43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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


NYT on a Paperless World

Pushing Paper Out the Door - New York Times

Is it just me, or is the Times tossing softballs for organizational nerds on purpose? Today's story on the ways people are purging paper from their lives gives lots of ink (digital, of course) to our friend, the Fujitsu ScanSnap, and comes with the kind of grand statements that no trend piece should be without:

[M]any families may be closer to entering a paperless world than they realize. Paper-reducing technologies have crept into homes and offices, perhaps more for efficiency than for environmentalism; few people will dispute the convenience of online bill-paying and airline e-tickets.
read more »

Page-a-Day PDA

calendar_image_large.jpgEvery year, somebody gets me one of those Page-a-Day calendars for Christmas. I never have the heart to tell them that I really don't want another, and every year I try to stick it out and dutifully tear off a sheet each morning.

read more »

Palimpsest: the guide to a (mostly) paperless life

It seems that many of us otherwise computer-oriented geeks have a surprising and earth-unfriendly confession to make: we love paper. Notwithstanding the entirely digital nature of my own trade, for example, I'll freely admit that there is really nothing quite like the smooth glide of a mechanical pencil over a big sheet of crisp, white office paper to facilitate good writing and thinking.

I can't plan out a new piece of software—or write an essay for that matter—without first messily scribbling my ideas out as mind-maps or rough user-interface sketches onto paper. My brainstorms are too messy and flow too quickly for the computer to be able to accommodate my chaos, yet that early disorder is essential to crafting the order and structure that will follow.

And yet I used to have serious reservations about this tendency to spoodge my thought process onto tree carcasses. It wasn't until I finally learned how to get rid of paper, that I was able properly to embrace its use in my work.

read more »

An Ass Pocket of iCal

A few posts back, I professed my love for paper. That affection runs deep already, but I stumbled onto a trick this week that makes me lust after the power of a sheet of 8.5" x 11" even more.

As I'm wont to do, I returned to the Lucky Charms, marshmallowy goodness of iCal recently to organize my stuff. I know it isn't perfect, but it's my comfort zone, and after flogging myself publicly over my tendency to switch systems, I decided to stick with the ol' July 17 icon for better or for worse.

In my paper post, I mentioned that I like to jot down a few tasks at the beginning of each day, to focus my energy. It's not GTD orthodoxy, but with a job like mine, I have to make a plan of attack or else it will be lost in a pile of board books and Legos. Normally this does the trick, but on days when I have lots of reminders, or appointments with accompanying notes, it can be tedious copying this all down. So one day this week, when I was in a hurry out the door, I decided to print out an agenda from iCal.

read more »

The Backs of Envelopes are Blank for a Reason

I wanted to piggyback off Merlin's post about paper yesterday because, A) I thought it was spot-on, and B) he scooped about 90% of what I wanted to write today. Nonetheless, he nailed something that sent me into a tizzy of note scribbling and bedtime brainstorming, about paper's sweet spot:

Still, for thinking, capture, and live collaboration, paper is one of the best friends you’ll ever have. And as long as we use it properly, it’s going to continue to enhance the creation of all downstream media.

This struck such a nerve because lately, I've become increasingly aware of how paper plays that role in my work. Like I said before, I'm the last person you should be listening to for advice on personal systems, but no matter what shape or form of digital doodads I'm using to hold my stuff, I always have some paper handy when I really want to get busy. Lately, it's been a Moleskine notebook, but it could be index cards, Post-It notes, or some good old fashioned college-ruled; it doesn't matter. My best work always comes out of sitting in front of the word processor with a pen and paper right next to me, ready for brainstorming, ad hoc project planning, and straight-up doodling.

read more »

Vox Pop: Workflow for the Fujitsu ScanSnap?

In comments about yesterday's "Making friends with paper" post, I was reminded by 43f member Adam Hooks...

A couple months ago, on a MBW episode, Merlin, you recommended some scanner/pdf solutions and you said you would elaborate on that on 43f at some point. I thought this was related to reducing your reliance on paper. How did your scanning experiment go?

Adam remembers correctly that I purchased and preliminarily fiddled with the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M for OS X (Info, Amazon). It's a small-footprint, high-speed document scanner that a lot of people have been talking about lately. I'd read so many reviews and blog posts about how easy it is to use that I was intoxicated by the dream of a life -- if not without paper storage -- where I could at least try to minimize my unnecessary paper clutter and start making document archiving easier and more searchable.

Given the not inconsiderable cost of the unit, I'm embarrassed to say that I got busy with other stuff and haven't yet returned to using the ScanSnap in any automated way.

Doesn't mean I'm not interested or haven't gotten started...

read more »

Making friends with paper (again)

Information R/evolution

I really enjoyed this video presentation by Michael Wesch on how we make, find, and share information in a world where we've shed the idea of paper as our sole medium for storage and communication -- where ideas can munge and mix freely, thanks to digital collaboration.


Now, of course, as a fan of paper for certain kinds of work, I always feel like jumping in at this point to defend our pulpy little friend from what sometimes turns into a blanket party.

read more »

Active Voice's free Hipster PDA templates

Active Voice Writing & Editorial Services in Baltimore -- Downloads

Cool-looking collection of CC-licensed Hipster PDA templates include iconic "capture notes," research notes, and (here's a new one for me) a "yarn sorting card." Neat stuff.

Simply drag and drop them to your desktop, or right-click and "save as." Templates are formatted as .png graphics and can be printed as-is or inserted into a formatted document. They can be resized to fit everything from a 3x5 card to a daily organizer to an 8.5x11 sheet.

Kvet.ch features an excellent article on how to print D*I*Y Planner HPDA cards (see the end of this page) directly to 3x5 cards for Mac users. The technique should also work nicely with the templates offered here.

Remember names at meetings by making a map

Meeting Tip: Learning Names | Gurno.com

As someone who suffers from frequent encoding errors and buffer overflows, I love Adam's idea to start a meeting by mapping the name and location of each attendant, along with their title, etc. Adam writes:

Step 1 - Reconnoiter

Draw a quick map of the table/layout of the meeting. Place yourself on it, to give yourself a reference point.

Step 2: The Combatants

As people introduce themselves around the table, fill them in. If you feel last names are necessary add those too, but don't do it at the expense of writing down someone else's name. You can guess at the last names later. If you miss one, leave it blank and fill it in as soon as you can - if someone else refers to them, etc, etc.

read more »

Patrick Rhone: Excellent productivity whitepaper

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but if you also hadn't spend much time with it yet, I suggest you check out Patrick Rhone's whitepaper on his version of a GTD system.

read more »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


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. »