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

A vacation from the endless lists

The “Not Insane” To-Do List @ AMERICAN DIGEST

LET’S FACE IT, we all have far too much to do. But the only reason this is so is because of the proliferation of productivity tools that respond to our insane lust to be “productive.” Driving this insanity is the To-Do list which is, being limitless, is unlimited in its ability to drive us insane. It’s time to stop the To-List insanity. Toss all you’ve previous To-Do Listing Systems you’ve got out — paper and/or electronic — and convert to this new, improved certifiably not-insane system.

Systems like Getting Things Done have gotten many of us into the habit of maintaining multi-page, contextual, cross-referenced lists of what we could be doing in a given day. And while I’m certainly not here to slag my “next actions,” I will confess that tending a theoretically unlimited list of verb phrases can start to feel like I’m entertaining a house full of ungrateful in-laws who won’t take the hint.

So, Gerard’s “invention”—very much in the conceptual spirit of the Hipster PDA, I’d say—addresses the “insanity” of a sprawling daily task list by forcing your ambitions south into reality. Pick the three things that you will do today, and then do them. That’s it.

Is it complete, pseudo-scientific, or cognitively gratifying in the same way that GTD can be? Hell, no. But it is a terrific concept for any day when you need a break from all your lists shouting at you—when you want to set aside “your system,” knock out some valuable work, and just go home.

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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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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

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