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

Fresh Starts & Modest Changes

Jason DeFillippo's 90-day program: "Just Start"

Jason P. DeFillippo : 90 Days

My pal, Jason DeFillippo, has recently begun a project to clean up his act over the next ninety days. In preparation for hitting the big three-six, he's planning to tidy up, lose some weight, and start shedding the nonsense, clutter, and distractions in his life. Go, man, go.

Personally, I've had mixed to terrible results with things where I tried to invert too many habits at one time, but Jason is nothing if not a hardass and a man of firm resolve. I'm looking forward to watching his progress over the summer and learning what I can from him.

I'll tell you one thing we agree on; it's all about getting started:

I saw this over at Boris’s blog the other day and it really triggered something in me. I tend to think a lot about project and plans. I think about them so much I get paralyzed with option paralysis and stuff doesn’t get done. In an attempt to do something right the first time through it invariable almost never gets done at all. Thinking something through is an important part of the creative process but it means dick if you don’t ever start. And if you don’t start you don’t finish.

Good on 'ya, Jason. Rock it.

Here are Jason's "90 Days" posts so far:

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Looking back at our fresh starts & modest changes

Fresh Starts & Modest Changes

Henry David ThoreauEarlier this month I began a short series of posts and podcasts called "Fresh Starts & Modest Changes." It was meant as an antidote to the pressure that many of us feel to upend our lives with poorly thought-out new year's resolutions. The idea was to get you thinking less about the unlikelihood of success in mounting sudden, ginormous change, and more to suggest some subtle adjustments for making life just a bit more pleasant, productive, and your own. Tweaking as you go, instead of trying to treat your mind like some kind of a microwavable corn dog.

We're getting to the end of the month now, so I wanted to wrap up with a few thoughts on the value of small changes, but I'd also love to hear about any of your own fresh starts and modest changes -- particularly hoping you'll share the ways you've had the best success keeping on track with the adjustments you've chosen to make.

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43F Podcast: Modest Change: Honor Thy Energy

Modest Change: Honor Thy Energy

43folders.com - Learn the times you're most energetic and productive, and adjust your schedule and your work accordingly. Also: please just let the teenagers sleep, for God's sake.

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More at Odeo.com...

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Fresh Start: Replace one project

If you don't have one already, draw up a list of all the projects that are on your radar screen right now -- all the active or dormant projects that will require some kind of task work (or even just mental bandwidth) by the end of this month. If you're doing Getting Things Done, you probably already have a list like this, but it might not hurt to just grab a piece of paper and do a fresh "mini-dump" of all the obligations and outcomes that are squatting on the edges of your brainpan.

Study your list, and think about the real value of everything you've theoretically undertaken. Any of these apply...?

  • something I feel obligated to do (but have no real interest in ever doing)
  • something that stalled long ago and could easily be removed
  • something that takes massive amounts of fuss for consistently annoying results
  • something I haven't seriously thought through yet
  • something potentially interesting that's very poorly defined right now
  • something I can't really do anything about for a while
  • something that's been on my lists so long that I just keep it out of sentimentality
  • something I could, quite frankly, just not care any less about

Got it? Good. Surprised at how much you actually have on your mind? You ain't alone, sister.

Okay, so now set that list down, and grab a fresh sheet of paper.

Without thinking too deeply about it, start jotting down all the things you'd love to be starting right now. Be reasonable; this isn't about fantasies of unassisted flight or basement alchemy so much as garden-variety growth, development, and fun. What are the things that, given the proper focus and time, would bring you the most satisfaction for the time you spend on it -- or could serve as a bridge to achieving higher aspirations you've been smacking down because you're "too busy" with other stuff?

Good candidates:

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Modest Change: Learn the qualified "yes"

This is something I've mentioned before, but since it's worked so well for me I think it deserves a place in our Modest Changes series.

I've had a habit over the years of allowing myself to get so busy that "no" becomes my default answer to practically every question -- this has been especially true when it came to helping with friends' projects or doing non-paying work for worthy causes.

Obviously, in many ways it's healthy to learn how to say no; you avoid over-committing by ensuring that you've thought through all the work on your plate and then never take on new commitments without knowing there's room to spare.

The good news is that there's actually an even healthier middle path between "Sure. Anything you say" and "No way. Never." I call it "the qualified 'yes.'"

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Modest Change: Cancel something

Our first modest change is to cancel something.

Think about all the things you've invited or allowed into your life in the past couple years (check all that apply):

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Fresh Start: The Email DMZ

Like a lot of the best fresh starts, this one's a total psych-out; also, like most of the best ones, you won't believe how well it works until you actually try it for yourself.

  1. Open your email program and create a new folder called "DMZ"
  2. Go to your email inbox and Select All
    • You might alternatively choose all email older than n days
  3. Drag those emails from your inbox into the DMZ folder
  4. Go, and sin no more.
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43F Podcast: Fresh Starts & Modest Changes

43 Folders - As an antidote to the surfeit of New Year's resolutions, we'll be looking into smaller, less dramatic adjustments (that don't require a drunken promise or a pointy paper hat). Our series starts Wednesday.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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