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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.

Life Hacks

Kick procrastination's ass: Run a dash

Procrastination can drive most of us into a spiral of shame that’s as mundane as it is painfully personal. We know what we should be doing, but some invisible hang-up keeps us on the line. Unfortunately, the guaranteed consequence of procrastination is growth in the scale of the task you’ve been putting off—as well as the anxiety that it creates. All the time you’re putting something off, your problem’s getting bigger—both in reality and in your head, where your colorful imagination is liable to turn even the most trivial item into an unsolvable juggernaut that threatens to overwhelm you. And that means extra stress, more procrastination, and the music goes round.

My favorite tonic for procrastination—which I have mentioned in passing previously—is what I call a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute. By breaking a few tiny pebbles off of your perceived monolith, you end up psyching yourself out of your stupor, as well as making much-needed progress on your overdue project. Neat, huh?

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Tips on commuting by bike

Excellent thread over on the Google Group about using a bike to commute to work.

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Tips

Ben Franklin: Keeper of his own 'Permanent Record'

Ben Franklin nerded out in so many ways. Check out his cool little book for tracking his adherence to “13 virtues.”

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A vacation from the endless lists

Try a nice simple to-do list that you can really manage.

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Efficient little GTD package

I dig how Doug’s combined his tools (and, like, three different memetic atoms) for his Hipster PDA mod.

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On the culture of distraction; one pipe for all interruptions?

Driven to distraction by technology | CNET News.com

Really good article on the problems and implications of the interruption-driven lifestyle. Full of great bits, including this:

Businesses could benefit from introducing a collective effort to switch off, Honore said. He points to the marketing department at Veritas Software, which last year instituted “E-mail-free Fridays” for its marketing department. The move came at the behest of Jeremy Burton, an executive vice president who was finding his in-box stuffed with 400 messages a day, many from his own department.

In Burton’s department, employees can’t e-mail one another on Friday, but they are allowed to e-mail customers or other parts of the storage company if they have to. The result? Workers spend more time connecting face to face, and Burton finds his in-box is only half as full.

And when it comes to finishing up a big project, many workers are unplugging altogether—something that Microsoft’s [Chris] Capossela says should not have to be the answer.

Well-written software could offer a better solution, he said. It should help employees stay connected but enable them to receive only messages they want to get—from a boss or family member, say.

Also, Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slowness (Amazon.com: US | UK | CA | FR | DE | JP) offers great tips like this, among others:

Before using any time-saving technology, ask yourself if you could perform the task…more efficiently using an old-fashioned method such as walking across the office and talking face to face.

I really do encourage you to read the whole article, because it gets to the heart of a problem that’s contributing to most everyone’s stress and feeling of being constantly overwhelmed. And you might want to follow it up with seeing how Billy G. reportedly carves out a “Think Week” each year.

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New habits and useful landmines

This article's advice on “installing” a new habit is really quite good, but it's also useful just for its inspiring examples of what Danny and I have called “useful landmines”-pre-emptive ways to make failure in a given situation as difficult as possible. A few I especially liked:

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Tips

Good tips from the wiki

A sampling of some entries I’ve particularly liked on the unsorted life hacks page of the 43F Wiki.

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Tips on cleaning, stain removal, and homemade air fresheners

As a consequence of being too lazy to take the trash out a couple nights ago, the smell of salmon took up residence throughout our kitchen. In addressing the stank, I ran across this ginormous page full of of links on cleaning and stain removal including a handy collection of homemade air fresheners.

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WIRED interview: extended 12-inch version

Following the leads of David and Marc, here’s the full transcript of the answers I gave for the WIRED News article via email last week.

As usual, I’d really hoped to play down the goofy “cult” label, but, oh well, I imagine that’s the angle some editor destined the story to have. So it goes.

Still it’s a good piece if it helps a few new folks get it together, and I certainly can’t complain about the exposure (and very considerate deep-linkage).

Thanks for the opportunity, Robert.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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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. »