43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Small milestones and some Friday remainders

Wow. Crazy month. One hundred fifty thousand unique nerds stopped by here in the last 30 days. That’s just nuts. God knows I’d love to give most of you a peck on the cheek for it, but for now I’ll just say “thanks a million.”

So to concurrently celebrate our one month annniversary, 400th Google Group member, and the soft launch of our sweet 43F Schwag Room, I’m doing what any productive person would do: I’m taking the weekend off.

Still I wanted to leave you with something, so here’s another quick batch of reamaindered tips to play with and cogitate upon. Have fun, enjoy your weekend, and see you kids on Monday.

  • Google around what you want - When you’re stuck finding what you want on Google, stop trying to locate the exact item you want and instead focus on similar items. You can often find a pointer to what you’re really looking for right in the middle of a page about similar, related stuff. Google is even experimenting with their own flavor of this called Google Sets.
  • Start with a blank sheet of paper - If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your lists and complicated systems, close all your windows, shut down your computer, and take out one sheet of blank, white printer paper. Make bullets of all the stuff on your mind. Like the mini-review, the “mini-dump” can be a great way to re-contextualize your immediate goals and concerns (without getting too wrapped up in your byzantine personal system).
  • Psych yourself out - Give yourself five or ten TODOs that you know will only take a few seconds to do; knocking them all down in three minutes is like giving your brain a boost of nitro. Confidence builds and you get a running start on leaping the pile of harder stuff.
  • Log completed TODOs - It’s a little extra work, but try motivating yourself by logging completed items rather than just deleting them. Many apps already do this, but if you’re a text fan, consider just moving items to a “done.txt” doc. Mornings you’re feeling hard on yourself, you can pop out your done list and see how productive you can be.
  • Use Exposé - I know a lot of folks were initially really amped about Exposé but stopped using it after the novelty of the animation wore off. But, it’s really quite a useful tool for cutting through crufty windows. Try using F11 to clear the decks completely and expose the insane personal dashboard you can build with GeekTool.
  • Declare a “vertical day” - When you need to—and when you know you can get away with it—turn off everything and close all your lists, datebooks, and calendars. Work on one and only one project all day until you get to a satisfying point of completion or resolution. Penance is you have to do a mini-review the next morning to catch up. But it can be worth it to finish a valuable project that’s been languishing for want of time (or an absence of “important” interruptions).
  • Learn from your friends - Email the most productive friend you have and ask her for a secret tip you could try today. Everybody loves sharing their own life hacks.
  • Use controlled vocabularies - Try to use the same verbs for all similar activities. Don’t say “Write” if you mean “Email” and don’t say “Research” if you really mean “Google.” Consistent naming is a searcher’s best friend and also makes your lists easier to sort by context.
  • Try a million apps (but learn to love only one) - I always encourage people to try the many wonderful free and cheap apps that are out there. You’d be amazed how much you can improve your work by using the right tool. At the same time, resist the urge to constantly relocate your “production environment” from one tool to a newer, notionally shinier one. Get good at evaluating when it’s really worth the effort and ramp-up to move to an entirely new system. And, whatever you do, backup first, and don’t try it in the middle of a big project.
  • Document your haircut - Particularly if you travel a lot, you’ll find yourself getting your hair cut by lots of different people. It you’ve gotten a haircut you particularly like, record the location and your operator’s name. Ask him or her to describe what to ask for next time in their own words and take a photo for future reference.
  • Buy a new coffee cup -You'll accomplish more in your life with a handsome, big-ass 43 Folders coffee mug. (I'm Merlin Mann, and I approved this product placement.)

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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