43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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

Getting Things Done

GTD is a personal productivity system and book by David Allen that we like a lot. Read: Getting Started with ‘Getting Things Done’.

6 powerful "look into" verbs (+ 1 to avoid)


In one of the recent podcast interviews I did with David Allen, we talked about procrastination and how he tries to get people -- especially knowledge workers -- back to just "cranking widgets."

I love this term, because, in his humorous way, David captures how any thing we want to accomplish in this world eventually has to manifest itself in an intentional physical activity. Seemingly over-huge super-projects like "World Peace," "Cancer Cure," or "Find Mutually Satisfying Vehicle for Jim Belushi" all still come down to physical actions, such as picking up a phone or typing an email.

And David is wise, in that interview, also to highlight the importance of what he refers to as a "'look-into' project," which just means that even deciding if a project is interesting and useful to undertake can be a project in itself. It also means that, even with an outcome of "deciding," that meta-project still consists solely of physical actions. In this case, it's the physical actions that help you locate the additional information you'll need to make a timely and wise decision about whether to proceed at all. In sum, no matter what, it all still should come back to widgets and how they get cranked.

Like a lot of you, I've struggled with how you turn "thinky work" into physical action widgets, but here are a few of my favorite task-verbs to get you started in the right direction. They're presented here in a rough approximation of the order in which I use them in my own "look-into" projects:

read more »

Productive Talk 02: David Allen on patching GTD "leaks"

Productive Talk #02: Patching Leaks

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

In this episode, David and Merlin talked about ways to patch the leaks in your GTD system -- including the role of ubiquitous capture and scrupulous review. (10:33)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

read more »

Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life

How to get organized and stay that way

When I was up in Toronto last week, I was interviewed by Samantha Grice from the National Post about 43 Folders, productivity stuff, and the sad sorry state of my own day-to-day productivity. Very "Brady's Bits."

As a sidebar to the little profile she wrote, Samantha also asked me to draft a few words on my favorite fast tips for getting it together.

Although these will each be painfully old news for you who've been with 43F for a while, I wanted to share the original draft of what I came up with, because it's sufficient as a cocktail-napkin version of what I think 43 Folders has to say to people. You may share it with the disorganized and confused in your own life, if you like.

I also loved the limitations of this particular exercise: 300 or so words in five bullets that represent my best day-one tricks. Due in minutes. My kind of challenge. Although I did go over on word count, and I'll own that.

Herewith: **Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life.**

read more »

Podcast: Interview with GTD's David Allen on Procrastination

Productive Talk #01: Procrastination

As I mentioned yesterday, today 43 Folders and The David Allen Company are happy to bring you the first in a series of wide-ranging conversations that David and I recently had about Getting Things Done.

So, let's kick things off with a goodie. Here's The David's take on that devil, Procrastination.

In this episode, David and Merlin talk about a very popular topic on 43 Folders -- procrastination. They discuss where procrastination comes from and how GTD can help get you back to cranking widgets. (13:21)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

read more »

Introducing "Productive Talk" Podcast: 43 Folders meets David Allen

Sample from 'Productive Talk: 43 Folders Meets David Allen'

Starting tomorrow (Tuesday), 43 Folders and the David Allen Company will be bringing you "_Productive Talk_," a joint podcast series featuring audio of conversations that David and I had during a recent visit near his offices in Ojai.

This was a lot of fun for me to do, especially since it gave me the chance to ask David many of the questions that you and I have both had about Getting Things Done -- so, as you might expect, there's a heavy focus on implementation and best practices, as well as how to troubleshoot problems in your own GTD system. Lot of good stuff that I think you'll enjoy and will learn from as much as I did.

Subscribers to the 43 Folders Podcast (subscribe now) will receive new episodes of "Productive Talk" automatically, although you can also just stop by either 43 Folders or The David Allen Company's site for all the latest web-based updates.

Tomorrow's inaugural episode is on procrastination, with more episodes coming once a week or so for the next few weeks.

Here's a little sample from an upcoming episode to give you a taste of what's coming:

read more »

GTD: Priorities don't exist in a vacuum

If you're a fan of Getting Things Done, you're familiar with the Four Criteria Model for choosing tasks. It's where the rubber meets the road in GTD, because it's the way you decide, in the moment, how any one of those wonderful tasks you've been tracking in your big system actually gets done.

As common sense as it seems to GTD'ers, this model is one of the more controversial aspects of Getting Things Done for a simple reason: it posits that priority is not the only factor in deciding what to do at a given time. It's just one of four factors, which include, all told:

  1. Context - Where are you? What tools are available? What are the limits and possibilities unique to this moment?
  2. Time available - Do you have, for example, 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or 30 hours available to you right now? What tasks could you accomplish given the time you have?
  3. Energy available - Are you full of energy, is your ass dragging, or are you somewhere in between? Which of the tasks on your list could you finish, given that energy level?
  4. Priority - If you had access to all the tools, opportunities, time, and energy you needed, what's the most important or time-sensitive thing you could do right now?

When I'm helping coach people on getting it together, they're often puzzled by this seeming bit of new-agery -- partly, I suspect, because most of us have been conditioned all our lives to think that pre-ordained Priority stamps always trump everything, all the time, always, forever, in all cases, end of story. But is it true, reasonable, or even physically possible to always work this way? Can you will yourself into doing only your identified high-priority items anytime, all the time?

Nope, and I'll show you one reason why.

read more »

Merlin on David Allen TechGTD Panel

GTD Connect [TechGTD]

TechGTD panel

Members of David Allen's GTD Connect membership program can login to hear a technology panel that David conducted with tech über-geek Eric Mack, DavidCo CTO Robert Peake, and myself down in Ojai a few weeks back.

We talk about all kinds of stuff related to tech in general, and how we use GTD and technology in particular. One nice thing you learn: Robert, who is the wildly gifted tech stud at DavidCo, is a big Mac user. Pretty cool.

Note that this is made available as part of the GTD Connect for-pay service, so I don't have a way to preview this for folks who aren't a member. But for Connectors who are joined up, I think you'll enjoy the conversation. It was a lot of fun to do.

kGTD tutorials: Projects and actions, Timed actions

43F Wiki user ThePolack has been putting together some great kGTD tutorials, including a useful introduction to using the Projects and Actions sections that covers several of the features that most folks only figure out after a few weeks of regular usage. Handy.

But, I want to especially highlight his tutorial on using timed and dated actions in kGTD. These are powerful features that have caused considerable confusion for users, and ThePolack provides a lucid explanation of how the different events work and how you can use them to manage all those little periodic tasks that pop up in your life.

read more »

Patrick Rhone: Excellent productivity whitepaper

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but if you also hadn't spend much time with it yet, I suggest you check out Patrick Rhone's whitepaper on his version of a GTD system.

read more »

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 »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »