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


pigeonA few things I've learned I don't need to know about the second they happen:

  • a new comment has been added to a 43 Folders post
  • a friend of mine has posted a new photo to Flickr
  • a very long message from a mailing list I never read has been delivered to my inbox
  • someone on LiveJournal is still disappointed with their (job|love life|roommate|hair|lunch|other)
  • Technorati reports a new post somewhere in the world tagged "web 2.0"
  • the temperature in San Francisco has dropped one degree Farenheit
  • my FedEx package is still in Memphis

And, yet these are all things that I used to monitor manually via my RSS reader. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Refresh all. Madness.

The whole purpose of an RSS feed, it seems to me, goes straight to the "trusted system" notion in Getting Things Done -- if I have a reliable way of knowing when something really important changes in my world, then I don't have to think about it when it's not actually changing, right? And, then, for the less than life-threatening deltas ("new kitty photo!"), it's probably even okay to just check in every few days or so (cf: "tickler file").

But, if, out of some bizarre compulsion, I find myself hitting "Refresh" every 5 minutes, then either a) I don't trust the system, or b) I'm deliberately defeating its purpose as a monitoring and notification system. But, in any case, it's no longer a "notification" if I am the one constantly generating the requests -- instead I become like a sad little pigeon, gamely tapping my lever in the hopes that a pellet (or a hug) will fall out.

So, yeah, I'm thinking about adding a few feeds back to my reader, but you can bet I'm going to tweak the hell out of the refresh settings. Now that I've been away from it for a few weeks, I have to say: there are an astonishing number of things in the world that I don't need hourly updates about. Daily, weekly, even monthly status reports provide more than enough information about a lot of change.

Take a week off, and see if you don't agree. Maybe even ask yourself: "What is it, precisely, that I'm keeping up with?"

Chaim Krause's picture

Merlin, I think this falls under...


I think this falls under the category of "Just because you can, Doesn't mean you should". Sounds like you were avoiding making the tough decisions about what was really important to you and thus choosing your priorities (and subsequently your daily schedule). Sometimes the hardest thing to do is wean yourself of interesting things that, under examination, are just fun filler that add no substance to your life. But it sounds like your little break was a break-through. I only mention this out of experience as I am now where you were right before your break and a hope that maybe my mentioning this will help somebody else shake themselves free. A good portion of my weekend will be spent determining what my real priorities are. I suspect my ToDo list (which is a someday/maybe list in denial) will shrink by 50-75% this weekend. Sure, there are a lot of activities I enjoy doing, but I will be better off doing five things well, then twenty things poorly. Besides, when one spreads their self so thin, half the time spent on such varied "projects" is trying to remember where you left off last time and asking yourself, "What was the reason I had to do it that way?" Ding, times up, next task! :)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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