43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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

Action Based

43f interview: David Allen on Getting Things Done with your team

Productive Talk #04: Teams

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the fourth in a series of conversations that David and Merlin recently had about Getting Things Done.

In this episode, David and Merlin talk about the role of GTD in teams and how to lead by example.

(Running time: 08:46)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

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43f Interview: GTD's David Allen on the "Someday Maybe" list

Productive Talk #03: Someday Maybe

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the third in a series of conversations that David and Merlin recently had about Getting Things Done.

In this episode, David and Merlin talk about how people use their someday/maybe list, as well as look at some ways you can make best use of your project list and support materials. David also makes a case for capturing 100% of whatever has your attention. (10:22)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

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6 powerful "look into" verbs (+ 1 to avoid)


In one of the recent podcast interviews I did with David Allen, we talked about procrastination and how he tries to get people -- especially knowledge workers -- back to just "cranking widgets."

I love this term, because, in his humorous way, David captures how any thing we want to accomplish in this world eventually has to manifest itself in an intentional physical activity. Seemingly over-huge super-projects like "World Peace," "Cancer Cure," or "Find Mutually Satisfying Vehicle for Jim Belushi" all still come down to physical actions, such as picking up a phone or typing an email.

And David is wise, in that interview, also to highlight the importance of what he refers to as a "'look-into' project," which just means that even deciding if a project is interesting and useful to undertake can be a project in itself. It also means that, even with an outcome of "deciding," that meta-project still consists solely of physical actions. In this case, it's the physical actions that help you locate the additional information you'll need to make a timely and wise decision about whether to proceed at all. In sum, no matter what, it all still should come back to widgets and how they get cranked.

Like a lot of you, I've struggled with how you turn "thinky work" into physical action widgets, but here are a few of my favorite task-verbs to get you started in the right direction. They're presented here in a rough approximation of the order in which I use them in my own "look-into" projects:

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Productive Talk 02: David Allen on patching GTD "leaks"

Productive Talk #02: Patching Leaks

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the second in a series of conversations that David and I recently had about Getting Things Done.

In this episode, David and Merlin talked about ways to patch the leaks in your GTD system -- including the role of ubiquitous capture and scrupulous review. (10:33)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

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GTD: Priorities don't exist in a vacuum

If you're a fan of Getting Things Done, you're familiar with the Four Criteria Model for choosing tasks. It's where the rubber meets the road in GTD, because it's the way you decide, in the moment, how any one of those wonderful tasks you've been tracking in your big system actually gets done.

As common sense as it seems to GTD'ers, this model is one of the more controversial aspects of Getting Things Done for a simple reason: it posits that priority is not the only factor in deciding what to do at a given time. It's just one of four factors, which include, all told:

  1. Context - Where are you? What tools are available? What are the limits and possibilities unique to this moment?
  2. Time available - Do you have, for example, 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or 30 hours available to you right now? What tasks could you accomplish given the time you have?
  3. Energy available - Are you full of energy, is your ass dragging, or are you somewhere in between? Which of the tasks on your list could you finish, given that energy level?
  4. Priority - If you had access to all the tools, opportunities, time, and energy you needed, what's the most important or time-sensitive thing you could do right now?

When I'm helping coach people on getting it together, they're often puzzled by this seeming bit of new-agery -- partly, I suspect, because most of us have been conditioned all our lives to think that pre-ordained Priority stamps always trump everything, all the time, always, forever, in all cases, end of story. But is it true, reasonable, or even physically possible to always work this way? Can you will yourself into doing only your identified high-priority items anytime, all the time?

Nope, and I'll show you one reason why.

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Glenn Wolsey: 6 email tips

Glenn Wolsey—6 Ways To Organize - Your Mail Application

Glenn Wolsey has a great little post on how he's set up and is using Mail.app. He's got some very smart stuff here, including an intriguing approach to minimalist mailbox management:

Create 3 folders and name them Follow-Up, Interesting & To Do. Then, as you check your emails file them straight into the applicable folder.

Later, when you have time you can go straight to these folders folder and work through them. It will be much quicker to see what needs attending to and you are more likely to might be motivated to spare a few minutes clearing your to-do folder.

The "Interesting" folder is a new one to me, and, although I personally favor a more verb-y approach to my email buckets, that would be a cool way to bubble up stuff you don't want to miss after a big round of processing.

As we covered in Inbox Zero, it's all about liberating the actions out of your mail. Like any of this stuff, if the system makes sense to you and gives you transparent affordances for instantly knowing "where it goes" and "what you need to do about it," then you're on to something.

Nice work, Glenn!

Folders for organization _and_ action

I recently ran across a mostly-helpful post on a website that mentioned the importance of using email folders for "organization." For some reason, this made me wince. I suspect it's because the day I got good at email was the day when I stopped organizing my messages and started focusing on doing something about them. Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.

As one of the holiest sacraments in the Church of Productivity Pr0n, folders -- be they physical, digital, mind-mapped, or purely notional -- represent the canonical way to put information into thoughtful piles. Folders of any sort afford a kind of higher-level, low-stress thinking that GTD fans in particular seek out. Folders do lots of stuff well:

  • allow me to keep like with like
  • let me not have to think about the things I don't need to think about right now
  • help me know how to find things when I do need them
  • assist me in switching gears quickly
  • make my life less chaotic and messy

So, yeah, folders are great at all of these things, for sure, and yeah, they do help you to get organized, especially in the sense of having less stuff in your life that's sitting around unprocessed. But at what point can a folder become an impediment to smart and timely action? Put more generically: how do we not allow the buckets and cubbyholes in our lives to become affordances for procrastination and dis-organization?

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Gina: Action-based email setup

Empty your inbox with the Trusted Trio

Gina's written up a post on her modified version of the email setup I laid out in my MacWorld Inbox Makeover article. She's stripping down to three email folders (besides the inbox), and seems to be having good results with the action-oriented results:

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Michael Linenberger: Liberate tasks from your inbox

Get Out of the In Crowd

Fast Company speaks with author Michael Linenberger about not living out of your inbox. Although, like most GTDers, I'm not a big fan of priority- and date-based task management, the advice Linenberger gives is otherwise solid gold from my standpoint. Remember, if you're using your inbox as an ersatz to-do list, you're setting yourself up for a constellation of terrible habits and nearly certain procrastination. Quoting:

When you see a requested action in an email, don't do it immediately. It might be one of the least important things for you to do that day. Instead, immediately identify what the action is and put the email in a task folder. Change the title so that it states what you need to do, and put a due date on it and a priority level. You can do that in 15 or 20 seconds. Then you move right on to the next email. Now you'll get through your to-do email remarkably fast. Drag all of your other emails into a process folder, so you now have an empty inbox, which is a really nice feeling. The next thing you do is go to your task list and ask, "What are the most important things I need to do today?" That's the stuff that would keep you from going home at the end of the day.

[ via: Lifehacker ]

Recap: Turning procrastination into action

Monday's the perfect day to climb back on the horse; if you've been feeling behind and guilty about the crap you've been putting off, have a quick browse here. And when you're done, try a fast dash to get back your confidence and knock down a few "mosquito tasks."

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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