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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

7 Principles of "Idea Dumping"

7 Idea Dumping Tips (How To Manage Diarrhea of the Brain) at LifeDev

LifeDev lays out some good tips for "idea dumping," based on these seven ideas.

  1. ALWAYS carry paper
  2. Be descriptive when writing it down
  3. Plan for not planning on it
  4. Good environments matter
  5. Think big picture down
  6. Organize your thoughts
  7. Know when to stop

Of course I'm a big fan of #1, but I also think there's some terrific advice in #3 (Plan for not planning on it):

One problem with the way we typically brainstorm is this: it’s unnatural. We bang our heads against the wall while chanting “think, think”. If you’re like me, your brain doesn’t like to be told what to do. The second I sit down and “make” myself be creative, my brain goes on lockdown. Nothing in, nothing out. There’s no such thing as forced creativity.

I’ve found that the best way to allow your mind to form ideas is when I’m doing something else. You have to be ready at anytime to jot something down. I know this point is a lot like #1, but I can’t stress it enough.

AskMe: Motivation to do things you dislike

motivation solutions? | Ask MetaFilter

Good Ask Metafilter thread on finding ways to motivate yourself to do things you don't want to do. Good advice so far includes:

  • "Incentivise yourself, e.g. 'If I spend an hour cleaning and tidying, I definitely deserve <insert vice of choice here> when I'm done'."
  • "I set the timer for one hour every weekend and make myself tackle chores before I'm allowed to do anything else. When the beeper goes off, I stop and do something fun for a while. Repeat all day Saturday until everything truely essential is done."
  • "Don't look at everything all at once! Otherwise you won't get anything done other than worry about all the stuff you need to do. You have to pick at it, otherwise it overwhelms you."
  • "just pick one thing and do it, I pick the smallest thing if I'm feeling unmotivated. As you start chipping away the motivation will come to tackle the larger things."

Great tips, and a good time to mention The Procrastination Dash and most especially The (10+2)*5 Hack.

Folders for organization _and_ action

I recently ran across a mostly-helpful post on a website that mentioned the importance of using email folders for "organization." For some reason, this made me wince. I suspect it's because the day I got good at email was the day when I stopped organizing my messages and started focusing on doing something about them. Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.

As one of the holiest sacraments in the Church of Productivity Pr0n, folders -- be they physical, digital, mind-mapped, or purely notional -- represent the canonical way to put information into thoughtful piles. Folders of any sort afford a kind of higher-level, low-stress thinking that GTD fans in particular seek out. Folders do lots of stuff well:

  • allow me to keep like with like
  • let me not have to think about the things I don't need to think about right now
  • help me know how to find things when I do need them
  • assist me in switching gears quickly
  • make my life less chaotic and messy

So, yeah, folders are great at all of these things, for sure, and yeah, they do help you to get organized, especially in the sense of having less stuff in your life that's sitting around unprocessed. But at what point can a folder become an impediment to smart and timely action? Put more generically: how do we not allow the buckets and cubbyholes in our lives to become affordances for procrastination and dis-organization?

read more »

Managing around interruptions

Being organized means marshalling resources - The Boston Globe

Cindy Krischer Goodman's recent article on time management for the overcommitted and overwhelmed contains a gem from Stephanie Winston, who points out how senior executives learn to manage around the interruptions in their lives:

To do this, she says, start by blocking an hour or half-hour each day as power time to accomplish priorities. That may mean coming in early or hiding in the cafeteria to escape interruptions.

Break tasks into 10-minute segments; when you get interrupted, jot a phrase or cue to bring you back into the task later. When people drop in or call, give them your full attention, she suggests.

I think this is one reason why I like getting up early; time like that is so much easier to claim and defend before the world's demands start banging down your door.

Back to GTD: Simplify your contexts

This post is part of the periodic “Back to GTD” series, designed to help you improve your implementation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

As we've noted before, GTD contexts lose a lot of their focusing power when either a) most of your work takes place at one context (e.g. "@computer"), or b) you start using contexts more for taxonomical labeling than to reflect functional limitations and opportunities. As you may have discovered, these problems can collide catastrophically for many knowledge workers, artists, and geeks.

