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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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Life Hacks

Paul Stamatiou on Mac productivity

PaulStamatiou.com » Why I’m More Productive on a Mac

Paul Stamatiou lays out some of the ways his Mac helps him be more productive.

There is a reason why I’m always that guy using one of the few Macs stranded away from the sea of PCs in the library. It’s not because Apple’s OS X is superior to Windows in terms of stability and speed, but more along the lines that OS X lets me be extremely productive with several key features. I am adept in utilizing each system to its potential, having used both for years on end. Macs just let me do more. Here’s why.

Paul's hit parade includes:

  • Exposé (and some clever "corner" usage)
  • Dashboard (he uses it as a ready toolbox for various small tasks)
  • Spotlight (finding based on short strings of file names)
  • Quicksilver (well -- practically everything else ;-) )

LazyWeb: Incoming mail with > n "To:" recipients?

Related to "Thanks. No." and email filtering, I wonder how hard it would be for Mail.app, etc. to have a rule by which messages with more than n recipients in the "To:" line could be flagged for (depending on your preferences and courage) filtering, auto-archiving, or deletion. Maybe via AppleScript?

I've heard from several friends who filter all non-work email for which they aren't the exclusive "To:" recipient, but it would be handy to have some flexibility in what your own magic number is -- plus of course what you'd then do with emails that exceed your limit would be up to you.

But in an edge case, for example, if I get an email that went to [>=90 TO: recipients] and [<=25%] of the recipients were in my Address Book, the message would be flagged as "possible friend spam." (And, yes, I was once on a "Hey, this is funny" list that went to 96 people multiple times each day. Good times.)

So, any thoughts? Bonus points if it's a rule that's easy for non-geeks to recreate in GUI apps like Mail.app, Entourage, and Outlook, etc. Comments open for brainstorming.

(In related news, as I mentioned on MM.com, I'll soon be opening a thread on the Board to take suggestions on improving Thanks. No., so keep your powder dry on that one.)

Turning procrastination into your shitty first draft

Are you procrastinating? Or are you just thinking? | Gadgetopia

I think Deane's insights on procrastination and programming might actually be even more true of writer's block and for many of the same reasons. But perhaps unlike coding, the gestation period of a writing project almost always benefits from a series of very small starts.

While there are dozens of tricks for psyching yourself out of a perceived writing slump, you eventually learn that blocks are sometimes there for a theoretically plausible reason -- because you really haven't figured out what you're trying to say yet, but suffer crippling anxiety and dread about even committing the "shitty first draft." So, as with the programming example, your brain beats itself up for being such a laggard and you may stay locked in creativity-sapping inaction. But the truth is you're probably working on it already. The only way to find out is to start someplace. Anyplace.

As Neil Fiore wisely points out in his excellent book, The Now Habit, we usually have more than enough information to just start most any job. Don't begin by fussing about perfection or the "right" place to start, just start. You can get help midwifing the process through tools like outlines, mind maps, or talking to a duck.

But, if you've truly procrastinated even getting to the point where proper gestation and idea seeding can begin, you're understandably in a bit of trouble. Because now you have to go straight to producing the artifact (the code or the article or whatever) while your brain still craves that extra bit of time to turn it all over. Like they say, a pregnancy takes nine months, regardless of how many women you've put on the job. Don't slip on a deadline that makes you try to make an infant in one night.

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David Sedaris, and the stuff we do and don't buy ourselves

Another, as usual, hilarious New Yorker essay from David Sedaris. Mentioned here, first, because of his opening paragraph, which reveals David's personal method for "ubiquitous capture":

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Greg Knauss on personal "info-glut"

The Back-Logged Life

Daunted by the rising piles of "info-glut." Greg decides to pare down.

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Links

Kathy Sierra on "keeping up"

Kathy Sierra has a good post the other day about the problem of "keeping up," and, in particular, how so many of us feel compelled to take on unrealistic reading loads and then feel bad about not being able to deal with it.

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Links

Open Thread: What's your favorite minimalist wallet?

Like most 43F articles on economical carriage and stowage, the Jimi post attracted a lot of interest. Makes me think it's time for an open thread: What's your favorite minimalist wallet? Jimi? Slimmy? Moneyclip? Coin purse? Goin' commando? Spill in comments (and feel free to link to canonical product pages or price compar-i-nators like Froogle).

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Full screen mode update: Close enough

FSM - Before

As an update to my previous post about wishing full-screen mode were more ubiquitous, I wanted to share a combination of apps and tips that's been working well for me (thanks in part to the great comments over in that thread).

Tools you'll need

  • MenuShade - App that dims the blaring Menu bar at the top of the screen
  • SpiritedAway - App that automatically hides inactive applications after n seconds of your choosing
  • BackDrop - App that adds an image or solid color "between" the current/focal application and the Desktop. Designed for taking cleaner screen grabs, but ideal for hiding all those clickable icons

Setting up

FSM - After

  • launch all three of your new apps
  • hide the Dock by selecting "Turn Hiding On" (in the Dock Preferences)
  • set your preference in MenuShade -- I suggest you crank the "Shaded Brightness" far as you can stand to the right (completely hiding the menu bar until you mouseover)
  • set SpiritedAway to clear inactive apps quickly (mine is set to 60 seconds)
  • set Backdrop to "Display: Color" and pick black (or another very dark color)
  • in the pulldown menu of SpiritedAway, add "Backdrop" to the list of "Excluded" applications (this ensures SA doesn't, in fact, spirit your solid background away)
  • open a single document in the app of your choice (and optionally close all configuration windows, palettes, etc.)

Ta-da. A serviceable full screen mode for minimizing distraction and the myriad attractive nuisances in your world. Maybe not as fancy as the built-in functionality in MacJournal, DevonThink, or Ulysses, but close enough for government work -- and usable across the range of apps in your life.

43F Podcast: The Sticky Hipster (and the Case of the Missing Toilet Paper)

Ubiquitous index cards; you'll look completely insane, but feel really relaxed. Just as God intended. (3:10)

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ADT & the catch-and-release distraction program

Why can't you pay attention anymore? | CNET News.com

Ever wonder what all those electronic poking sticks might be doing to your attention span?

Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell has identified a late-onset cousin of ADD that he calls "Attention Deficit Trait," a "condition induced by modern life" and the endless "chatter" generated by our beepy devices and interrupt-driven lifestyles.

I don't know enough to evaluate the rigor of this theory in the eyes of a researcher or physician, but this CNET interview with Hallowell is filled with enough right-on quotes to have me nodding along all day.

(read through, after the cut, for our first Mindfulness Exercise)

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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