43 Folders

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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.

September, 2004

Mental dialogues, yak-shaving & the triumph of the 'mini-review'

From time to time in the middle of an interruption-driven week, I’ll find myself in the weeds and struggling to think where I should park an item. My brain speaks informally with itself:

Oh, man, I don’t have time for this…uh…I guess it’s a TODO so, put it on next actions….but…no, it’s really got some pieces to it so maybe projects…oh, crap, I’m too busy for this, I’ll just toss it in inbox and deal with it later.

I’ve finally learned to diagnose these odd dialogues as a symptom of a simple problem: I’m mired in seemingly important details, I’ve fallen out of touch with my “stuff," and, damn it, I need to do a quick mini-review.

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Routing searches through Dowser

Fans of Sogudi or Quicksilver can re-route their automated searches through the neato Dowser script/app.

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Why we're "Mac-centric," and what it means for you

I don’t want to start a religious war in our nice, quiet little beach community, but I think it’s important to address some folks’ concerns that 43 Folders is too “Mac-centric.” This post will, I hope, function as a one-time statement of purpose to which I can point the curious or merely annoyed in the future. Thanks for bearing with me for a few minutes.

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You shall know us by our Notational Velocity

Powerful, simple note program with incremental searching.

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Does this "next action" belong someplace else?

"Next actions" are the cornerstone of Getting Things Done. In the same way that you can't have a great band with a shitty drummer, you'll never master GTD until you get yout next actions straightened out.

I’ve noticed that there are often items on my “next actions” list that hang around a lot longer than they should. I scan and rescan and sort and add and delete, but there’s always a few stragglers who hang out there for a week or more. Eventually this starts to vex me, and I try to debug why things aren’t getting done.

For myself, I’ve discovered that most of the items are just in the wrong place, or, if you prefer, in the wrong time or context. It can be instructive to pull each straggler out of line and try to figure out whether he really belongs someplace else. Here’s my usual suspects, ordered by how often each is the culprit behind my unintentional slack.

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Mark Hurst reviews "Typeit4me"

This is a bit of a milestone day for 43 Folders. In addition to our new 43folders.com domain name more or less working (finally), it’s also my honor to present our first guest post, brought to us today by Mark Hurst.

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Shadow Plan 4 beta for OSX

The new public beta of Shadow Plan 4 for OSX came out today, and it looks pretty neat.

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Terminal Nerds II: Electric Boogaloo

516234_3c61dab15b_o Our post about getting started with the Terminal command line and various related discussions swirling around the site have started to produce some remarkable results.

First, our home-grown OSXCLI tag on del.icio.us has yielded a wondrous crop of links for the OSX Terminal newbies. Although the reading level does seem to be inching northward, there’s still a ton of great stuff that should help folks at many skill levels.

Also, a followup CLI discussion on the 43F Google Group has provoked some very smart people to talk about how they use their Macs. The most fascinating comes from my new favorite fake nemesis and CLI stud, John S.J. Anderson, who has posted a terrific breakdown of his setup and emacs world that you should not miss:

I’m a sysadmin and the father of a two-year old, which means my life is almost completely interrupt-driven. My system allows me to quickly capture new input as it happens, and then more fully process it later, which is key to me avoiding a complete mental meltdown. [read it all »]

There are many other highlights on the thread itself that I’ve printed out for future reference. Here are a few:

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Intermission, or "I, for one, welcome our new productivity overlords"

91sbelvedere1Anil's post was swell, and I think I agree with almost all of it (esp. the meeting-up part), but it did freak me out just a little. So, I think it's time to do our exercise that helps keep the line between reality and fantasy a little less blurry; I'm glad everybody's digging the site and checking out the GTD book, but I feel like I should clear a few things up before this gets too weird.

First off, to paraphrase Clarke’s Third Law, “Any sufficiently advanced system that makes you re-examine your basic assumptions is indistinguishable from a cult.” GTD makes people enthusiastic because it satisfies their lizard brain and gives them an outlet for turning anxiety into action. There are no robes, no secret handshakes, and the most important article in the liturgy is arguably a modestly priced Label Maker. People just get into it because it freaking works, and because it returns a modicum of control in a world where handles on life can be slippery to grasp. That’s really it, I swear.

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Naming project support files

I've started keeping all my one-page, per-project support files in the same folder as my GTD lists. I still use “@” as prefix for contextual lists, but now I use “&” to indicate a support file.

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Programmers on GTD, prioritizing

Comparing GTD with concepts in programming, especially WRT prioritization.

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Quicksilver B30 introduces triggers and content searching

New features continue to move app beyond its modest roots.

