
LILLY SINGH, VLOGGER “Be nice to people!”
SHAY MITCHELL, ACTRESS “When I’m feeling down, I put on a happy song and just have a dance party.”
HAILEY BALDWIN, MODEL “I use coconut oil for everything.”
HOW TO READ THE HOTTEST CELEB MEMOIRS WITHOUT TURNING A PAGE
All your favourite funny ladies are releasing memoirs this fall (see below), but reading = too time-consuming. Enter the audiobook, which allows you to jog/commute/self-tan and still become the only person in your book club to actually finish that month’s selection. Best part? These are all read by the authors themselves. S.L.
1. The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
2. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
3. In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett
HOW TO GET ON THE HIGHWAY TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM AND ACCUMULATE $$$ AT AUTOBAHN SPEED
At 17, Lesley-Anne Scorgie was invited to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about how her super-saving skills had put her on track to be a millionaire by 25. While it actually took the Torontonian until she was 30 to reach that mark, we’re still pretty inspired. Here, the now 32-year-old money coach and author shares how you can do it too.
1. CHECK YOUR EGO AND BUY USED. “I drive a BMW, wear Stella McCartney shoes and have a house that has been featured in design magazines. Sounds expensive, right? I paid half for my beemer, one-fifth for my Stellas and $3,500 to furnish my entire house. Scour consignment shops, estate sales, auctions and online used-goods sites like Kijiji and Craigslist.”
2. GET YOUR SIDE HUSTLE ON. “It’s all about using your skills to earn extra income. I teach fitness classes four days a week because if I’m going to go to the gym, I’m going to get paid. What are you good at? It could be anything from baking to life coaching to photography. Turn these interests into extra income while you continue earning money through your day job.”
3. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. “Are you currently saving 10 percent of your income? Congratulations. Now you need to double it. Women live longer than men and, sadly, still earn less, so women need to save more. Whatever you are saving every month, increase that amount by 1 percent of your gross income every three months until you reach 20 percent.” C.R.
HOW TO ACTUALLY FIT A FACIAL INTO YOUR SCHEDULE
Blitz Facial Bar by Body Blitz in Toronto might just be the most productive facial you’ve ever had. Book the express treatment and you’ll be in and out in 40 minutes — that includes a facial massage, extractions and a customizable skin-booster treatment like a vitamin-C or glycolic-acid peel. Don’t let the lack of treatment rooms concern you; the space feels private — but your skin will look so great you’ll want everyone to see it anyway. Cross-Canada options: The Caudalie spa in Laval, Que., offers a 30-minute express brightening facial, while Pure Spa in Charlottetown has a 45-minute treatment. C.W.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR OVERALL QUALITY OF LIFE IN ONE EASY STEP
Mark Manson is the author of this fall’s most provocatively titled self-help tome: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Naturally, we sought out his best counterintuitive advice on how caring less could get our lives on the inside lane to happiness. Glean what you can from our enlightening chat with this NYC-based blogger who has a two-million-strong following.
Does not giving a fuck mean giving up? We want to go places with our lives, thank you very much! “I have a friend who was a VP of a large company and a published author at 23. You know how he fast-tracked? He worked. Obsessively. While the rest of us were in class and playing beer-pong, he was working at two start-ups and getting up at 5 a.m. to write every morning. You want to fast-track? Work so hard that people will wonder if you’ve lost your mind. Then go out and get ‘There are no useful shortcuts in life’ tattooed on your face — preferably backwards so you have to read it every time you look in the mirror. Those boring bits you’re trying so hard to skip are your life. And the only way you will be able to own them and survive them is by not giving a fuck about being amused and feeling peachy all the time. There are more important things in life than feeling like a badass 24-7. Find problems that are so important that you come to enjoy them. Choose a struggle that inspires you so much that you enjoy the boredom, you enjoy the pain. Stop chasing shiny things all the time.”
