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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”What’s 43 Folders?”
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?"

Dan's picture

So many times when we...

So many times when we deal with technology, we have no purpose behind what we are doing. Honestly, I think often times the world is nothing more then a "facination engine", designed to keep us occupied with the "latest-greatest" thing. The latest news, the latest product, the latest celebrity scandal. Very fews times do we ask ourselves how the current solution or the current information is actually better then what we had before. It's like we are all peeping toms on everyone else's thoughts- we feel important to "know what is going on", even if we have no use for the information.

Before you collect another RSS feed, ask yourself this question: "What if what I know right now is good enough?" What if you woke up one day and had all the information you needed to get what you want in your life? Could you realize that situation if it happened? The fact is that the more we look for new solutions, the more we are not using any of the solutions we already have. Sales people know that the majority of people don't do anything what what they learn, which is why it's so easy to create more money. If people don't take action, then they don't solve their problem, so you can always go about creating another product that will do that for them. Or, you can always convince them that they have a problem that they might not even have.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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