Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
To Do List
Matt Wood | Dec 19 2007
I thought for sure the one thing that would nag me about the iPhone when I finally got one was its lack of a to-do list app. To my surprise though (and maybe it makes sense, as I'll explain), now that I have an iPhone I haven't felt the need for a to-do app at all. It's an egregious omission for most people to be sure, but for me it's turned out to be a non-issue. To understand why, I need to provide some context.read more »
Gordon Meyer | Nov 13 2007
Sometimes surprises come from unexpected places. (Um, I guess that’s part of why they’re surprising.) Case in point, yesterday I opened Sciral Consistency as I’ve done several times a day for the last five years. This time, however, something happened that hasn't occurred since sometime in 2005. A notification window announced that a new version of the application was available for downloading.read more »
Merlin Mann | Nov 14 2006
In implementing Getting Things Done, you're wise to understand that words are powerful things. And the king of words in GTD, as in life, is the verb.
How you articulate an activity or how you choose to frame a project within the context of your larger life and work will say a lot about how successful you can be in turning all your "stuff" into atomic actions that will work in support of valuable outcomes. This starts with simple things like beginning next actions with a physical verb, but there's actually a lot more subtlety (and potential confusion) to it.
In fact, one of the hang-ups that many people encounter in planning their work in GTD is that, no matter how hard they try, they can never seem to get the distinction between single-action verbs and the larger "look-into" style projects that may require sub-actions. This comes up a lot, and it can lead to frustration and untold friction.
Well, if you've ever shared this affliction of not knowing your verbs from a hole in the ground, I have some rare and unexpected GTD gold.
Buried in the companion booklet for the Getting Things Done FAST! CD set (currently out of print) is one of the more useful bits of GTD instruction I've seen outside the book. It's a list of "Project Verbs" versus "Next-Action Verbs" and, man, is it ever useful.read more »
Merlin Mann | Oct 31 2005
Steven Johnson on battling the email and interruption avalanches with smarter technology. He also cites the King's College study suggesting that multitasking makes you less productive than if you'd been doing bong hits.read more »
Merlin Mann | Sep 13 2005
Merlin Mann | Jun 14 2005
A hacker who wishes to remain anonymous has answered my prayers by creating a modest one-line AppleScript that lets you pipe input from Quicksilver into a new Entourage Task with zero cruft—no Category, no Project, no date, and no reminder. Perfect for fast capture any place, and something I’ve craved for over a year.read more »
Merlin Mann | May 27 2005
The main reason I stick with Entourage for all my calendar, TODO list, and—to a certain extent—archival email needs, comes down to one word: glue.
As annoying as Entourage is in so many ways, I love that I can basically associate anything with anything via the “Link” functionality. This provides a handy little landing pad for any task, note, event, email, or contact onto which you can drop any other Entourage object as well as virtually any item from the Finder (for some reason it doesn’t easily handle URLs, which seems kind of dumb: use .weblocs as a workaround). Entourage then perpetually remembers that association in both the linking and linked items. Got it? Group like with like, and then get to anything from anything (Steal this idea, Apple; use Spotlight).
So, I can associate an email message with a TODO, attach a text file to a calendar event (see my article in June’s MacWorld), and even, apparently, attach Applications and folder paths to any Entourage object. Why is this last one so freaking handy? Lemme show you.read more »
Merlin Mann | May 23 2005
Merlin Mann | Feb 16 2005
Why bother? Why not just use the built-in notes capability of Entourage? Ah, if you were a fan of text files you wouldn’t need to ask that, and if you were a fan of Quicksilver, the gears would already be clicking.
Among many features—as we all know by now—Quicksilver lets you append or prepend to any arbitrary text file without changing out of your current app. Once learned and ingrained, this will become one of your favorite things to do on the Mac, bar none; but Entourage doesn't currently support it. Still, this tip helps you get around it in a satisfying way—letting Entourage handle all the busy work, while your beloved text files do all the heavy lifting.read more »
Merlin Mann | Feb 14 2005
Categories are a powerful tool for organizing any of the information you store in Entourage 2004—whether it’s email, contacts, appointments, or notes—but I think they really shine as a way to provide context for your task list. I use Categories almost synonymously with the idea of "contexts" that David Allen discusses in Getting Things Done—as a way to identify the location, conditions, tools, or focus needed to work on a given item. As I said the other day, I try to use my Categories to provide ready answers to the "How," "Where," and "When" of a given task as clearly and uniquely as is reasonable. You want to be analyzing and thinking about this stuff when you’re planning it, so you won’t have to process it again when it’s time to actually do it.read more »
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