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.

Life Hacks

Procrastination, the "Unschedule," and re-learning how to walk

How to Unschedule your work and enjoy guilt-free play

Chanpory, over at LifeClever, has a useful piece on what Neil Fiore calls "The Unschedule:"

According to Neil Fiore and 30 years of research, procrastination isn’t the result of laziness. Rather, procrastination is a symptom, a way of coping with deep psychological self-criticism and fear. It’s because we’re taught to believe that working is good and playing is bad. To reverse this unhealthy model, Neil proposes a tool: the Unschedule.

The Unschedule looks like a normal schedule, but with a twist. Instead of scheduling work you have to do, you fill in everything you want to do.

Like a couple of the exercises in Fiore's book (Oy, vey, who actually keeps a "procrastination diary?"), I think the Unschedule is best seen as a fascinating way to think about thinking.

read more »

Dear Me: Get to work

The Problem

GTD is all about rapid, intuitive selection of what you need to be working on now. Whip out your context list appropriate for the time-place-opportunity-space you are in now. Scan through it, then do.

For the longest time I was having a problem with this. I'd scan through my context lists and I'd see things like:

read more »

GrandCentral: For a "life-hackier" phone

I do a lot these days to get pickier about where my time and attention go, and keeping unnecessary phone calls at bay is near the top of the hit list. For years now, I've pled for "Spam Assassin" or something like regular expressions for my phone. GrandCentral may not be that smart yet, but it's years ahead of the options I've seen from landline carriers.

The features of Google's recent acquisition are many and powerful, but a few of my own favorite bits bubble up in this screengrab I took this morning (from a robot UPS phone call, alerting me to a signature-required package that's out on the truck).

UPS and GrandCentral taste great together

I can't imagine going back to typical phone options after having access to:

read more »

Peter Walsh's clever hanger trick

Here's one of my favorite life-hacky tips from Peter Walsh (guy from Clean Sweep, author of It's All Too Much, and inspiration for my recent War on Clutter).

After you've done a major purge of your closet, remove all the remaining clothes that live on hangers, and put them back in backwards, such that the open end of each hanger now faces you. Got it?

Then, mark your calendar for six months (or whatever) from today, and go back to your business as usual. Except that after every time you wear a shirt or a jacket or a skirt or what have you, when you replace the item, make sure the hanger faces the opposite/usual way (with the opening in the back).

When your n months have passed, and your calendar reminds you that it's time, open your closet and remove every piece of clothing on a backward hanger; the chances are good you can give it away without the slightest pain, because you just clearly demonstrated that you don't wear it.

Here's why I love this.

read more »

DailyLit: 5-minute literature chunks, via email or RSS

DailyLit: Read books by email and RSS.

To know me today, you'd never imagine how many hundreds of pages a week I read in college. Surprises me, anyhow. While I've devolved into an accomplished skimmer of Harper's and the The New York Times Magazine, I rarely find (or, make) the time to finish a whole book about anything that's not related to "work." That's why I'm intrigued by DailyLit, a service that leverages rather than battles the tendency to hang out online.

The idea is simple enough: select a "free" book that appeals to you, then, every day or two, via either email or RSS, the DailyLit robot sends you a section that's readable in about five minutes. If you want more at any time -- the digital equivalent of turning the page -- just click to have the next installment sent, then keep on a'reading.

The variety of available selections is handsome, including favorites like Tristram Shandy, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Devil's Dictionary and over 400 more. Feeling ambitious? Try War and Peace (675 5-minute parts), The Count of Monte Cristo (581 parts), or Don Quixote (448 parts). Want something a little lighter? You can't go wrong with Candide (42 parts) or A Modest Proposal (4 [still hilarious] parts).

read more »

Still awesome, still works: Request library books from Amazon pages

Jon Udell: The LibraryLookup Bookmarklet Generator

I covered this one back in the bronze age of 43 Folders, but I wanted to highlight the awesomeness again today for those who might not have seen it the first time around.

As described in September, 2004:

I still can’t get over how cool this is. Jon Udell’s little wizard [direct link] lets you generate a bookmarklet for requesting a library book—based on the Amazon page you’re currently viewing. It’s clearly a flawless lifehack.

You just need to know your library’s URL and which system your own city uses (which Jon makes simple by providing preview links to see which style your system seems to follow). San Francisco folks, use “http://sflib1.sfpl.org/” and leave the default system of “Innovative” selected.