Part of what makes the Natural Planning Model so attractive are the decisions that can be guided by contextual limitations ("I'm near a phone" vs. "I'm at the grocery store" vs. "I'm at my computer"). While it's definitely a kind of "first world problem" to have, facing the unlimited freedom to chose from any of a bajillion similar tasks from similar projects with similar outcomes is not nearly as fun as it first sounds. Consider the contextual hairballs of certain jobs and tasks:

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Dave Gray: "The lifehacker's dilemma"

The lifehacker's dilemma
The lifehacker’s dilemma
Originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Dave sums it all up nicely, as far as I’m concerned.

(N.B.: the paper-based crotchal coverage hack.)

Back to GTD: Do a fast "mind-sweep"

This post is part of the periodic “Back to GTD” series, designed to help you improve your implementation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

Whether you learned GTD from the book or heard it from The David himself (via one of his excellent seminars), you know that the vital first stage of Getting Things Done is Collection.

As laid out in Chapter 5:

Basically, everything is already being collected, in the larger sense. If it's not being directly managed in a trusted external system of yours, then it's resident somewhere in your psyche. The fact that you haven't put an item in your in-basket doesn't mean you haven't got it. But we're talking here about making sure that everything you need is collected somewhere other than in your head.

And, as David succinctly states elsewhere in the book, if you don't use a dedicated inbox in the context of a healthy collection habit, your whole house or office turns into your inbox. And that just doesn't scale. Failing to do so in recent weeks may be why you've fallen off the GTD wagon.

So, just as you learned Collection as the first step in implementing GTD (and to subsequently maintain your system), it's precisely the place to start when you're trying to properly get back into it.

And for the errant GTDer, I feel like the most powerful collection exercise is what DA calls "the mind-sweep."

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43F Series: "Back to GTD"

Everybody falls off the Getting Things Done wagon from time to time.

Maybe you got completely caught up on your work for a while, but then got lazy and slid back into slack. Maybe you had a crapflood of new projects that made you "too busy" to do GTD properly. Heck, maybe you just decided it was a big waste of time and threw in the towel altogether. But, for whatever reasons of frustration, neglect, or (my favorite) "being too busy," it's not at all unusual to find you've slipped on your reviews, quit capturing, and basically let your little system fall into seemingly hopeless disrepair. And, I'll bet you're paying for it now, right?

You're wandering around, unsure what to do next, and you've lost confidence in your external system as a trusted outboard brain for your life. Stuff piles up. You hide the piles under newer piles. You make assurances to yourself. You start managing by crisis or by whomever in your life has the shrillest tone of voice in a given day. You've unintentionally started using the walls of your skull as a whiteboard (and you know how reliably that works).

Ultimately, you're spending all your time worrying about what else you should be doing, so instead of focusing on completing a single important task at a time, you've landed back in "plate-spinning mode," half-assing your way through a dozen poorly defined projects at one time (mmmm...multitasking). Nothing's getting done. You're procrastinating. You're eating pie and crying. You want to crawl under your desk and die. Sucks, doesn't it?

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2 OS X timers to watch: Flextime & Meridian

An alarmed timer is one of the most simple external systems you can employ, and many of us distracted geeks have come to rely on them as a way to improve concentration, redirect attention, and bitch-slap procrastination. Why make your brain be the time-keeper and scold when you can just make some little robot do all the heavy lifting for you? Exactly.

Lucky for the Mac-scented timer geeks out there, this is an area of software development that seems to be flourishing lately, with sexy little apps like Minuteur and Dashboard widgets like ProdMe arriving on the scene to ride herd on the wandering mind.

Further, in the past week, I've stumbled across a couple more new apps that look like promising additions for the time-addled brain -- and, I'm happy to note, they look especially useful for fans of the (10+2)*5 dash.

read more »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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