Don't Multitask on the Toilet

I've been a long-time fan of improving my personal productivity, finding little tricks and tweaks that help me do certain jobs faster.

For example, if I have to stuff, seal, and stamp several envelopes, it goes much faster if I do each step at the same time before I move onto the next one. That is, I'll stuff all the envelopes, then I'll seal them all, and then I'll stamp them all. It takes a lot longer to do that to one envelope at a time, so with this little trick, I can do the job much more quickly.

These are often called productivity hacks or life hacks. Or if you're in your 20s and you speak in social media, #lifehacks. Then you just drop that hashtag into a conversation as a way to explain what that process actually means and why you said it.

"On Saturday nights, I eat pancakes right before I go to bed so I don't have to eat breakfast in the morning. #lifehack."

I don't know why they're called "hacks" in the first place, except maybe it sounds much cooler than "pointers" and "tidbits." "Pointers" sound like suggestions from your 7th-grade art teacher who showed you how to make a bird feeder with a pine cone and peanut butter.

"Hacks" just sound cool, like you're completely dismantling a process, stripping it down to its barest essence, and rebuilding it bigger and better than it ever was before. Like turning an Ikea couch into a two-story pillow fort.

For example, one of my favorite life hacks — excuse me, #lifehacks — is to roll up my toothpaste tube from the bottom and then clamp it in place with a large binder clip, because you should never just squeeze the tube from the middle. Toothpaste squeezers also unroll their toilet paper over the back and turn page corners down for a bookmark.

Another little lifehack is to pour a little fabric softener into your toilet tank so you get a springtime-fresh smell the next time you flush.

On the other hand, men, do not pee while brushing your teeth. It doesn't save as much time as you'd think and you'll use up all the time you "saved" by cleaning up your mess.


There are tricks we learned from our parents and grandparents, like how to dice an onion, how to keep your bathroom mirror from steaming up, or how to find a lost earring backer with a vacuum cleaner and handkerchief.

I'm a big fan of life hacks and productivity hacks. There are life hack videos on YouTube for woodworkers and mechanics, business travelers, people living on a budget, and college students. (Have you ever made a grilled cheese with an iron?)

There's a website called that publishes several productivity hack articles each day on cooking, computers, mobile phones, parenting, and pet care.

And there are even TikTok videos from people who think they understand life hacks, but honestly, I don't know that I would trust some of them to tell me the color of orange juice.

Case in point, a TikTok user named @Amyywoahh promises to change the lives of her 11.7 million followers, presumably by giving them dysentery.

She suggests that we have been pooping all wrong. Instead, we should sit on the toilet backward, and use the toilet tank to hold a laptop and a plate of snacks. Then, you can watch your favorite show and enjoy a light treat while you're doing your business.

This particular tip is idiotic for two very important reasons. For one thing, this is why TV trays were invented. They hold a lot more than a toilet tank lid does.

Second, our toilet tank lid has a curved top, and I lost a whole bowl of kettle corn.

No, seriously, this is a bad idea all around. For one thing, if you have enough time to sit on the can and eat snacks, you're doing both things wrong. You're being equally inefficient at two tasks, and the inefficiency far outweighs any benefit you may have gotten from doing two things at once.

This is the problem with multi-tasking. You try to save time and you end up doing both tasks poorly. There is nothing so important that you have to do it while you're trying to have private time. Either do the thing or do, well, the other thing. Don't do both.

Even so, nearly 75 percent of Americans admit to using their cell phones on the toilet, which isn't the same as watching a video and scarfing down a can of Pringles. Still, I don't know of anyone who's watched entire episodes of "Queen's Gambit" on the throne.

Most importantly, it's gross to have food in the same room where you're pooping. I mean, it's one thing if you're going to spend an entire day sitting in there because it's where everything will end up anyway.

Otherwise, there is no reason that your food and your former food should be in the same room together. If it doesn't seem like such a big deal, try farting near your plate before lunch and see if you feel like eating then.

But if you do, just spritz some fabric softener around the room for that springtime-fresh smell. #Lifehack!

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (That's me! I took that photo!) (@edeckers on Twitter)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.