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

Brian Oberkirch on reducing noise and stealing back attention

Trimming the attention sails at Like It Matters


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The 4-Hour Workweek
by Timothy Ferriss

Friend of the Folders, Brian Oberkirch, has gone on a tempo-attentional crash diet:

I had a “no mas” moment. I have a project generating a ridiculous amount of non-productive email. I have social networking service emails crufting up my inbox. I burned time in online ‘debates’ I just shouldn’t have gotten involved in. And I read Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, which unhinged my mind and helped me think totally differently about goals, workflow, and being a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

I've met with Tim Ferriss a couple times (fascinating guy) and have a galley copy of his new book sitting on my desk right now. With what Brian says (combined with the raves for the book I heard from a couple folks I trust last night), I expect I'll be starting into it today.

Back to Brian's project: while you may not necessarily need to make your world as completely devoid of noise and distraction as Brian has, I encourage you to review his list. There's a gold mine of tips in there for ways you might also choose to wrest back your attention and start responsibly firewalling your time.

Loathe as I am to admit it, I've recently had to adopt one of Brian's dicta and have already used it twice today:

Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

Anything you'd add? Got a felonious time burglar you've recently arrested?

Rok's picture

i think a lot of...

i think a lot of people would agree that the incessant string of e-mails these days is to produce a proper paper trail for accountability... since the e-mails PUSH their way into someone's attention field in the in-box, the sender therefore thinks he/she is PUSHING the attached accountability of that project's next stage into someone's court. (i.e. "well, i sent you an e-mail that said the project would cost twice as much. you must have seen it.")

problem is, what they are really doing is assigning responsibility to the next stage of a project to someone else, with no clear way to follow-up to cover their own accountability for it. there's an old saying i am fond of... "The difference between accountability and responsibility is that you can delegate responsibility." Therefore, those who are ACCOUNTABLE for a project's outcome (or a stage's particular outcome) can e-mail all they want to attempt to assign RESPONSIBILITY, but unless the sender gets a firm commitment, positive or negative, from the recipient, the onus still lies with the SENDER to Get Things Done.

This has been your life lesson for today. Please collect your two cents at the register. ;-)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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