43 Folders

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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.

Merlin's blog

Attention & Ambiguity: The Non-Paradox of Creative Work

Psychology Today: The Creative Personality

[via delicious.com/huxant, w/a reminder by Jack Shedd]

Some days, I can't decide how I feel about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say: "chick SENT me high"). He's written some great stuff, but, sometimes, he mixes Big-Word academicspeak with anecdotal observation in a way that smells a little hokey to me.

So, although I'm trying not to audibly roll my eyes at a pop-psychology Top 10 list about creativity's "dialectical tension," I definitely am interested in one of his observations about the "paradox" of creative people.

Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility

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What Makes for a Good Blog?

My friends at Six Apart recently asked me to make a list of blogs that I enjoy. I think they're planning to use it for their new Blogs.com project. Unfortunately, I'm late getting it to them (typical), but if it's still useful, I'll post it here in a day or four.

As I think about the blogs I've returned to over the years -- and the increasingly few new ones that really grab my attention -- I want to start with, ironically enough, a list. Here's what I think helps make for a good blog.

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Closed Doors and Casualties in the "Coup d'attention"

'Weird how people bow, scrape, and apologize for the interruptors of their work. Corporate America is Stockholm Syndrome with a power tie.'

Last night, I got home from a lovely one-day trip to do some speaking, and I was catching up on a couple emails before I went to bed. One of the messages was a thoughtful note from someone who works in the US Government (and whose name, job, and identifying elements I'm changing to protect his or her privacy).

"Sally," I'll call her, likes the 43 Folders stuff, but has legitimate concerns about how all this "attention management" stuff might send a wrong or hostile message to her colleagues. It's a great point.

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Time & Attention Presentation: "Who Moved My Brain?"

Who Moved My Brain? Revaluing Time & Attention (slideshare.net)

a brain in a jarThanks to my pals, Dara and Shawn, I've been preparing for a return visit with the folks at GoDaddy to deliver a couple talks on Inbox Zero and Time and Attention.

As I've been going over my slides for the Time & Attention talk, I realized I hadn't shared how the material has evolved since it premiered at Macworld in January. Which is to say, "Kind of a lot." So, I've posted the updated deck.

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Task Times, The Planning Fallacy, and a Magical 20%

Overcoming Bias: Planning Fallacy

Via The Guardian, via Chairman Gruber, comes this post from the new-to-me blog, Overcoming Bias. It discusses the research behind a common cognitive bias known as The Planning Fallacy, which is a repeatable, documented error in thinking that apparently explains why we all tend to "underestimate task-completion times."

It's summed up nicely by Gödel, Escher, Bach author Douglas Hofstadter's Law regarding the time it takes to do anything:

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take Hofstadter's Law into account.

Sounds familiar. From the Overcoming Bias post:

People tend to generate their predictions by thinking about the particular, unique features of the task at hand, and constructing a scenario for how they intend to complete the task - which is just what we usually think of as planning.


But experiment has shown that the more detailed subjects' visualization, the more optimistic (and less accurate) they become.

Cf: The Optimism Bias.

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Gmail Outage or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love GTD Contexts

My Toot about the Gmail outage

Like thousands of people yesterday, I was annoyed and inconvenienced by Gmail's unexpected 2-hour dirtnap. But, wow. Apparently, it just irrevocably hijacked the whole day for some folks. And even sent a few into a Dark Afternoon of the Soul that most 19th-century Romantic poets would have found a bit histrionic.

Now, as a user, polemicist, and nemesis of Apple's MobileMe problems, I'm not here to criticize the frustration about a broken cloud service; I know that feeling all too well and have the dents in my wall to prove it. But, I do want to talk about some strategies you can choose to employ whenever a change in access to anything unexpectedly rearranges your day. Because things do break, and there's no reason you have to break with them.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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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. »

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