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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


Open Thread: Doodle & your favorite simple web tools

Doodle: Scheduling meetings

This has been mentioned here before (just in comments, I think), but I have to repeat: I can't say enough good things about Doodle. It takes the idiotically over-complicated problem of figuring out when all of n people are available to do something, and in the simplest way conceivable, polls all the participants to find the optimal time and date.

I'm always thrilled when colleagues send a meeting invite in the form of a Doodle email; it requires zero fiddling on my part and pleasantly skirts the need for the endless email threads that most people rely on to get a group of people extant in one time-space unit.

I'm risking the indignity of a double-post on an "old" link for a good reason: with all the foam and fuss over "Web 2.0," and the ever higher (Ever! Higher!) technology we shovel to solve stupid human problems, it's refreshing to see adoption of a tool that ends up being no more complicated than a white board with electrical-tape columns.

I wish stuff like Doodle would inspire more developers to start with the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. No Arial Rounded, no whizzy AJAX, and no angel-round-attracting gradients. Just a modest solution to a single dumb problem. That is a life hack, defined.

What's your favorite idiotically simple web tool right now?

Process email faster with Mail Act-On

My usage of Mail Act-On, while far from novel, has revolutionized the speed with which I can blow through email processing.

If you've never seen it before, Mail Act-On is a very clever Mail.app plugin that lets you create key commands that execute Rules you've generated in your Preferences. Sounds pretty dull, right? Absolutely. Until you start putting this stuff into action and learn how painfully slow all that draggy mc drag drag business is. Here's how I've set mine up.

read more »

Glenn Wolsey: 6 email tips

Glenn Wolsey—6 Ways To Organize - Your Mail Application

Glenn Wolsey has a great little post on how he's set up and is using Mail.app. He's got some very smart stuff here, including an intriguing approach to minimalist mailbox management:

Create 3 folders and name them Follow-Up, Interesting & To Do. Then, as you check your emails file them straight into the applicable folder.

Later, when you have time you can go straight to these folders folder and work through them. It will be much quicker to see what needs attending to and you are more likely to might be motivated to spare a few minutes clearing your to-do folder.

The "Interesting" folder is a new one to me, and, although I personally favor a more verb-y approach to my email buckets, that would be a cool way to bubble up stuff you don't want to miss after a big round of processing.

As we covered in Inbox Zero, it's all about liberating the actions out of your mail. Like any of this stuff, if the system makes sense to you and gives you transparent affordances for instantly knowing "where it goes" and "what you need to do about it," then you're on to something.

Nice work, Glenn!

Favorite Windows email tricks and plugins

I'm working on an article about email tricks for one of your finer magazines, and -- as you might imagine -- when it comes to the inevitable Windows stuff, I'm a bit light in the useful tips department. So, I turn to you Redmond-using smarties for help.

Do you have a favorite application, plugin, trick, or hack for bending Windows email to your will? Double-credit for Outlook add-ons that garden-variety users can install without fancy root-style access. Whence comes your magic Windows fu?

GMail + GTD = GTDGmail

GTDGmail - The Firefox Extension that Combines Gmail with Getting Things Done - home

GTDGmail looks like a promising entry into the increasingly crowded gene pool of web-based productivity software.

The Firefox extension runs on top of your Gmail account, giving you an email-centric approach to implementing Getting Things Done that includes contexts, statuses, a very nifty search feature, and more. This could be just the thing for people who have to live in email, but who don't want to live in an unprocessed inbox.

From the GTDGmail site:

Gmail has long been identified (see Bryan Murdaugh's Whitepaper) as a very good tool for GTD. It has a simple interface, plentiful storage, effective label system a basic approach to storage (just Inbox and Archive). The 'Conversation' concept is perfect for efficiently linking tasks and other data - again promoting simplicity and personal effectiveness.

Finally, email needs GTD as much as any other part of your life, so it makes sense to embed GTD into an email client.

GTDGmail requires Firefox -- as in vanilla Firefox; it didn't work on my (preferred) Mozilla browser, Flock, but I'm open to accounts of pilot error if I'm missing anything.

Edit (2006-08-21 07:32:57): Well, that was mean and Michael Arrington of me, wasn’t it? :) I was incorrect in thinking GTDGmailhad gone functionally public (although the project seems pretty well known already). Keep an eye out for the full release (and do forgive me for the unintentional tease).

Edit (2006-08-21 18:01:06): Yay! Looks like it's available now: GTDGmail :: Mozilla Add-ons :: Add Features to Mozilla Software. Thanks, Aaron.

What does your inbox say about you?

Salt Lake Tribune - Your e-mail inbox is a metaphor for your life

Jeffrey Zaslow rang me up a while back for a quote that made it into his WSJ article (mirrored many places, including here) on what your email style says about you, your habits, and your "mental health." It's a fun piece, and I was happy to contribute, but I'm not altogether on-board with the thesis.

read more »

Gina on not checking your email first-thing

Geek to Live: Control your workday - Lifehacker

Gina has a good post on ways to structure your work day and ensure you get your most important stuff accomplished, and she includes a piece of advice I've recently started practicing myself:

Get one thing done first - THEN check your email

Author of Never Check Email in the Morning Julie Morgenstern suggests spending the first hour of your workday email-free. Choose one task - even a small one - and tackle it first thing. Accomplishing something out of the gate sets the tone for the rest of your day and guarantees that no matter how many fires you're tasked with putting out the minute you open your email client, you still can say that you got something done...

I've discovered that a lot of my most unpalatable, low-priority email arrives overnight; it's when most cron jobs and mailing digests run, plus, I suspect, it's when a lot of garden-variety crazies get their second wind (or 12th beer).

Waiting an hour or so to collect the overnight haul buys me time to wake up, get some work done, and generally orient myself. By the the time I raise the electronic flood gate, I'm already feeling on top of things and have no problem blowing through all my mail in a few short minutes. Even the crazy ones.

The larger issue is a pillar of Inbox Zero: it's your mailbox, and you get to decide when and for how long it draws your attention. I recommend affecting that decision while awake, cogent, and adequately caffeinated.

Gina: Action-based email setup

Empty your inbox with the Trusted Trio

Gina's written up a post on her modified version of the email setup I laid out in my MacWorld Inbox Makeover article. She's stripping down to three email folders (besides the inbox), and seems to be having good results with the action-oriented results:

read more »

Michael Linenberger: Liberate tasks from your inbox

Get Out of the In Crowd

Fast Company speaks with author Michael Linenberger about not living out of your inbox. Although, like most GTDers, I'm not a big fan of priority- and date-based task management, the advice Linenberger gives is otherwise solid gold from my standpoint. Remember, if you're using your inbox as an ersatz to-do list, you're setting yourself up for a constellation of terrible habits and nearly certain procrastination. Quoting:

When you see a requested action in an email, don't do it immediately. It might be one of the least important things for you to do that day. Instead, immediately identify what the action is and put the email in a task folder. Change the title so that it states what you need to do, and put a due date on it and a priority level. You can do that in 15 or 20 seconds. Then you move right on to the next email. Now you'll get through your to-do email remarkably fast. Drag all of your other emails into a process folder, so you now have an empty inbox, which is a really nice feeling. The next thing you do is go to your task list and ask, "What are the most important things I need to do today?" That's the stuff that would keep you from going home at the end of the day.

[ via: Lifehacker ]




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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