Heard of life hacks? They're great for FIFO families

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Hi! I'm Deb Russo, a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. My husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, we do a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. We have lived our entire 13-year relationship like this. Initially he was in the Navy, then we shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (my least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Lately I've been hearing heaps about the trendy term 'life hack'. But want to hear something tricky? The term means two very different things, depending whether it's spelt as one or two words.

Life hack (the two-word version) refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency (in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way).

Lifehack (the one-word version) refers to someone who does not know how to live well - a person who never gets the big picture, or dwells on unimportant things. (That's what www.urbandictionary.com says anyway!)

I am definitely not the latter. I am a proud LIFE HACKER. And I don’t believe in secrets, so here are my top five life hacks to make FIFO life a little easier, more productive, efficient and less stressful.

  • Life hack 1: Laundry is my pet hate, so I have heaps of laundry life hacks. All socks are navy blue or black ... pairing is never a problem. I don’t hang the smalls on the line, they go into the dryer. I don’t have time to hang 37 pairs of kid’s jocks, same goes for the boy’s shorts. I fold everything from the line straight into the draws. When I buy clothes I take into account their care - if it’s not easy I don’t buy it. The boys shorts are ‘boardies’ so they dry super fast. I get my kids to hang out, fold and put their own laundry away but that is a whole other life hack.
  • Life hack 2: Freezer meals. I have one day a month when I cook all day and freeze meals. So if there are days when it’s too much I can just pull something out. Also comes in handy for sitters and when I’m unwell. It's great having a backup and take away is not an option when there is something in the freezer. I have also heard of mums freezing lunch sandwiches, but alas my kids aren’t sandwich eaters. I freeze any leftovers in takeaway containers and also make cakes and muffins ahead of time.
  • Life hack 3: Use a planner - it saves you looking like an unorganised git. If you have an iPhone, use one of the many free apps. Otherwise, just Google 'calendar'. Or you could be an old romantic and use a printed planner - something you can pick up in your hands, feeling the paper between your fingers. And if you throw it in a moment of frustration - because you can’t be two places at once - it won’t break! A life hack right there, again.
  • Life hack 4: Use that planner to schedule your own down time. For FIFO families to work, both parents need to feel good and be happy. Get your hair done, have a massage or go out for coffee. An hour each week is so much cheaper than a week at a resort where white, unusual fitting strait jackets mandatory.
  • Life hack 5: Accept that there is only one of you. Learn to say 'no', and avoid multi-tasking unless you have more than 24-hours in a day and an entourage to support you. Multi-tasking often leads to disaster. Who cares if the mum down the road can juggle five kids and part-time work with canteen duty and teaching French to Year 2s - all while looking immaculate in white pants? Her life is different to yours - she might have the luxury of family nearby, or a cleaner and nanny, and a magic cupboard of never-ending white slacks.

So there you go - a few life hacks to make life easier for even the most unorganised lifehack!


More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at www.thefifowife.com.au and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore