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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?

Dan Markovitz's picture

Here's a terrific auto-reply I...

Here's a terrific auto-reply I came across recently that might (just might) get people to stop and think before hitting you with another email. Check this out:


I am experiencing an overflow of messages in my email IN box to the point that I will never be able to catch-up.

If you are awaiting an answer from me on an old message or if your present message contains important information that I need to know, please pick up the phone and advise either myself or my assistant Sally (123-456-7890).

If you just routinely put me in the CC list, please avoid this.

My function is not to read emails, but to manage a company and the important relationships that I have with my Customers, Suppliers and Employees.

Thank you for your cooperation in helping me dealing with this problem."




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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