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.


43 Folders Series: Inbox Zero


Inbox Zero

These are posts from a special 43 Folders series looking at the skills, tools, and attitude needed to empty your email inbox — and then keep it that way. You can visit each of the posts by clicking the title.

And don’t miss the “Related Articles” for our all-time popular posts on productively dealing with email.

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The War of Art, and JoCo on becoming a "true person"

007: Interview: Jonathan Coulton, Part 2 | The Merlin Show

I first heard about The War of Art from David Allen during our GTD podcast series last year. I finally picked up a copy a couple months back and read it in an evening. Like a lot of self-help books, it's longer than it needs to be (and it's not actually very long to begin with), but it does make some great points about what its author calls "resistance."

Resistance can be thought of as anything that pulls us away from doing the work we know is most important to us. It takes many forms (including procrastination, fear, distraction, and negative self-talk), but the effect is often similar: we find or permit all kinds of barriers to keep us from becoming the person we want to be, or from completing the thing we really want to make. Whether that's being a published author, a composer, a playwright, or a painter, our impulse to create constantly battles an impulse to do something else, or to do nothing -- to not upset our weirdly comfy stasis.

This book came up twice in my recent interview with Jonathan Coulton; both in part one and today's recently released part two. Jonathan strikes me as someone who has, so far, succeeded at talking down the resistance he'd faced, and now he's doing what he's great at, and, in his words, he's working hard to become the kind of "true person" that he wants to be for his daughter.

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“I answer an e-mail once every 6.66 minutes”

Where Work Is a Religion, Work Burnout Is Its Crisis of Faith -- New York Magazine

This enjoyable article on burnout includes a bit that I love (and sympathize with):

Woo hoo. Re: An appendix to the principles of Jewish Buddhism. Saying hi. Re: Hey pal. Burnout. WHEN are we eating? Open Enrollment Info. Quick q. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

You are looking at nine e-mail subject lines I received in a one-hour period last week. It was then that I realized I answer an e-mail once every 6.66 minutes. The very thought of committing this fact to paper has kept me crippled for several seconds. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing my boss should know.

One has to wonder whether the developments of a high-speed world haven’t made burnout worse. First, the obvious: With the advent of e-mail, cell phones, laptops, BlackBerrys (or “CrackBerrys”—the argot here seems extremely apt), and other bits of high-speed doodadry, it has become virtually impossible, in senses both literal and metaphorical, to unplug from our jobs. As Schaufeli, the Dutch researcher, notes, one of the strongest predictors of burnout isn’t just work overload but “work-home interference”—a sociologist’s way of saying we’re receiving phone calls from Tokyo during dinner and replying to clients on our BlackBerrys while making our children brush their teeth.

I suspect that children will eventually support some kind of thin-client email-to-affection gateway. From an evolutionary standpoint, it may be the only solution that scales.

Bandwagon: Links not to miss, 2006-11-27

A few of the links that have been pretty popular on other sites, which I’d be remiss not to mention in passing here:

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Vox Pop: Sell me on manual email filing

tow.com » MsgFiler

Lots of the kids are excited about the arrival of MsgFiler, which is a neat litte app for helping you file away your messages in Mail.app:

MsgFiler is a plug-in for Apple Mail which quickly files emails into existing mailbox folders. MsgFiler’s fast searching means you just have to type a few characters to find the right mailbox. Move selected messages with a click or open a mailbox without having to navigate the mailbox folder pane. MsgFiler is optimized for keyboard-only usage, perfect for Apple Mail power users.


But I'll just play devil's advocate on this one: if you find yourself inordinately excited about the arrival of this (admittedly clever) application, there's an excellent chance that your email archiving system is unnecessarily complex and, in fact, is in need of a major streamlining. Discuss.

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David Allen on best practices for implementing GTD

Productive Talk #07: Implementing GTD

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


In this episode, David and Merlin look at best practices for implementing Getting Things Done. David shares some great advice on firewalling review time and warns us how to avoid the perils of "cruise control." (9:37)

More at: http://www.davidco.com/ and http://www.43folders.com/

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

My favorite bit in this one (jump to 1:38) is where we learn that some of David's best stuff seems to have had a genesis in an unlikely place -- from his tenure as the manager of a gas station, back in the day.

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Particletree: Excellent email guide roundup

Particletree » A Guide to Email Roundup

Over on the lovely Particletree, Chris Campbell has posted a valuable collection of links for tips on dealing with email.

Email is fantastic. We use it to stay in touch with friends, contact clients, and handle support requests. It’s easy to use, low cost, and less intrusive than a phone call or meeting. But with email being such an integral part of our lives, are we using it as effectively as possible? To find out, have a look at the techniques these articles recommend on ensuring that your messages are read.

What I like about his choices (including, I suppose, the 43f link *blush*) is the focus on _results_. Instead of being about simply the blah-blah-blahs of netiquette and style, these are suggestions on how best to get something accomplished -- and, yeah, sometimes that means just knowing how to keep it standard, simple, and easy to grok. Very good, tactical, battlefield stuff.

I especially dug Kaitlin Duck Sherwoods exhaustive 'Beginner's Guide to Effective Email' (ca. 1995!), which was new to me, and which I do recommend checking out. Even for the veterans out there, it might be useful to read up on kicking it old-school -- from the days when a crap email would earn you a Clinton-era eBitchslap from all the beardy Pine users in your life.

43f Podcast: David Allen on interruptions

Productive Talk #06: Interruptions

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


In this episode David and I talked about interruptions. How you can minimize the bad interruptions and make the best of the good ones.

(Running time: 10:17)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

In this episode, David makes the excellent point that if interruptions are a baked-in part of your job, they shouldn't necessarily be seen as a Bad Thing. It's just something you need to prepare for by "clearing the decks" in a way that opens you up for the opportunities and game-time input that new information can bring into your world.

Something not to miss -- David is just truly a whiz at changing gears based on his own system. If new stuff interrupts what he's currently working on, he scoops all the current work back into "pending," and basically says "Bring it on!"

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David Allen Interview: Getting Things Done with Email

Productive Talk #05: Email

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


In this episode, David and Merlin talk about email. We learn that David coaches people to deal with a high volume of messages by treating them like you would any other input.

(Running time: 17:53)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

Email was one of the topics that I was most interested in talking to David about, and I found his responses to my questions thought-provoking.

David makes the case that email is basically just another input -- like voice mail, for example -- that needs to be emptied and processed every day. That it's not substantially different (apart from how badly mostly people do it right now).

While I absolutely agree on processing to zero, I think opinions may differ on the significance of email's impact on the life of the average knowledge worker.

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Vox Populi: How are you using Mail Tags?

I open the floor to all of you on a question of particular personal interest to me: How are you using Mail Tags?

While my uses of it to date have been helpful, I keep getting the feeling I'm not getting all that I can out of it -- especially since the ability to associate Projects, Priorities, etc. to a message could make for some really enticing Smart Folders.

I wonder if my question is ultimately more taxonomic in nature -- ultimately more about Spotlight in general or Tags in very very general: When tagging items on your Mac, what kind '-onomy' are using? How strictly do you enforce your vocabulary? What are the best practices for someone who's new to this?

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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