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.

Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life

How to get organized and stay that way

When I was up in Toronto last week, I was interviewed by Samantha Grice from the National Post about 43 Folders, productivity stuff, and the sad sorry state of my own day-to-day productivity. Very "Brady's Bits."

As a sidebar to the little profile she wrote, Samantha also asked me to draft a few words on my favorite fast tips for getting it together.

Although these will each be painfully old news for you who've been with 43F for a while, I wanted to share the original draft of what I came up with, because it's sufficient as a cocktail-napkin version of what I think 43 Folders has to say to people. You may share it with the disorganized and confused in your own life, if you like.

I also loved the limitations of this particular exercise: 300 or so words in five bullets that represent my best day-one tricks. Due in minutes. My kind of challenge. Although I did go over on word count, and I'll own that.

Herewith: **Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life.**

  1. Reduce noise - We all have innumerable inboxes, interruptions, and distractions that are part of work and life -- you can't change that. What you can do is get more hard-nosed about the elective diversions that you invite into your world. Cancel a subscription for a magazine you never read or sign off an annoying mailing list. Needles get easier to find when you aren't constantly adding new hay to the stack.
  2. Write things down - Ever find a piece of paper in your office with seven digits on it? You know it's a phone number, but whose? Get ruthless about jotting down ephemeral information if you'll need to recall it later. Remember that your brain is a creative organ with limitless creative possibilities -- but it makes a really crummy whiteboard.
  3. Focus on action - My favorite productivity book, "Getting Things Done" highlights how anything you want to do in life eventually comes down to intentional physical activity -- even if it's something as mundane as "take out trash" and "call Mom." Learn the habit of planning your world around action verbs rather than fuzzy nouns. "Implement Strategy" is not a task; it's a project. "Call Jim about strategy" is a very do-able "next action" that keeps the ball in motion.
  4. Get out of your inbox - Many of us are habituated to living out of our email inbox, voicemail, and the other "in baskets" of our lives. Instead, try to set aside regular, periodic times when you trawl for the new content in your life -- then get back to work! Inboxes are delivery systems, not workspaces. The real work is happening in your brain and practically every other place that's not an inbox. Stop allowing yourself to be brow-beaten by the latest, loudest, or most dramatic item that's landed in your world.
  5. Get pickier - You are the sole person in your life who gets to decide where your time and attention can go. Take that responsibility seriously by not wasting time on junk. You know in your heart what's really important to you -- does the current direction of your time and attention reflect that? Is "kid hugging" time where it should be in proportion to "Blackberry checking" time? Be mindful at the highest level about where you focus your energy, and always strive not to squander it on undeserving activities.
this new life » Blog Archive » Merlin Mann does's picture

[...] I try to avoid...

[...] I try to avoid posts that are pretty much just links to people smarter than me, but I think this one is worth it.  Merlin Mann posted his top 5 super obvious, no-duh organization tips.  I’m linking to it because it’s short, it’s useful, and it contains one really excellent, worth-pondering sentence: “You are the sole person in your life who gets to decide where your time and attention can go.” [...]




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. »