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.


Sample Chapter from "The Creative Habit"

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (Free 1st Chapter)

As long as I've outed myself as an obsessive fan of Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, it seems sensible to point you to this free excerpt of the book, which includes the full text of the book's first chapter.

While it doesn't capture the clear-eyed usefulness of the book nearly as satisfyingly as each subsequent chapter does, it will give you a feel for why this book's different from your garden-variety aspirational artist porn -- this woman does not believe in "natural genius," and she damned well expects you to work your ass off, every day:

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Deciding Whether to Read a Book: Some Wildly Reductive Heuristics

Smiles!People send me lots of books, so I have to decide rather quickly whether one should be added to the ambitious pile of stuff I already really want to finish reading.

On the off chance that you care or find it useful in developing your own filtering, here's my insanely reductive, mean-busy-guy way to make a 90-second decision on whether to read a new non-fiction book from an author I'm not familiar with.

It does not matter whether you agree with these; that's how you know they're personal heuristics. Also, they are almost uniformly unfair and unkind. So.

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Free Books for your Amazon Kindle

My pick of the week on the latest episode of MacBreak Weekly wasn't so much my new Kindle (which I do like a lot), but rather a few services that make it easier to find and download free books you can read on the Kindle. These picks included Project Gutenberg, Manybooks.net, and the wonderful Feedbooks.

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TOPICS: Amazon, Books, Kindle

Ask MeFi on sane solutions for book clutter

Advice for clearing literary clutter | Ask MetaFilter

There's a thread on Ask Metafilter about book-centric clutter that's getting lots of good comments right now. It started when matildaben asked for "practical and creative systems for reducing the number of books I own," saying:

The vast majority of my possessions by weight and volume consists of books. I would like to develop a system for getting rid of them that will have a very practical, behavioral, methodical approach to the emotions that compel me to keep them...

The solutions people offer are thoughtful and suggest that many of the better ideas are coming from fellow bibliophiles who've struggled with The Book Problem.

Like several folks in the thread, I think this comment from occhiblu gets to the heart of what makes clutter such an emotionally complex problem:


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The original 43 folders.

I was recently skimming through my beloved old 1934 edition of Progressive Indexing and Filing, which I inherited at a young age from my grandmother—probably my first piece of productivity porn (the book, not my grandmother.) On page 85, I stumbled across a delightful little gem. Apparently, not only did the David not invent the tickler file (news to me), but it's been around since at least 1934.

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DailyLit: 5-minute literature chunks, via email or RSS

DailyLit: Read books by email and RSS.

To know me today, you'd never imagine how many hundreds of pages a week I read in college. Surprises me, anyhow. While I've devolved into an accomplished skimmer of Harper's and the The New York Times Magazine, I rarely find (or, make) the time to finish a whole book about anything that's not related to "work." That's why I'm intrigued by DailyLit, a service that leverages rather than battles the tendency to hang out online.

The idea is simple enough: select a "free" book that appeals to you, then, every day or two, via either email or RSS, the DailyLit robot sends you a section that's readable in about five minutes. If you want more at any time -- the digital equivalent of turning the page -- just click to have the next installment sent, then keep on a'reading.

The variety of available selections is handsome, including favorites like Tristram Shandy, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Devil's Dictionary and over 400 more. Feeling ambitious? Try War and Peace (675 5-minute parts), The Count of Monte Cristo (581 parts), or Don Quixote (448 parts). Want something a little lighter? You can't go wrong with Candide (42 parts) or A Modest Proposal (4 [still hilarious] parts).

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Guest Review: Fraser Speirs on "Time Management for System Administrators"

Review by Fraser Speirs

At the end of 2004, Merlin blogged about possible extensions or specialisations of Getting Things Done for specific constituencies, such as programmers, students or parents. Thomas A. Limoncelli’s book Time Management for System Administrators is perhaps the first example I’ve seen of a book which advocates a GTD-style workflow with some modifications specific to the system administration “lifestyle”.

Book Structure

The book is laid out under the following thirteen chapter titles:

  1. Time Management Principles
  2. Focus Versus Interruptions
  3. Routines
  4. The Cycle System
  5. The Cycle System: To Do Lists and Schedules
  6. The Cycle System: Calendar Management
  7. The Cycle System: Life Goals
  8. Prioritisation
  9. Stress Management
  10. Email Management
  11. Eliminating Time Wasters
  12. Documentation
  13. Automation

The core chapters for GTDers to think about are really chapters 4 through 8 and 13. The material about maintaining focus, handling email and managing stress will be familiar to regular readers of 43 Folders.

Although Time Management for System Administrators is not a simple modifier on GTD, in the sense that the author doesn’t explicitly reference GTD until the epilogue, much of the structure of Limoncelli’s suggested workflow will be recognisable to those familiar with David Allen’s book. Although Limoncelli doesn’t refer to GTD in the body of his work, it’s hard to avoid certain very obvious parallels such as the analogy of one’s memory as “RAM” (c.f. Allen’s “psychic RAM”) and the strategy of “Delegate, Record or Do” (which sounds much like Allen’s “Do, Defer or Delegate” in another order).

However, it would be unfair to dismiss Time Management for System Administrators as a GTD knockoff. It’s certainly not. One area in which I have personally found GTD to be weak is that of helping me decide ‘what to do next’. Certainly, David Allen does have some advice on that matter, but I always found it a little difficult to relate to my workplace. Limoncelli’s Cycle System is, I believe, a very strong contribution to filling that gap in GTD.

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456 Berea Street reviews _GTD_

Getting Things Done (Book review) | 456 Berea Street

Roger Johansson at 456 Berea Street has a short review of Getting Things Done that nicely captures the book's tactical practicality and the subsequent stress relief it can bring (which happens to be favorites of mine too):

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43F Podcast: The Perfect Apostrophe

The Perfect Apostrophe

O'Reilly and Associates logo, detail

In which I undertake writing a book on productivity. (10:50)

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Self-help addiction a $8.5B/year business

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: SHAM Scam -- The Self-Help and Actualization Movement has become an $8.5-billion-a-year business. Does it work?

I remember thinking a lot of these same thoughts during the self-help mini-bubble of the late 80s/early 90s.

The "over and over" part is the key to understanding the "why" of what investigative journalist Steve Salerno calls the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (SHAM). In his recent book Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (Crown Publishing Group, 2005), he explains how the talks and tapes offer a momentary boost of inspiration that fades after a few weeks, turning buyers into repeat customers. While Salerno was a self-help book editor for Rodale Press...extensive market surveys revealed that "the most likely customer for a book on any given topic was someone who had bought a similar book within the preceding eighteen months." The irony of "the eighteen-month rule" for this genre, Salerno says, is this: "If what we sold worked, one would expect lives to improve. One would not expect people to need further help from us--at least not in that same problem area, and certainly not time and time again."

Surrounding SHAM is a bulletproof shield: if your life does not get better, it is your fault--your thoughts were not positive enough. The solution? More of the same self-help--or at least the same message repackaged into new products. Consider the multiple permutations of John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus -- Mars and Venus Together Forever, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution -- not to mention the Mars and Venus board game, Broadway play and Club Med getaway.

TOPICS: Books, Links



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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