43 Folders

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

Darwin's 43 Folders

I finally had a chance to visit the Darwin exhibit at the Field Museum here in Chicago a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to read his autobiography, which had been gathering dust on my bookshelf (but placed at eye level, so visitors can see how smart I am, natch).

It has some fascinating bits about his work habits that will be of interest to the 43 Folders crowd, including this:

"... I keep from thirty to forty large portfolios, in cabinets with labelled shelves, into which I can at once put a detached reference or memorandum. I have bought many books, and at their ends I make an index of all the facts that concern my work; or, if the book is not my own, write out a separate abstract, and of such abstracts I have a large drawer full. Before beginning on any subject I look to all the short indexes and make a general and classified index, and by taking the one or more proper portfolios I have all the information collected during my life ready for use."

So, to all you Yojimbo and DEVONthink nerds, Darwin says, "First!"

Also of note, especially since Merlin mentioned Neil Fiore's book on procrastination today:

  • He only did real work, i.e. writing or experimenting, for three hours a day.
  • He personally answered every letter he received, from fellow scientists and crackpots alike. I wonder what he would have made of email.
  • Anything non-scientific that he read for pleasure, novels, poetry, etc, he had read to him by a servant or family member. Coincidentally, I'm looking for someone to do this for me. Please email if you're interested.

On top of all this, the man was rather sick his entire adult life and still had time to come up with one of the most influential ideas ever. Man, I need to go get some work done.

About wood.tang

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Matt Wood is a writer, former IT drone, sometime realtor, and full-time stay-at-home dad. He and his family live in Chicago.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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