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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.


Crossword-maker Merl Reagle on index cards

YouTube - The Hipster PDA in Wordplay

In the Will Shortz crossword puzzle documentary, Wordplay, Merl Reagle discusses how he uses index cards to collect and track ideas on the go.

[ via: The Hipster PDA in Wordplay - Lifehacker ]

I love two things in particular about this.

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Open Thread: Mac Mind Mapping, and how you use it

I've recently revived my interest in doing mind mapping as a way to capture ideas and plan out projects.

Back in the day, I'd use Inspiration (which registration regrettably died a few years ago), and in more recent times I've played with free apps like My Mind and FreeMind, as well as tested more costly apps like NovaMind and MindManager.

If you also like to mind map, I'm curious to hear which of these you and your Mac are using, how you're using it, and what made you choose one app over another. Got a preference? Prefer regular old paper and markers? Using lots of images in your mind maps? Which pay app is most worth the dough, and why?

And for folks who are new to mind mapping, here's a few links to get you started:

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Percolating your blog drafts

Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas) at LifeDev

Good advice on developing a tunnel for how you draft stuff that will eventually go on your blog. I think #3 ("Let it develop") -- while it could benefit from a bit more explanation -- is the really interesting part. Try not posting immediately, and return to the draft later on:

It’s hard to say how long this step lasts. Sometimes it’s all over in 15-20 minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks. The important thing is not to rush the process.

5ives: The text file behind the curtain

I do something similar with 5ives, where this kind of process is really conducive. I have a running, two-year-old collection of ideas, partial lists, orphan titles and lots of "one fun line I could build a good list around." Goofy as many of them are, some actually sat around since the site began until they evolved to the exact choices, wording, and order that I liked.

Tip: Use text folding

Since this kind of collection method can get messy (over 100 partial piles of junk in one text file), I like to use text folding inside TextMate. This makes it easy to "roll up" lists in such a way that just the title shows, then you can individually click a little "reveal" arrow to see the hoisted contents. Something like this (note the arrows in the gutter):

The beauty part is that I can still append text to the bottom (or prepend to the top) using Quicksilver since it's all just plain old text. Neato.

[ via Gina on Lifehacker ]

7 Principles of "Idea Dumping"

7 Idea Dumping Tips (How To Manage Diarrhea of the Brain) at LifeDev

LifeDev lays out some good tips for "idea dumping," based on these seven ideas.

  1. ALWAYS carry paper
  2. Be descriptive when writing it down
  3. Plan for not planning on it
  4. Good environments matter
  5. Think big picture down
  6. Organize your thoughts
  7. Know when to stop

Of course I'm a big fan of #1, but I also think there's some terrific advice in #3 (Plan for not planning on it):

One problem with the way we typically brainstorm is this: it’s unnatural. We bang our heads against the wall while chanting “think, think”. If you’re like me, your brain doesn’t like to be told what to do. The second I sit down and “make” myself be creative, my brain goes on lockdown. Nothing in, nothing out. There’s no such thing as forced creativity.

I’ve found that the best way to allow your mind to form ideas is when I’m doing something else. You have to be ready at anytime to jot something down. I know this point is a lot like #1, but I can’t stress it enough.

AskMe: How to become an eccentric (or just look like one)

Suggest eccentricities for me to adopt | Ask MetaFilter

From a fun AskMe thread:

In my quest to become more distinctive, I'm looking for suggestions of harmless eccentricities to adopt. Who better than the MeFi hive mind to provide them? Anecdotes of eccentric folk you've known in the past welcome.

This reminds me of that stage where teenage girls randomly start to affect a terrible british accent, or when college freshmen suddenly stop wearing shoes and take up raw foods and the shakuhachi. Of course, this is not to say that I haven't had ideas of my own.

’Fess up: what was your goofiest affectation and what made you stop it?

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Turning procrastination into your shitty first draft

Are you procrastinating? Or are you just thinking? | Gadgetopia

I think Deane's insights on procrastination and programming might actually be even more true of writer's block and for many of the same reasons. But perhaps unlike coding, the gestation period of a writing project almost always benefits from a series of very small starts.

While there are dozens of tricks for psyching yourself out of a perceived writing slump, you eventually learn that blocks are sometimes there for a theoretically plausible reason -- because you really haven't figured out what you're trying to say yet, but suffer crippling anxiety and dread about even committing the "shitty first draft." So, as with the programming example, your brain beats itself up for being such a laggard and you may stay locked in creativity-sapping inaction. But the truth is you're probably working on it already. The only way to find out is to start someplace. Anyplace.

