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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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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


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.)

Getting started (or reacquainted) with Quicksilver

Hack Attack: A beginner's guide to Quicksilver - Lifehacker

Adam Pash has written a terrific introduction to Quicksilver that I recommend for folks who are still scratching their heads about what all the fuss is about.

Part of the challenge is the "layers of the onion" problem. There's no explanation of what Quicksilver does that's at once brief, accurate, exhaustive, and easy for new users to immediately grok; it really does reveal its delights over time, through repeated usage, and in proportion to your willingness to learn and experiment. Adam does a good job of acquainting new folks with the basic idea and the setup, then he walks through a few of the many bits of fu that have made this app the phenomenon that it is.

Quicksilver can be used to launch files and applications, manipulate data, and seamlessly plug into almost any application on your Mac so that you can perform actions as soon as you think of them in a few short keystrokes.

Also from our own archives, here are a few popular Quicksilver items from the extended 43 Folders family (including 4 video tutorials). And seriously: if you really still don't see why QS is different, do watch the videos; writing about Quicksilver is like singing about a magic trick.

read more »

NYT: New data on the problems of "multitasking"

Slow Down, Multitaskers, and Don’t Read in Traffic - New York Times

'The Myth of Multitasking' by timothymorgan on Flickr

Yesterday's New York Times front page ran an article pulling together the results of several recent studies looking at how interruptions and attempts to multitask can affect the quality of work as well as the length of recovery time.

Here's one bit that really grabbed me:

In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.

“I was surprised by how easily people were distracted and how long it took them to get back to the task,” said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft research scientist and co-author, with Shamsi Iqbal of the University of Illinois, of a paper on the study that will be presented next month.

And, from a PDF of another of the studies cited ("Isolation of a Central Bottleneck of Information Processing with Time-Resolved fMRI"), here's a telling snippet from the article's abstract (yes, most of the rest of it is well over my head):

read more »

Brian Kim: Teach kids time management

Top 5 Things That Should Be Taught In Every School

I enjoyed reading this list and was especially into number five:

#5: Time Management

Speaking of other skills that can be utilized in any job and career is time management. The majority of students never really learn to value their time and mange it while in school. Procrastination is all too rampant (studying right before class, doing homework and essays the day it’s due, partying the night before the exam). This lack of time management often carries over into adulthood, which becomes a major liability.

Learn to make a to do list. Learn to prioritize. Learn to break things down into 30 minute blocks of time. Learn about actionable items. David Allen’s GTD system is your best friend here along with Dan Kennedy’s No B.S Time Management. Again if you’re unfamiliar with these people, Google is your best friend, but I’m sure the majority of readers will know what I’m talking about.

What would you add to the list of skills you think should be taught in school?

[ via: Anarchaia (3/14/07) ]

Cool-looking "Buddha Machine"


Buddha Machine home page

I've been hearing about the $25 Buddha Machine for a while (I recall Leo mentioning it once) and was tempted enough to go ahead and order my own today over on Forced Exposure (probably not least because of the amazing exploded drawing they use as a logo).

From the FAQ (which comes from a Pop Matters review):

The Buddha Machine is a little plastic box that plays music.

Specifically, FM3 constructed nine drones, varying from two seconds to 42 seconds, which repeat endlessly in the listener’s ear until the “track” is switched to the next drone (or the two AA batteries run out).

Sean notes that the manufacturers will also let you download uncompressed versions of the 9 included drones for free, so you could presumably emulate some of the functionality on your iPod. Friendly.

Anybody out there got one of these? How you enjoying it?

TechDigs: Mac-friendly RAID 5 setup with Infrant ReadyNAS

Help, My Hard Drive is Full! - TechDigs.net

Infrant ReadyNAS 1 Terabyte Network Drive

One of my ongoing rants on MacBreak Weekly revolves around how hard I've found it to keep up with the spiraling need for responsible personal backup. Photos, movies, audio, documents, you name it. As Mark Pilgrim asked last May, "How do you back up 100 GB of data per year for 50 years?" And don't get me started on media rotation and offsite copies. The mind boggles. I mean, remember when a shoebox full of Zip disks and a copy of Retrospect was all you needed? Good times.

I don't have the long-term solution I'm after just yet (although, I sometimes think Amazon S3 is heading us in the right direction), but for the middle-term, my call for help has been answered handsomely by Greg Keene of TechDigs, who's put together a detailed breakdown on how he wires things together around his Infrant ReadyNAS NV (amzn) -- it's Mac-friendly, Raid 5-able, and has an assload of configurable options.

Greg lays out the problem he's trying to solve:

read more »

Actiontastic adds iCal and .Mac sync

Actiontastic 0.9 gets iCal sync support

Tim at Hawk Wings points out that Actiontastic .9 now supports Sync Services, making it easy to move your stuff to iCal, .Mac, as well as (previously added) your iPod.

I haven't spent a whole lot of time with Actiontastic, but I admire its lean approach to task work (arguably a bit too lean for some folks). Still, I always feel like the less you have to fiddle with, the more likely you may be to actually do the stuff on your list.

Also, making sync seamless and reliable is clearly something Mac users are coming to expect in most every app where it's practical. Plus, of course, it works with Quicksilver, and there's nothing wrong with that.

More on Actiontastic here.

Tips from Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools

Cool Tool: Tips 22

I love when Kevin posts these collections of tips from his readers. They're cut from the same cloth as our life hacks on the wiki.

Like many of 43f's readers, Kevin's contributors also obsess about shaving:

When your container of shaving oil is empty, try filling it with olive oil from the kitchen instead of spending $15 on a new stuff. I discovered that when I ran out a few years ago & I haven't looked back since. Olive oil does just as good a job and costs almost nothing per shave. People have been shaving with olive oil for thousands of years, there's no reason not to continue doing so.

-- Mark James

Many more on Cool Tools (here's the CT "Tips" category).

Task List: Handy student app for tracking assignments

Funkware - Task List

Task List is a promising looking new app for students who want to track the tasks associated with homework and other assignments.

As a former dysfunctional student, I like the way you can filter work by class, gauge progress on assigments, set priorities, and then track the results, such as the grade you received, etc. It also has support for "Classcasts," syncs with .Mac, and seems to work nicely with iCal.

As with many tricked-out task apps, there's plenty of room for bogging down in the sort of fiddly meta-work that's more fun than, say, actually reading Bleak House, but this app is far from the worst attractive nuisance I've seen in that regard. Based on my 20 minutes of running through it yesterday, it looks like a useful application for managing the rat's nest of tasks standing between you and your sheepskin.

Task List is the simple way to manage your homework. After all, it's bad enough that you have to do homework in the first place - why should keeping track of it be difficult too? Task List 5 builds on the many features of Task List 4, and offers you even more ways to keep track of what you need to do. Even better, it makes it easy to actually do something about your homework, with features such as multiple file attachments for each task, a built-in tabbed notes editor, and convenient reference information and links, just like your composition notebook. Best of all, Task List 5's new interface makes it easy to view your information in as simple or complex a manner as you wish.

What are you organized Mac students out there using to keep it all together?

W. H. Murray on the power of starting

I've finally gotten around to reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It'd been recommended to me numerous times over the past few years -- most recently and publicly by David Allen during our podcast episode about procrastination.

I'll save a full review of the book for another time (hint: ala, Bird by Bird, it's a terrific tonic for procrastinating artists), but I can't think of a better way to welcome 2007 than by sharing this quote, which Pressfield borrows (p.122) from the Scottish mountain climber W. H. Murray:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Happy new year, kids. Start something cool.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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