SelfSpark Founder James Norris Demystifies the Science of Lifehacking

December 4, 2014

11:00 am

The best part of interviewing James Norris, founder of Self Spark and myriad startups around the world before this current venture, is that I left our conversation feeling more organized and confident in achieving my to-do list! How did he do that? Read on to learn some magic and improve daily life as you know it.


Q) First things first. What is lifehacking?

A) Lifehacking is essentially lifestyle change through behavioral science techniques and emerging technology. We apply positive reinforcement, social psychology (think peer pressure but in a good way) and behavioral economics (everyone loves incentives) to our Self Spark events, including the personal hackathon.

Lifehacking 101


Q) Where and when can we find upcoming Self Spark events? 

A) We have a SparkProductivity event lined up in DC at 1776 on December 9, 2014. Use the code “techcocktail” for 15% off! In March 2015 we’re bringing Spark Weekend to San Francisco. More details to be announced here.

Q) What’s the grand vision for Self Spark?

A) To teach every man, woman and child how to lifehack. In the short term, we plan to expand to 220 cities in five years.

Q) What has fueled your success along the way?

A) Ever since childhood, I’ve viewed challenges as opportunities for creative solutions. Growing up below the poverty line (without even knowing it) propelled me into entrepreneurship. At the age of 6, I started selling candy for profit during recess. I wanted to escape the financial trap my family was in. Throughout school I worked and made sure that my jobs were directly related to positively impacting those around me. While doing my triple major/quadruple minor in college, I was also busy launching 7 organizations, zipping through 7 part-time jobs and internships, and helping with 10 research studies before graduation. One of my favorite experiences over the years was in Singapore where I discovered the power of social change through business.

James Norris childhood

Q)  What’s one of your favorite quotes to spark productivity going forward?

A) “Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” — Laurence J. Peter

Q) Could you please share some of your favorite tools or best practices?

A) It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. There’s no panacea app for all that ails your productivity. But there are some great tools out there for specific tasks.

1. Try to help get your to-do lists done in an effective, efficient way. The interface is clean, sleek and easy to use.

2. keeps my team organized and working together without losing precious time on back and forth communications.

3. literally tracks your productivity as you work with a sharp eye on distractions. If you spend too much time browsing your Facebook feed, this app will drop your score. For competitive types, this app is great; it’ll get you ramped up to win against your [less productive] self.

Q)  Closing thoughts?

A) Yes! Check out this dedicated lifehacking page created just for readers of Tech Cocktail. I have a challenge for you:

1. Choose your track (mindfulness, sleep, productivity, etc.

2. Go through the steps for one week

3. Let the team at Self Spark know how you did for a social media feature of your awesome achievements.

Now let’s all go forth and conquer our days, weeks, months…lives!

James Norris meditating in the snow


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Mariya Bouraima, avid world traveler and proud mompreneur, launched Aveya Creative in 2012 — the first branding and marketing agency in the nation’s capital dedicated to entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. The grand mission? To transform innovative ideas into extraordinary brands. Core services at Aveya Creative are brand strategy, logos and taglines, pitch coaching and design; optimized copywriting, ad creative, press releases and social media management are also part of the mix. Mariya has led the growing team with endless enthusiasm to develop branding and marketing for entrepreneurs in diverse industries across the United States, including prominent tech startups at incubators such as 1776 in Washington DC and Y Combinator in San Francisco. Mariya loves to get involved in the startup community through writing for Tech.Co, Medium, LinkedIn Pulse and WeWork Creator magazine. She speaks annually at Modev UX conferences, teaches at General Assembly and Startup Institute and moderates panels at Next Tech and Ladies America events. She is a mentor at Lean Startup Machine, Conscious Venture Lab, Bethesda Green incubator and KickDC accelerator. She also hosts BrandNew roundtable discussions and serves as judge at the GW New Venture Competition at her alma mater, The George Washington University. Before Aveya, Mariya worked in account management at Ogilvy while completing her Masters in Brand Management in Paris, France; managed social media at the State Department; ran the Institute for Sustainability at GWU in DC from day one including branding, events and communications; was in sales and marketing for The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis hotels. She's always loved freelancing on the side: French translation of marketing campaigns for companies like Airbnb, P&G, Danone and several government clients including DOS and DOJ. Her 10+ years of experience are diverse as they are full of energy for branding and marketing -- always on the pulse of innovation and positive impact.

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