As Neil Fiore wisely points out in his excellent book, The Now Habit, we usually have more than enough information to just start most any job. Don't begin by fussing about perfection or the "right" place to start, just start. You can get help midwifing the process through tools like outlines, mind maps, or talking to a duck.

But, if you've truly procrastinated even getting to the point where proper gestation and idea seeding can begin, you're understandably in a bit of trouble. Because now you have to go straight to producing the artifact (the code or the article or whatever) while your brain still craves that extra bit of time to turn it all over. Like they say, a pregnancy takes nine months, regardless of how many women you've put on the job. Don't slip on a deadline that makes you try to make an infant in one night.

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Mindfulness, categories, and the 14 kinds of animals

List of animals (Borges) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I've been enjoying a wonderful book that a reader thoughtfully sent to me a couple weeks ago. It's called Mindfulness, and it presents some fascinating evidence on the ways that we process and parse our world, as well as the peculiarly human things that can happen when we unintentionally (natch) embrace mindlessness.

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Catching the brain rain

Warm, Partly Cloudy, 100% Chance of Brain Rain

I like James' ideas for catching the "brain rain" -- a way of setting aside a few minutes each day for firewalled creativity through idea generation and capture. This kind of habit could fit nicely into an end-of-day ritual, maybe before a quick review and daily cleanup.

Keys to catching the brain rain:

  • set aside 10 minutes, each and every day
  • have pen and paper handy
  • allow yourself the freedom to think crazy thoughts
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Flow: How action and awareness get things done

A few good links and snippets on Flow -- a topic that's come a couple times before here and on the group, but which seems more germane than ever given a lot of what [the royal] we have been talking about lately. More deets on buying the book at the end, although there seem to be plenty of chewy resources on the web if you just want an introduction.


From c2:

"Flow" is a mental state of deep concentration. It typically takes about 15 minutes of uninterrupted study to get into a state of "flow", and the constant interruptions and distractions of a typical office environment will force you out of "flow" and make productivity impossible to achieve.

From wikipedia:

As Csikszentmihalyi sees it, there are components of an experience of flow that can be specifically enumerated; he presents eight:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernable).
  2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time - our subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is not too easy or too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.

Not all of these components are needed for flow to be experienced.

From The Man Who Found the Flow:

Of the eight elements, one in particular emerged as the most telling aspect of optimal experience: the merging of action and awareness. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence sounded a similar theme, when he wrote that "happiness is absorption." As the thirteen-century Zen master Dogen pointed out, in those moments when the world is experienced with the whole of one's body and mind, the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life discloses an intrinsic richness and joy in being. For Csikszentmihalyi, this complex harmony of a unified consciousness is the mode of being toward which our own deepest inclination always points us.

From Interfaces for Staying in the Flow:

In summary, interfaces that are targeted at improving user's ability to stay in the flow shouldn't underestimate the importance of speed in supporting creativity, quality, and enjoyment. Every time there is an interruption, literal or conceptual that gets in the way of users concentrating on their tasks, flow is lost. Slow interfaces, which I define as any that get in the way of users acting on their work as quickly as they can think about it, are problematic.

Online places to pick up a copy of Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

James Fallows on Mac thinking tools

Mac Programs That Come With Thinking Caps On - New York Times

_The Atlantic_'s James Fallows -- who also wrote one of my favorite pieces on The David -- has done a piece for the New York Times_ on the various "thinking tools" for the Mac. He covers all the goodies, including Devonthink, Tinderbox, Circus Ponies Notebook, AquaMinds NoteTaker, and my current steady date, OmniOutliner Pro (including a nice shoutout to Ethan's _amazing Kinkless GTD for OO).

These programs are of obvious interest to the Mac community, but the much larger community of non-Mac users also has good reason to keep an eye on them. Some are simply better than their current Word counterparts, illustrating features and approaches that PC users will want once they have seen them. The companies making two of the programs discussed here have announced forthcoming Windows versions.

Others may follow next year, when Apple Computer begins producing Macs based on Intel processing chips like those that PC's use. That change will make it easier for software vendors to create both Mac and PC versions of their programs; the introduction of the Mac mini, discussed here two months ago, makes it easier and more practical for users to switch back and forth between platforms.

[ Thanks, Brian Oberkirch ]




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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