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.

[Whitepaper, haha] My System for GTD

Below i'll outline how i do my thing to get through the day and to "GTD" - at the bottom i'll note problems i have with the system.

FYI, I'm an engineering manager in charge of 11 engineers in a number of disciplines

My layout is nowhere near as pretty as Patrick Rhones whitepaper, it's a little more stream of consciousness - so apologies if your eyes bleed.

I've included in brackets the keys i use to invoke actions in case people care.

I use [="Blue"]Microsoft Outlook[/] for [="Red"]Calendar[/] and [="Red"]email[/] ? my folder structure looks like this:

Outlook Today
Personal Folders
!--------------Archive 2006
.Archive 2002
.Archive 2003
.Archive 2004
.Archive 2005

The Archives are broken up by year because otherwise my archive folder was too slow with 13,000 emails in it.

I have [="Blue"]3 macro?s[/] set up for my email Alt+1 (moves email to archive), Alt+2 (moves email to personal), Alt+3 (moves email to Respond/Action).

All notifications of new emails have been been removed and more often than not i completely close Outlook when I'm not actively working with email.

I use [="Blue"]Copernic Desktop Search 2[/] (Alt+W) to search for any emails or files on my pc. I?ve tried a few options but Copernic gives me the best view of search results so that I can easily pick out any info I want. This allows me to have a common dump of emails in the archive folder without any tagging or bumpf.

The Calendar portion of Outlook only holds meetings that I am to attend. It?s set to view one day. Every Monday I print out a snapshot of the working week to come.

This weekly snapshot I bulldog clip to the inside cover of my [="Red"]ubiquitous capture tool[/] ? [="Blue"]a day to a page A4 diary[/].

This allows me to write to it and view it at a glance.
Inside a poly-pocket that is glued to the page facing this calendar is a [="Blue"]telephone list[/] of daily contacts ? a handy regular reference.

The diary I do not normally use as a diary, but it allows me to automatically see when I've entered notes.

I use one of those 4 colours in a single pen jobs to write into my diary. (http://www.epinions.com/content_97060687492)
Black = heading, blue = information, red = action, green is still open for discussion. I?ve started using Patrick Rhones symbols to give some structure to my notes. These notes I then ?regularly? parse into [="Blue"]MyLife Organized[/] (Ctrl+Shift+M) inbox so that I have them all stored in once place. (I check off in my diary those items that I?ve written into MLO)

At a convenient time, I review those actions that I?ve dumped into my MLO inbox and sort them into my appropriate contexts/projects and perhaps do a little more thinking on them.

MyLife Organized allows me to filter my actions to see all relevant types and is set up to throw [="Red"]reminders [/]at me for things such as peoples birthdays and any of my engineers going on holiday in the next week. ( I use MLO rather than outlook for these because I can set up lead times rather than getting caught out on my fianc?s birthday  ) I used one of the standard templates in MLO to set up my work because it can simply regenerate groups of daily tasks like check voicemail and paper inbox.
Without MLO doing this I could trick myself into pretending I was on top of things, but when I see ?Process email inbox? 6 days old, I know I?m flagging.

I use a bog-standard [="Red"]in-tray[/] for any mail or paper work to go into before I process it. Any physical documents I want to keep go into the [="Red"]A-Z hanging file[/] behind me.

When I?m working at my pc and I find an interesting titbit like a quote or something I just drop it into [="Blue"]Evernote[/] (Cntrl+Alt+v) for future reference. The fact that it remembers the web address it was copied from is a great help.

My [="Red"]desktop [/]I?ve copied from lifeclever.com, all I have on it are 6 icons:
3.Current Projects
4.Archive (my documents)
Recycle Bin
Shortcut to my USB drive (I?m hoarding everything in preparation for shortly being made redundant) 

And a text bar which is my input for [="Blue"]Slickrun [/](Alt+Q). A little genius of a tool which enables me to keep my desktop so clean and tidy.

I use [="Blue"]Netvibes [/]to hold a number of shortcuts and RSS feeds for my personal browsing habits, a dashboard of stuff that I ?need? to review, all at once.

I?ve a new toy/aide that I?m learning to play with right now; I just recently bought an ?[="Blue"]Invisible Clock II[/]?. It has 12 alarms can be set in vibrate mode ? useful for mental triggers to do things like ?drink water @ every alarm? ? also has a useful meeting timer for pacing meetings.


  1. I don't have a consistent way to remember work that i've delegated to others. If i've given an action to one of my engineers - should i stick it into my @agenda for that person with an expected delivery date on it? (or just remind me to discuss with them their progress) Or should it go in a "Waiting For" list, which i find i never really look at.
  2. I have a large number of items that don't deserve to be called projects, but aren't single step items. How do i handle those.
  3. My next actions tend to be somewhat weak, i've tried using "freemind" to flesh things out but i find myself resisting "next actions" a lot of the time.
  4. I procastinate like hell still.
  5. How do i carry my actions with me, MLO prints out actions in a poor format (if i were to print out my @agenda items for example) and any attempt to share with an electric format is too much trouble - as is rewriting lists on paper - too much work.
  6. Any more that you guys can see in the way i do things....

TOPICS: Projects

About GrahamC




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. »