43 Folders

Back to Work

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.

43F Series: "Back to GTD"

Everybody falls off the Getting Things Done wagon from time to time.

Maybe you got completely caught up on your work for a while, but then got lazy and slid back into slack. Maybe you had a crapflood of new projects that made you "too busy" to do GTD properly. Heck, maybe you just decided it was a big waste of time and threw in the towel altogether. But, for whatever reasons of frustration, neglect, or (my favorite) "being too busy," it's not at all unusual to find you've slipped on your reviews, quit capturing, and basically let your little system fall into seemingly hopeless disrepair. And, I'll bet you're paying for it now, right?

You're wandering around, unsure what to do next, and you've lost confidence in your external system as a trusted outboard brain for your life. Stuff piles up. You hide the piles under newer piles. You make assurances to yourself. You start managing by crisis or by whomever in your life has the shrillest tone of voice in a given day. You've unintentionally started using the walls of your skull as a whiteboard (and you know how reliably that works).

Ultimately, you're spending all your time worrying about what else you should be doing, so instead of focusing on completing a single important task at a time, you've landed back in "plate-spinning mode," half-assing your way through a dozen poorly defined projects at one time (mmmm...multitasking). Nothing's getting done. You're procrastinating. You're eating pie and crying. You want to crawl under your desk and die. Sucks, doesn't it?

Not to worry. This is a horse you can chose to remount any time you like, and that's why I'll be bringing you a periodic "Back to GTD" series over the next little while. Yes, we'll speculate and hand-wave (just a bit, I promise) about how we fall behind and why we stay behind -- but mostly we'll be focusing on specific and very concrete strategies for quickly getting back up to speed. We'll figure out how to shed the pieces of your system that aren't contributing, as well as consider how to refactor and improve the parts that are. We'll re-personalize your system in a way that owes less to The Canon and more to your own unique needs, challenges, and constraints (after all, that was kind of the idea in the first place).

Queued up first for a bit later this afternoon: "Do a fast mind-sweep." So dust off your copy of Getting Things Done, and reacquaint yourself with the finer points of Chapter 5, "Collection: Corralling Your 'Stuff.'" (Not required reading, per se, but always remember "Tip 0" for getting back into GTD: re-read the book, because it's almost certain to reinvigorate your interest in getting back on top of things.)

Addition (2006-07-24 16:48:38): I’m remiss not to mention — if you’re totally new to the world of David Allen’s GTD, here are some good starting points on the 43 Folders site:

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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