At some point over the years, Jon's bookmarklet fell out of my favorites bar (J'accuse, Amazon Prime). But today I was able to recreate my bookmarklet in about ten seconds, and now Bobos in Paradise is en route to the Parkside Library.

To modernize the tip just a bit, I'll mention that this (and many other browser tasks involving entering passwords) gets so much easier with the amazing 1Passwd. In this case, you can tell the app to remember your library card number and PIN and autofill the library login page automagically.

Unclutterer talks with "Clean Sweep" host, Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh answers questions for Unclutterer.com

Thanks to my self-imposed media tunnel vision (and the bulging TiVo that enables it), I've apparently managed to miss a show on TLC called Clean Sweep that sounds like it's potentially up my alley. I guess the idea is that they parachute in to crazy-messy houses and help the harried occupants affect a makeover.

The wonderful Unclutterer.com recently interviewed the show's host, Peter Walsh, and he had a couple interesting things to say about origins of clutter that get to the root cause:

Clutter comes in many forms and the reasons why people hold onto it is similarly complex. There are two main types of clutter: Memory Clutter – which reminds one of an important person, or achievement or event from the past – and I-Might-Need-It-One-Day Clutter – this is the stuff held onto in preparation for all possible futures that one might encounter. Keeping things from the past or sensible planning for the future are great things – it’s when the objects take over that there’s a problem. With many of the people I encounter, their primary relationship is with their stuff. Instead of owning their stuff, their stuff owns them. This clearly is not only unhealthy but also a real stumbling block to happiness and a fulfilling life.

Here's Walsh's new book: It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Already ordered our household a copy.

read more »

Pmarca productivity: Excellent tips for getting through the day

blog.pmarca.com: The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity

What a fantastic post. And so many great suggestions that I'm hesitant to choose a sample...so I'll limit myself to three:

Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3x5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day.

And then, the next day, do those things...

Don't answer the phone.

Let it go to voicemail, and then every few hours, screen your voicemails and batch the return calls.

Say, twice a day...

Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes.

In my experience, it takes time to tell the difference between your head saying yes and your heart saying yes.

I think the key is whether you're really excited about it.

If you get that little adrenaline spike (in a good way) when you think about it, then your heart is saying yes....

Most of the tips on this page strike me as being very practical, real-world, battlefield advice that works. And even if you can't totally avoid a schedule or totally keep email checking down to twice a day, it won't hurt to soak up the spirit of these ideas and let them move by osmosis into the places where they can do you some good. Shake it up a little.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes 43-folders-esque stuff.

(And triple credit for the Robert Evans reference. Did it make me happy? You bet your ass it did.)

Building a Moleskine hard drive case

zonageek: blog: The Geekster Moleskine

The Geekster Moleskine

Oh, this is a fun mashup of two things I love. Transforming a standard Moleskine sketchbook into an external hard drive:

A few weeks later I accidentally placed my WD Passport external drive on top of my Moleskine notebook and, what do you know, they were pretty much the same size. That got me thinking.

Clever, geeky stuff.

Brian Oberkirch on reducing noise and stealing back attention

Trimming the attention sails at Like It Matters


div style="float:right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 15px;">

The 4-Hour Workweek
by Timothy Ferriss

Friend of the Folders, Brian Oberkirch, has gone on a tempo-attentional crash diet:

I had a “no mas” moment. I have a project generating a ridiculous amount of non-productive email. I have social networking service emails crufting up my inbox. I burned time in online ‘debates’ I just shouldn’t have gotten involved in. And I read Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, which unhinged my mind and helped me think totally differently about goals, workflow, and being a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

I've met with Tim Ferriss a couple times (fascinating guy) and have a galley copy of his new book sitting on my desk right now. With what Brian says (combined with the raves for the book I heard from a couple folks I trust last night), I expect I'll be starting into it today.

Back to Brian's project: while you may not necessarily need to make your world as completely devoid of noise and distraction as Brian has, I encourage you to review his list. There's a gold mine of tips in there for ways you might also choose to wrest back your attention and start responsibly firewalling your time.

Loathe as I am to admit it, I've recently had to adopt one of Brian's dicta and have already used it twice today:

Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

Anything you'd add? Got a felonious time burglar you've recently arrested?




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. »