So not giving a fuck is just moving toward a different kind of progress in life? “Not giving a fuck is going to save the world. It’s going to save the world by teaching people that there are more important things in life than feeling good all the time. That sometimes pain is important and even useful and the only way you can learn to leverage pain is by learning to not give a fuck about pain. Not giving a fuck is all about simplifying and choosing the few things that matter more than anything else and then not wasting your precious time or energy. That’s how you get somewhere: by blocking distraction, by ignoring discomfort, by engaging in the fear and anxiety.”
So how do we start? “Get clear about what your values are. Look at what is currently upsetting you or eating up most of your time and energy. Ask yourself if it’s really that important or if you’re just chasing some high or distraction. Chances are, if you’re unsatisfied with your life, it’s because it’s the latter.” S.L.
HOW TO SKIP A STEP IN YOUR ROUTINE FOR BETTER HAIR
A co-wash product is the ultimate speed-through-the-shower item. A hybrid of a low-foam shampoo and moisturizing conditioner, these clever “conditioning washers” leave hair soft and clean without being weighed down. True two-in-ones, they’re a must for dry, coarse or curly hair. Bonus: With just one hair prod required at bath time, you’re left with more space in the shower for something (or someone) else. V.C.
HOW TO SAVE TIME ON YOUR COLOUR…WITHOUT RESORTING TO BOX DYE
If you’ve said RIP to one-too-many Saturday mornings after a three-hour balayage touch-up, try Toronto’s Colour Lab. The colour-only salon fast-forwards your dye jobs with: 1. TEAMWORK: Everyone shares a colourist, and you don’t get to book your favourite. 2. TECHNOLOGY: They have a machine that pumps infrared heat and cuts up to 20 minutes off processing time. 3. STYLING: Customers blow-dry their own hair or leave with it wet. Our advice? Use the time you saved to squeeze in a mani — or a nap. C.W.
PHONE IT IN: SLY CELLULAR SHORTCUTS FOR YOUR LIFE
HOW TO SHOP LIKE A PRO…FROM YOUR PHONE You know the phrase “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Well, the task of hunting down that pair of brocade Gucci slippers you spotted on Instagram is one that’s best left to the experts. Enter PS Dept, an iPhone app that connects you to seasoned personal shoppers — a.k.a. your fashion fairy godmothers. Just message with a photo of your dream item and let the pros take care of the hard part. They’ll even help sort out the return if the proverbial glass slipper doesn’t fit. (Free for iOS, psdept.com) L.G.
HOW TO TERRIFY YOURSELF INTO NOT PROCRASTINATING Desperate times (it’s 3 a.m. and you have to present that report at 9 a.m. and your page is Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” incarnate) call for desperate measures. Flowstate is a new app designed to get you into the writing zone essentially through fear: If you stop typing, your work vanishes. And while it gets your adrenalin going, it also stops you from overthinking, and eventually you just embrace the power of accepting whatever “flows” from your fingertips. (How do you think we wrote this entire magazine?) ($13.99, hailoverman.com/flowstate) S.L.
HOW TO SEE A PHYSICIAN WITHOUT TAKING THE DAY OFF WORK The only thing worse than the doctor’s office is the waiting room. With the Akira app, you can bypass that #depressing situ forever. The app links you via text, FaceTime and even old-fashioned telephone to Toronto-based doctors or nurse practitioners. They can write you a prescription, refer you to a specialist and order lab tests. The service is currently available in Ontario, but the aim is to roll out the program to B.C., Quebec and Alberta by the end of the year. ($9.99/month, akira.md) C.W.
HACKERS: ELLE CANADA EDITORS SHARE THEIR BEST TIPS
NOREEN FLANAGAN “If you want to feel like you’re flying first class when the reality is you’re booked for coach, roll the dice and choose a seat in the last row of the plane. In the past year alone, I’ve scored the entire row to myself on six different flights. There are no bubbles, but as soon as I put on my Chanel sleep mask and lie down under my cashmere-scarf-cum-throw, it’s almost as good as being at the front of the plane. Almost.”