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OSX inventories, tips & hack collections

I love hearing how other people have set up their OSX Macs and learning about which programs they like to use for various tasks. I’m putting together a (very long and growing) profile of my own, but until that’s finished, I wanted to point to a few folks I’ve bookmarked who have posted great software and setup inventories as well as smart tips for workflow and productivity hacks. Here’s a few I like.

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43 Folders Google Group

Google Groups : 43Folders

I’ve been hearing about the Beta of Google Groups recently and wanted to give it a spin, so I’ve created one for 43 Folders.

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Next actions: Both physical _and_ visible

Just a GTD quickie, but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

David Allen defines next actions as “the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.” [ch. 2, pg. 34; emphasis mine]. I’m finally realizing that this subtle change in thinking can have profound effects on the way you look at the stuff in your life.

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Living in XML?

Danny O’Brien, among others, has been noting how many nerds have started piping as much of their life as possible through personal XML feeds, using stuff like RSS and Atom.

I’m intrigued by this, but, apart from the 100 sites I read each day in NetNewsWire, I’m only dipping a toe into the world of personal RSS. I get a feed of shows my friends are attending and Netflix recommendations, but not too much more. I know there's a lot more out there.

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Remap modifier keys, shut off 'Caps Lock'

Kill 'caps lock' and make your life livable again, at last.

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43F Interview: Alcor, Developer of Quicksilver

Our first 43 Folders interview is with Alcor, the developer behind our favorite productivity app, the mighty Quicksilver.

Vox43 Folders: What initially made you want to build Quicksilver? Has your interest or focus changed since you started, and how?

Alcor: Quicksilver started out as a module based applescript for OS 9 using a healthy dose of AKUA Sweets. It basically supported drag and drop and performing of some basic actions and scripts on the dropped items or the finder selection. It launched stuff too, but was an unwieldy dialog of applications you had to sift through. The initial point of it was to speed up day to day tasks like emailing and file manipulation. It sometimes took longer to do stuff using it than by hand, but was mostly a fun toy. The idea behind it was sound, and that is what made it through to the OS X incarnation. The focus has not changed since the beginning, but the implementation has become far more flexible (though perhaps less reliable.)

43 Folders: Were there particular things that weren’t happening with the other launchers that made you want to take a crack at it?

Alcor: The main thing that OS X seemed lacking was OS 9’s ability to drill down into folders with astounding speed by typing portions of the names of each folder and opening them. 9 let you navigate a well organized hierarchy of directories almost completely blind just using keys. The column view in X was nice, but wasn’t nearly as snappy. Dealing with files X was just a lot less fun. LB was a huge help for a while, but back then still didn’t allow sub searching within directory contents and still required the mouse to move files about. In the hopes of bringing back the quick file system drilling and manipulation, Quicksilver was given a Cocoa transfusion and came sputtering back to life.

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Are you _really_ getting anything done?

Glassofwater_2I wanted to address a couple criticisms that get made about producticity plans in general and Getting Things Done in particular.

Not to mount a big defense, exactly, but I think there are good points to mention and discuss because they contain germs of insight about whether and how you can actually improve yourself.

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Drop the text file, and step away from the Powerbook

MacBreakZ - Your Personal Ergonomic Assistant

Designer, gentleman, and Vice-President of my Personal Board of Directors™, Doug Bowman, recently told me about this cool OSX app for reminding yourself to take frequent breaks.

MacBreakZ is a personal ergonomic assistant that monitors our keyboard and mouse use and helps us structure our computer use in a healthy and constructive manner, thus preventing computer-related injuries from developing.

I’ve long suspected that I will eventually have a hunch and a couple glass eyes from my execrable ergonomic habits, and this seems like a smart solution for reminding myself what my brain often neglects: sometimes it’s nice to stand up and walk around.

Apparently, you can even set it to lock up your box until you’ve successfully completed your break. Might be a bit much for most folks, but I’ll bet it’s a sure way to save your eyes and wrists from some hard mileage.

Request a library book...via Amazon

Jon Udell's bookmarklet is a Top 10 lifehack.

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Tips

Calling all Terminal nerds

When you find a web resource that would be helpful to a new OSX Terminal user, post it to del.cio.us with the tag, “OSXCLI”. It's a project or something.

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Full keyboard access and Finder shortcuts

Simple System Preference changes yield sexy results

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Quicksilver: moving around and training yourself

Most people pick up Quicksilver as an application launcher—a virtual valet that shortens the path to your desired application using a couple of intuitive moves. It’s powerful stuff, that, and it’s reason enough to use something like Quicksilver in your workflow. But, the sexy stuff comes when you learn what you can do to stuff with Quicksilver. Let’s start with some baby steps, then look at the advantages of making yourself use Quicksilver as much as possible.

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_Home Comforts_: Illustrated housekeeping pr0n

"...maybe what the man page for an immaculate apartment might look like..."

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Posts, posts, posts.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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