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

A vacation from the endless lists

The “Not Insane” To-Do List @ AMERICAN DIGEST

LET’S FACE IT, we all have far too much to do. But the only reason this is so is because of the proliferation of productivity tools that respond to our insane lust to be “productive.” Driving this insanity is the To-Do list which is, being limitless, is unlimited in its ability to drive us insane. It’s time to stop the To-List insanity. Toss all you’ve previous To-Do Listing Systems you’ve got out — paper and/or electronic — and convert to this new, improved certifiably not-insane system.

Systems like Getting Things Done have gotten many of us into the habit of maintaining multi-page, contextual, cross-referenced lists of what we could be doing in a given day. And while I’m certainly not here to slag my “next actions,” I will confess that tending a theoretically unlimited list of verb phrases can start to feel like I’m entertaining a house full of ungrateful in-laws who won’t take the hint.

So, Gerard’s “invention”—very much in the conceptual spirit of the Hipster PDA, I’d say—addresses the “insanity” of a sprawling daily task list by forcing your ambitions south into reality. Pick the three things that you will do today, and then do them. That’s it.

Is it complete, pseudo-scientific, or cognitively gratifying in the same way that GTD can be? Hell, no. But it is a terrific concept for any day when you need a break from all your lists shouting at you—when you want to set aside “your system,” knock out some valuable work, and just go home.

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Marc's picture

Whippet - I agree with...

Whippet - I agree with PaulD. It's not so much that DA doesn't address prioritization as the emphasis he puts on recognizing context, available time, and energy. Priority comes after those filters have been applied to the list.

Much as I rant about hating having to switch contexts any more than necessary, it's a fact of life in these fast-paced times. Having a system in place that allows me to quickly scan everythign I need to do while out and about (@Errands) just before I head to my car has been uncredibly helpful in making the most of my lunch break or other errand-running jaunts.

Similarly, the other context tags I use allow me to make smart decisions about what the most important thing I can be doing might be. When I have ten or fifteen minutes before my next meeting or appointment, I usually scan my @Calls list and knock off a phone call or two that, while not urgent, needs to be made.

In the nearly five years I've been honing my GTD skills, I have seen countless adaptations of GTD by people who see the core value in the methods Allen teaches to their individual work and life style. Merlin is a perfect example of that.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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