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

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Ideas, Execution, and the Rare Auteur

Idea Man.

ideas are just a multiplier of execution - O'Reilly ONLamp Blog

Derek Sivers' short blog post from 2005 has been making the rounds lately -- it came to me via Chairman Gruber -- and I have to say, I can't stop thinking about it. I think this is really profound thinking around the fundamental misunderstanding many people have about the value of ideas.

In a nutshell, Derek says ideas are valuable only inasmuch as they can be multiplied by execution. So, if you remember your 3rd grade arithmetic, you can figure out the product of even the most fantastic idea when it's multiplied by zero execution.

I, too, frequently encounter this attitude of "Sign the NDA! Sign the NDA!" any time someone wants to tell me about their squirrelly idea for making a bajillion dollars on the internet, and I almost always end up saying the same six things to The Idea Men:

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Berkun's Game-Changer: Disruptive, Breakthrough Essay on Transformative Jargon Utilization.

Why Jargon Feeds on Lazy Minds - Scott Berkun

Georege OrwellScott Berkun, writing on how buzzwords cheapen language, dull meaning, and enfeeble our thinking:

If I could give every single business writer, guru or executive one thing to read every morning before work, it'd be this essay by George Orwell: Politics and the English Language.

Not only is this essay short, brilliant, thought-provoking and memorable, it calls bullshit on most of what passes today as speech and written language in management circles. And if you are too lazy to read the article, all you need to remember is this: never use a fancy word when a simple one will do. If your idea is good, no hype is necessary. Explain it clearly and people will get it, if there truly is something notable to get. If your idea is bad: keep working before you share it with others. And if you don't have time for that, you might as well be honest. Because when you throw jargon around, most of us know you're probably lying about something anyway.

Marry me, Scott. (And, yes: I, for one, will stop saying "game-changer" now. Tic noted.)

Orwell's excellent 1946 essay is freely available in numerous locations and in various formats across the web. I like this vanilla version.

[via delicious/charliepark]

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Foo for Bar: Kicking Ass with Outcome-Based Thinking

The other day, I was talking with someone who is trying to encourage a Getting Things Done-like work approach amongst the people on his team. We started talking about which parts of David Allen's GTD system appear to have the greatest long-term impact on the people who have adopted it and who ultimately stick with it for years.

When asked to distill everything down to its most powerful concepts, I came up with three, and here's how I'd summarize each:

  1. Outcome-Based Thinking. Articulating in the most specific terms possible what a successful outcome looks like for any given use of your time. Or as I like to put it, "How will I know when I'm done with this?"
  2. The Next Action. Knowing that you don't need to track everything you could conceivably do about a Project; you just need to know the next physical action that would get you closer to completion.
  3. The Review. Accepting that the heart of the Trusted System that lets you move through a day with a high tolerance for ambiguity is the knowledge that eventually everything you're doing gets looked at once a week without fail.

While I think stuff like ubiquitous capture, the Natural Planning Model, the Two-Minute Rule, and many other bits are arguably as important, these are the three things that I feel have the biggest impact on how people's results change over time.

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Making Time to Make: One Clear Line

This article is Part 3 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Then: Part 2, The Job You Think You Have

Tick tock.Could an email recluse like Neal Stephenson just cowboy up by agreeing to a monthly chat session or the occasional visit to a fan forum? Sure, he could. Could a volunteer intern scan Neal’s email once a week for particularly wonderful notes? You bet. Could he even conceivably just drop all the blast shields, open a chat room, “livestream” from his desk, and then spend the rest of his life answering questions from people with nothing better to do? Maybe. Sure. But, probably not. He’s already told us as much, hasn’t he?

The point, from my perspective, is that Stephenson possesses the man-sized pant stones to declare precisely what the people who enjoy his work should expect from him. And, in so doing, he has drawn a clear line that some might find hard to love, but that is very easy to see, understand, and respect. No, he didn’t hire someone to answer his email, or get a kid to pretend to be him on Twitter, or install a Greasemonkey script that “autopokes” people on Facebook (I’ll leave you to guess which two of these I do).

Neal Stephenson essentially said, “Listen, gang, here’s what I’m going to make for you: novels.” And then, he went back to typing. To working. On work.

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The Monthly Pimp: August Edition

The Monthly Pimp Hat

Here's the latest stuff Merlin's been up to, here and abroad.

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Making Time to Make: The Job You Think You Have

This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Finally: Part 3, One Clear Line

Photo of Former Beatle, Maker, and Non-BlackBerry Carrier, John Winston Lennon (1940-1980) If you're a publisher, journalist, author, blogger, musician, artist, designer, cartoonist, or any other sort of person whose job it is to connect with people by communicating ideas, it's natural and wholesome for people who are interested in what you do (and many of whom are certainly makers-of-stuff in their own right) to develop a relationship with your work and to want a way to participate in it, add to it, and build upon it. It's equally great to reciprocate in a way that's collaborative, fun, and useful. God knows, it's anybody's dream to have people interested enough in what you do to find that they want to reach out to you. Talk about a first-world problem.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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