CARLI WHITWELL “I’m Garfield levels of lazy in the morning. So, in order to actually pull off an a.m. workout, I lay my clothes beside my bed the night before. I’m up and out the door before I even comprehend that I’m no longer under the duvet.”
VICTORIA DIPLACIDO “My nails do not grow — they splinter and break. I can never seem to get into the routine of putting nail strengthener on before bed — the traditional just-leave-the-bottle-on-your-nightstand-in-easy-reach hack does nothing for me. So I found another route: regular gel manicures. The gel acts as training wheels for my nails, reminding them the way to grow is up, not across or down. After two recent back-to-back gel manicures (about two weeks apart), my nails are the longest they’ve been in years.”
LIZ GUBER “I’ll often just put moisturizer on my brows because gel is, ugh, too much work.”
SARAH LAING “I’ve stopped feeling bound to finish books I’m not enjoying. If I don’t like it within the first chapter or so, I move on!”
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THOSE 48 HOURS YOU HAVE IN ENGLAND
Quick: You’re a tourist in London with little time and no car — but you do have a desire to explore the countryside. So what do you do? Pick one of the 60+ castles, museums, gardens, caves and forests featured in the new guidebook How to Get Out of London Without Really Trying ($19.37, amazon.ca). All the destinations — a Gothic revival country estate called Strawberry Hill in Twickenham caught our eye — are easily reached via public transit in less than two hours. C.R.
HOW TO SLOW DOWN YOUR WORKOUT TO SPEED UP YOUR RESULTS
During your next push-up, squat and bicep-curl sets, pretend you’re on the snail Snapchat filter and you may see better results. Dalton Wong, owner of Twenty Two Training and author of The Feelgood Plan, explains why: “Working the muscle more slowly allows you to feel the contraction and eccentric [lengthening and shortening] of the muscle and to be more aware of your body’s mechanics. By working more slowly, you lay down the correct signals from the brain to the muscle so it works in the correct fashion at all times…and becomes more efficient.” But you don’t have to take our word for it: Wong has trained Jennifer Lawrence and Kit Harington. C.W.
HOW TO BUILD THE CLOSET OF YOUR DREAMS — EVENT IF IT’S NOT A WALK-IN (YET)
The design guru behind our own wardrobe space of dreams (#ELLECanadaCloset) shares her advice. Over to you, Christine Dovey.
When your studio apartment comes with floor-to-ceiling windows but no actual closet. “Invest in a decorative clothing or hanging rack to organize and display your favourite clothes. Mix and match different colours and textures for an eclectic look, or colour coordinate for a curated design.”
When you have to share closet space with your better half, whose suit collection rivals that of Tom Ford. “To save space and display accessories beautifully, stack floating shelves up the wall or opt for an antique-style cabinet.”
When you have a walk-in with Kardashian-closet potential but you don’t have the skills to transform it into an oasis. “If you’ve got the space, use it! A feminine settee or floor-length mirror will turn your closet into a next-level dressing room and is essential for trying on your latest finds!”
BUILD THE ULTIMATE F/W ’16 WARDROBE WITH JUST THREE KEY PURCHASES
Before you go spending $$$, take Roopal Patel’s advice and make sure you’ve got the basics in place. The senior vice-president of fashion direction at Saks Fifth Avenue recommends building on those essential items — “The perfect white shirt, the LBD [little black dress], the classic pump or heel, the perfect jeans, an easy blazer, a timeless handbag, a piece of statement jewellery and a great lipstick” — and then layering novelty pieces on top. Already all over that? Here are the so-on-trend items she suggests investing in this autumn. L.G.
1. VELVET Aquazzura velvet flats ($910, at Saks Fifth Avenue, saks.com).
Text by Sarah Laing, Christina Reynolds, Carli Whitwell, Vanessa Craft, Liz Guber & Lisa Guimond.