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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?

Dr. Smoke's picture

Make ‘no’ the default answer...

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

Read a certain way, this could mean simply saying "No" to every new request. This may work well if you're running your own business, but it does carry the concurrent risk of cutting one's self off from potentially good opportunities. If the request demands an immediate answer, then "No" may be appropriate given one's current workload. However, getting the requester to document their request in detail — including what's expected of you and what's in it for you — and collecting that as a GTD "In basket" item for later consideration as to "Next Action" may be a better way of handling the situation.

For those who are employees, simply saying "No" isn't an option. However, there are appropriate ways to go about keeping one's plate at work from running over. First, if your plate is truly full and you can't take on an extra task or project request from your boss without duress, then you need to be able to prove it: documented project plans, due dates, etc. are the necessary evidence. Once you've shown your plate is full, you can ask your boss what they want to take off your plate so you can attend to the new task. If that's not an option, then you can offer meaningful suggestions as to other colleagues or team members who might be able to do the project. If this negotiation is handled respectfully, and both you and your boss are reasonable people, then you can usually avoid being overworked while simultaneously helping your boss get the new job accomplished and demonstrating your own management abilities.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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