Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Ben Brown | Oct 23 2007
I subscribe to a lot of email discussion lists for the various secret yet high profile projects to which I contribute. Most of these lists are active, with five to ten new threads every day, each consisting of several messages. Even when the lists stay on topic, most of the time, my contribution to (and interested in) the conversation only lasts a few messages.
This creates a problem for me, as I am a neurotic email checker. Constantly seeing a stream of new messages that I am not reading makes me feel stressed out. I do not feel like I have to read them, but I do feel like SOMETHING must be done. But I cannot silence the threads by reading the messages, or by deleting them -- as soon as a new message comes in, the thread will be back, bolding up my inbox again.read more »
Merlin Mann | Oct 3 2007
Cory Doctorow has a short piece in Internet Evolution called "The Future of Ignoring Things" that really resonated with me. Excerpt:
Figuring out what you can afford to ignore in life is starting to seem like an art form to me. Since failure to filter incoming stuff properly over time has consequences way beyond annoyance, I'm starting to think that getting it right may be another one of those emerging knowledge worker skills.
It's definitely one I'm working on (and struggling with).
[via: BB]read more »
Merlin Mann | Oct 1 2007
I've started collecting stories -- some of which may be entirely apocryphal tall tales -- of the purported lengths to which people are going to filter noise and to ensure that their time and attention aren't ceded to bad ideas, thoughtless people, or garden-variety time burglars.
Here's a few of the more novel ones I've picked up. I'd also love to hear your favorites from amongst the cheats, tricks, and squirrely rules you've heard about:read more »
Merlin Mann | Sep 4 2007
Stanley Bing on what the crapflood of incoming data is doing to your boss's state of mind.
I think one of the emerging leadership skills of the next five years will be learning how to do brilliant filtering -- either programatically or by delegating information-sorting to others. To ultimately become someone whose system accounts for incoming data in smart ways and who never has to make excuses about too much stuff.
Yeah, I know smart execs have delegated for centuries. But I can envision a world where sweating over your beepy electronic device starts looking about as "executive" and "pro-active" as sucking on a crack pipe in the break room.
Merlin Mann | Aug 28 2007
Good insight from Chairman Gruber, related to the email system he's started employing since moving to Mail.app
For folks who haven't crossed the line to where this realization really clicks, I understand that this can sound harsh, even uncaring. But once you have gotten into the habit, you realize the amount of bullshit you had been shoveling to yourself -- hoping that all that stuff in your inbox, which you knew in your heart you'd never do anything about, would just...what?...grow wings and fly a response back to its sender? It's daft.
It's so tough to be honest with yourself about your real situation with email, but once you've made the admission, you're weirdly freed up to communicate more authentically, and, in my experience, with a renewed enthusiasm.
Merlin Mann | Aug 27 2007
Most businesses and an increasing number of people (including me) are looking for friction-free ways for teams to deal with incoming public email accounts. Whether you're managing a home eBay company, fielding FAQs, or reviewing incoming resumes, it seems like there must be some good, lightweight web apps for teams to use and collaborate around.
Ron Richards just pointed me to Cerberus, and I've previously looked at DayLite, MailTank, and Sugar. I like the trouble-ticket approach in some ways, but I also wish it could be prettied up -- ideally including remote form submission from your own domains.
The Question to You:
Have you found a free or inexpensive web-based app that helps your teams manage incoming email and convert them into assigned tasks? Got one that’s great at template-based responses? Anything with the power of a support ticket app that’s a bit prettier from the user’s standpoint?
edit 2007-08-27 09:17:40: Shoulda mentioned: relevant self-links are okay on this one.
Merlin Mann | Aug 21 2007
As I am wont to do, I was thinking out loud on Twitter this morning.
I'm convinced that, for better or worse, a lot of computer-related habits come straight out of using the default settings. For example a stock Mail.app install checks your email every 5 minutes (I reset mine to 'Manual') and, without interdiction, Apple's mail program will also create all your new messages as "Rich Text" (Nuh uh. Mine? 'Plain Text').read more »
Merlin Mann | Aug 16 2007
For some time now, I've encouraged people to consider abandoning the byzantine folder structure that most of us used to employ to "organize" our email. In fact, this kind of functional simplicity is something I've started to think of as a pillar of Inbox Zero.
In addition to helping explode the myth that most email messages have any life once their actions have been liberated, it's a healthy habit to actively remove any unnecessary systematic fiddling that doesn't handsomely pay back the effort that habitually goes into it.
And, as ever: yes, some of you -- because of the incredibly unique nature of your work in an office -- will need to have 500 taxonomic mailboxes, a monthly archives by project, a person-by-person collection going back to 1983, and a multiply-copied CC'd team archives, coded by color and identified with helpful icons you found on Gopher in 1992. Sure, why not. If that's working for you, by all means, keep fiddling and filing.
But, if you're ready to admit you might be turning a crank that's potentially not hooked-up to anything, here's my four favorite ways to leverage the intelligence of Mail.app for drop-dead simple archiving.read more »
Merlin Mann | Aug 5 2007
Short Subject: Now You're Talking (1927)
Chris Streeter picks up on a thread that I've been thinking about a lot lately (and he's kind to mention the relationship to Inbox Zero).
He reminds us that the etiquette for using a telephone was once well-established enough to earn a place in the encyclopedia:read more »
Merlin Mann | Aug 3 2007
A lot of folks with slower connections (or who just aren't crazy about internet video) have written to request an audio version of the Tech Talk on Inbox Zero I gave at Google last Monday. Google has very kindly permitted me to share that with you, so here you go. Thanks to everyone who wrote to request it.read more »
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