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

Video: Merlin's Time & Attention Talk

Macworld '08: Merlin Mann / "Living with Data"

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This was the first edition of a talk that's already starting to evolve rather quickly. The slides are available at Slideshare, and you can yoink yourself an embeddable version right here:


Last month, I premiered a new presentation at Macworld San Francisco 2008 called "Living with Data" (previously). Since this talk was part of the "Vision" track, I used the opportunity to start gathering some threads around the idea of time and attention that had been floating around my head for a while (I think you can see the genesis of some of this stuff in my IDEO visit).

The IDG folks were kind enough to post a movie of my slides + the audio. Unfortunately a lot of folks were having trouble getting to the page (it doesn't appear to have a permalink), so here's a Flash version you can watch from right here.

Thanks to Paul Kent and Kathy Moran at IDG for being such wonderful hosts. And very special thanks to Mike Monteiro (and his now-famous meeting tokens) for inspiring the talk in the first place.

jeffwhitfield's picture

Sometimes, a phone call is just a phone call

This made me think of something....

When it comes to getting others to value your time and attention, I find that many times the problem is that people try to take the form of communication they are using and attempt to turn it into something that it's not. It's as if they are trying to miraculously morph it and change it in some different way, as if they're discovering some new, innovative way to use a specific form of communication.

Take a phone call, for instance. Phone technology has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. The sound quality is better. There are features like call waiting, voice mail, conference calling, *69, and such. You no longer are tethered to the kitchen wall and can receive calls anywhere in your house, in your city, hell, anywhere in the country. Consequently, it also means that you could potentially receive more calls. Now, you could say that an iPhone, a Treo, or a Crackberry makes you more productive and allow you to better manage your phone calls. But the question is: Does it make your phone calls any better? No, not really. An iPhone isn't going to make the conversation with your silly aunt from Ohio any better. For all intents and purposes, even after 20+ years of evolution in telephone technology, a phone call is still just a phone call.

E-mail isn't all that much different. E-mail started off as just plain text. Then it grew to allow you to add emphasis, bold things, italicize things, and eventually allow you to format your text just like you would in a word processor. Now we can use HTML code in e-mails and have images embedded in them. Your silly aunt in Ohio has now discovered the stationary feature in her e-mail client and is sending you stuff with pictures of her dogs tiled in the background. Even with all the advancements made to it though, an e-mail is still just an e-mail.

We also have text messaging, instant messaging, Twitter, FAX, forums, bulletin boards, bathroom walls, and all sorts of other ways to communicate with other people. All of these have a specific form factor and serve a given purpose. There's no way you'll be able to use a bathroom wall the same way you would use an e-mail. You could...but your co-workers probably wouldn't like it. Nor would they like the idea of doing a complete office meeting with nothing more than text messaging. It's possible...but it's not nearly as effective as doing it face to face.

So the next time you start bouncing multiple e-mails back and forth between you and your co-workers and clients, ask yourself a few questions: Would it be easier and more efficient if I just picked up the phone and called this person? What's the most efficient method of communication given the circumstances? What's the best way to not only honor my own time and attention but the time and attention of others involved?

Sometime a phone call is just a phone call.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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