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.


The Problem with Ubiquitous Capture

Years ago when I started my first job out of college, my employer sent its new crop of computer consultants to South Bend, Indiana for a week-long training session. Typical stuff: we watched a hilariously inappropriate sexual harassment video, learned how to use the company’s timekeeping system (a thick client C++ program named, aptly, “Data Time Entry”), and generally got used to the idea of living out of a suitcase.

Late in the week, an entire day was devoted to a presentation by a FrankinCovey trainer who showed us how to use the fancy leather-bound, three-ring binder/planner/organizer that our company purchased for us, complete with a storage case for archiving calendar pages. She ran us through the whole Covey system. We watched a video of one of Stephen Covey’s motivational seminars-cum-religious revivals and made lists of our goals, hopes, and regrets. I raised my hand and told a story about how lousy I felt for saying something nasty to my mom before I left that week. “Call Mom to apologize” went onto my Weekly Compass, marked Priority A.

At one point, the trainer demonstrated a little pocket notebook that could be detached from the binder when you didn’t want to lug around the whole thing, “a satellite that always returns to the mothership,” she called it. We snickered while she pantomimed writing down someone’s phone number at a Bears game; she was crazier than the guy in suspenders from the day before who taught us about management with a modified version of Monopoly. Most of us were planning to buy Palm Pilots with our first paychecks anyway. But I didn’t realize then how prescient that moment was. Training class Matt would laugh Matt circa 2008 all the way down I-90 if he could see me now.

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Provide context for better ubiquitous capture

Although the first priority in ubiquitous capture is getting it down, the red-headed stepchild trailing in at number two is providing context. And I don't mean the GTD kind of contexts, but the kind of context that minimally explains what this information means, where and when you collected it, why it matters, or anything else that will help you find a meaningful place for it in your life later on.

Example? Sure. Here's one from my real and recent world. Index card with one word on it:


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Using GTD To Tame The Beast Inside Of Me

It's the central contradiction at the heart of our all-too-finite existence that we cannot reconcile the uncontainability of our dreams with the futile limitation of our resources. It's no wonder we've come rely on strategies to get through the day. In David Allen's world, the metaphor is the overloaded information-driven workplace. For Merlin, it's the in-box.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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