43 Folders

Back to Work

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

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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

David Seah: The Printable CEO

David Seah - Better Living Through New Media » The Printable CEO

David Seah has a very clever method for making sure he stays focused on the kinds of activities that bring him and his growing business the highest value. He basically scores himself a weighted grade for how valuable each completed task is to his core goal of growing his business. Ooooo...SAT bubbles!

As stupid as this system may sound, it’s actually working. When I get to fill in a bubble, I feel a little surge of pleasure…I’ve been conditioned by standardized testing, apparently. I also get visual confirmation that I’ve done something to move my business forward. This is an interesting example of feedback in a game design sense; over the course of a week, it’s easy to evaluate your progress at any given time. It’s also easy to pick something to do, based on what you’ve done before. The bubble chart becomes a kind of game board in itself. Instead of feeling guilty for not getting to all your tasks on your ToDo list, feel good that you did make progress. Look upon your worksheet for the proof, and feel the sense of accomplishment in your gut!

He reports back a month later:

I know I’m making progress because I can see the numbers every day. The overhead of tracking these tasks is very low because it’s bubble-based, and the concrete goals list makes it easy to focus on something productive to do. What’s really cool is that these forms help maintain continuity in my daily goal-directed actions; that’s another prerequisite for good feedback in a game system...

I was also talking to some friends over lunch, and it occured to me that The Printable CEO has a strange appeal to procrastinators. One of my friends is the Anti-Procrastinator. She just gets things done, and a To Do list is a great tool for her. Another friend is a procrastinator-perfectionist; he doesn’t start those big personal projects because he doesn’t have the time to do them right. I can identify with that myself; I have no trouble planning out a project in terms of hours, resources, and manpower, but I just would rather not do it for something I love to do. I want it to flow more naturally. As I type that out it seems a little silly, but that’s the way things are for me. The Printable CEO is not a To Do list. It’s an I DID list, rewarding productive behavior when it happens to happen. That’s an important distinction to note. And because it only rewards the correct actions, it is also a kind of conditioning tool.

Great stuff. Don't miss these posts, and be sure to print out his cool little PDFs, so you can play along at home.

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


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


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


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

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »