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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.

Life Hacks

Open Thread: Doodle & your favorite simple web tools

Doodle: Scheduling meetings

This has been mentioned here before (just in comments, I think), but I have to repeat: I can't say enough good things about Doodle. It takes the idiotically over-complicated problem of figuring out when all of n people are available to do something, and in the simplest way conceivable, polls all the participants to find the optimal time and date.

I'm always thrilled when colleagues send a meeting invite in the form of a Doodle email; it requires zero fiddling on my part and pleasantly skirts the need for the endless email threads that most people rely on to get a group of people extant in one time-space unit.

I'm risking the indignity of a double-post on an "old" link for a good reason: with all the foam and fuss over "Web 2.0," and the ever higher (Ever! Higher!) technology we shovel to solve stupid human problems, it's refreshing to see adoption of a tool that ends up being no more complicated than a white board with electrical-tape columns.

I wish stuff like Doodle would inspire more developers to start with the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. No Arial Rounded, no whizzy AJAX, and no angel-round-attracting gradients. Just a modest solution to a single dumb problem. That is a life hack, defined.

What's your favorite idiotically simple web tool right now?

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.**

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Undo branches in Vim 7

All about Linux: A visual walk through of a couple of the new features in Vim 7.0.

Version 7.0 of Vim has some sexy new features under the hood, including the ability to jump back in time -- you can undo your app to where you were a few minutes earlier, for example. As explained by All about Linux:

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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.

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Ask 43F: Handling notes in scattered places

Shiran Pasternak writes to ask:

I'm overwhelmed by various note-taking tools you've recommended in the past (so it's your fault). I use, fairly arbitrarily, either TextMate, OmniOutliner Professional (purchased for kGTD, of course), and Notational Velocity...

My main problem is how to retrieve the notes, given that they exist in these scattered applications. Should I then migrate all my notes and use just one of these (or another I may have missed)? Or, should I use a combination of the tools? If so, can you offer heuristics for when to use each note-taking application, and also, if possible, some ideas for how and when to retrieve notes?

This is a really good question -- especially given how many people are suffering from the first-world problem of having way too many cool Mac apps to choose from for this kind of work. The short answer is to slim down the number of tools you're frequently using, but to then be sure you also do something smart and repeatable with everything you've captured. The longer explanation...

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The Tu Lan Files: Interviewed by Brian Oberkirch

An Interview with Merlin Mann at Like It Matters

Wow, I completely forgot about this. One day, when my pal Brian was in town, we hit Tu Lan and hung out for an hour or so talking about all kinds of stuff related to 43F, productivity, and how to blow lots of time trying too hard to be productive.

Given the noise level at the restaurant, I'm amazed he could transcribe the conversation, but here you go. Considering I was high on vietnamese food, there's actually some pretty good bits in there:

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Ultradian Rhythms & the 20-minute Break

I had a Psychology teacher back at New College (who's now apparently an expert in the Klingon language), who used to talk about how the human body had these ±90-minute cycles. And that if you could become aware of yours, you could do Great Things -- particularly because you could learn the optimal time to snag a nap versus, say, try to cure small-cell carcinoma.

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Make vol. 07, new Life Hacks column

makezine.com: The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work

Danny and my latest column, for vol. 07 of Make, is about "The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work." While the concept is nothing new to agile developers, we wanted to talk about how it relates to the lives of garden-variety makers and life hackers:

When choosing an approach to building code that will pass their unit test, XP programmers are always encouraged by their beardy masters to "try the simplest thing that could possibly work." Note that this is not the most comprehensive thing that could work, nor the most impressive thing that could work, nor even a particularly enjoyable thing that would just be really fun to build...

[In Danny's Life Hacks research,] geeks weren't developing world-beating frameworks that could "scale across the enterprise" or cook a plate of french toast every morning -- most of the scripts were hastily coded with the single-minded purpose of fixing exactly one problem.

The geeks' consequent leaps in productivity seemed to come not simply from automating repetitive tasks, but, one imagines, from not blowing two weeks engineering a bloaty system meant to solve every conceivable problem in their lives.

Among many other cool things, this issue also has a profile on Mark Pauline, instructions on building a weatherproof wi-fi access point, plus -- my favorite -- three methods for silencing a child's beeping toy.

Vol. 7 of Make is available at your geekier magazine stands, or you can buy it now on Amazon.com.

Life Clever: Secrets of the Tidy Desk

10 tips for keeping your desk clean and tidy

I linked to this very swell Life Clever article via del.icio.us the other day, but there's so much savory goodness in here, I feel like revisiting it.

Like a lot of good stuff, this article is about more than it first seems, since a tidy desk can be a MacGuffin; this is ultimately about a tidy approach, or, if you prefer, a tidy mind.

It means that you can create a physical workspace that supports your style of thinking and your approach to action, rather than having it be a purely aesthetic artifact of, say, your OCD or your secret fetish to work in an operating theater. Most importantly, you know where stuff goes because you know where your brain will want to look for it at the right time later on, right? And, as you eventually learn, if you can't immediately grok whether a given piece of paper is trash, actionable, or just for reference, you will be, as Walter Sobchak says, "entering a world of pain."

Like Martin Ternouth's excellent paper-based system, Chanpory's tips encourage you to build fences between projects and tall walls between statuses. For example, think about how a frequent usage of an "Incubate Box" might change the chaotic state of your thinking (as expressed in the mystery-meat piles on your desk):

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Open Thread: What's your killer app?

The other day I was talking with someone about the novel and non-obvious ways that people use Excel in their work and home life. Gotta say, I've personally seen some pretty amazing stuff happen when people take a favorite app, get really good at it, then bend it to their will. (And Excel is perfect for this.)

This tracks to Danny's Life Hack concept by which the alpha geeks were achieving lofty heights of productivity partly by mastering 1-3 "killer apps" -- then using them to solve most of their information and functional problems in fairly novel ways.

So my question for you: What's your killer app? Is there one place where 80% or more of your activity takes place (by choice)? Vim? Excel? Perl? Firefox? Post-it Notes? What's yours and when did you realize you'd become a badass at using it?




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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