Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way might be called a life hack.
Coined in the 1980s in hacker culture, the term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.
"Life" refers to an individual's productivity, personal organization, work processes, or any area the hacker ethic can be applied to solve a problem. The terms hack, hacking, and hacker have a long history of ambiguity in the computing and geek communities, particularly within the free and open source software crowds.
Originally the term arose in the 1980s among the first computer programmers devising and employing tricks to cut through information overload and organize their data. The original definition of the term "hack" is an inelegant but effective solution to a specific computing problem. The term was later extended to life hack that referred to a more general solution related computer problems that occur in a programmer's everyday life. These included quick-and-dirty shell scripts and other command line utilities that filtered, munged and processed data streams like e-mail and RSS feeds. Examples of these types of life hacks might include utilities to synchronize files, track tasks, remind oneself of events, or filter e-mail.
The term was used in 2004 during the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego, California by technology journalist Danny O'Brien to describe the "embarrassing" scripts and shortcuts productive IT professionals use to get their work done. After his presentation, use of the term life hack spread in the tech and blogging community.
O'Brien and blogger Merlin Mann later co-presented a session called "Life Hacks Live" at the 2005 O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference. The two also co-author a column entitled "Life Hacks" for O'Reilly's Make magazine which debuted in February 2005.
The American Dialect Society voted lifehack (one word) as the runner-up for "most useful word of 2005" behind podcast. The word was also added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in June 2011.
Lifehack.org was founded by Leon Ho in 2005;  HackCollege, a lifehacking site for four-year university students by Kelly Sutton and Rosario Doriott, was founded in 2006.