Productivity tarbabies and dark nights of the geek soul
Merlin Mann | Jul 14 2005
Being a whistle-stop tour of 43F posts on the highs and lows of honing your productivity mojo. With special attention to the times when all that fiddling makes you less productive and more stressed out. Sampling from 10 months of posting on keeping your footing when the TODO lists get too numerous, steep, and weirdly fractal.
- 43 Folders: Are you really getting anything done? The more legitimate beef that people have with squirrely programs like GTD is that you can easily get so obsessed with “maintaining your system” that you never actually do anything. Speaking as someone whose head effortlessly disappears into his own ass on a regular basis, I can confirm that this is a known issue and a very clear risk.
- 43 Folders: A Year of Getting Things Done: Part 2, The Stuff I Wish I Were Better At - Of course, I can write some of the time and effort down to “research” and the fact that part of my work involves learning about new productivity widgets, but I can’t avoid the fact that I still don’t have a method of handling all my information (and actual work) in a way that I find satisfying and intuitive. Plus I have to admit to some terrible habits surrounding my ongoing search for “The Perfect System™.”
- 43 Folders: Patching your personal suck - I guess I’m saying I love the idea that once you’ve started admitting your “personal suck,” you can sample from an endless menu of tricks that may or may not help you improve things in your life. As long as you don’t lose an eye and can still get your work mostly done on time, where’s the damage in experimenting?
- 43 Folders: Systems, ciphers, and the dirty little secret of self-improvement - Whether you’re talking about Freud, The Old Testament, or the self-improvement meme du jour, I think the idea basically stays the same; listen critically, reflect honestly, and be circumspect about choosing the parts that comport with your needs, values, and personal history.
- 43 Folders: Because buying new running shoes is more fun than actually running - You can buy a successively more costly and high-quality series of claw hammers until you’ve reached the top of the line, but until you learn how to use them skillfully, you’re going to keep making ugly bird houses.
- 43 Folders: Fractal Implementation, or, On the Dangers of David Allen’s Finger - This is my stake in the ground about GTD: if you can stay focused on drawing from its best practices to get more of the important things in your life accomplished, then you’ll be a happy kid. For real. But if, like a seeming majority of people I encounter these days, you allow yourself to obsess endlessly over the minutest details of implementation and maintenance—well, you’re screwed. You’re wasting your time.
- 43 Folders: Beginner’s Mind, Metropolis, and all our unnecessary parts - There have definitely been times in the past couple years when I’ve felt the same way about maintaining “my system”—driven as if by a motor from one list to another, dashing to connect all the pieces into some theoretically unified field theory of my life. It’s nutty.
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.”