43 Folders

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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.

Personal Productivity

43f Podcast: Gangs, Constraints, and Courageous Blocks

iTunes: "Gangs, Constraints, and Courageous Blocks"

Learn how ganging and constraints can help you create the blocks of time you need to devote 100% of your attention to making your best work. (10:32)

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Four Years

[“what is this?”]

Four years ago last Monday, I started 43 Folders with a TypePad account and no idea what I was doing.

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Quote of the Week: On Multitasking

My quote of the week comes from a comment by Eideteker in this Metafilter thread on multitasking:

Multitasking is the art of distracting yourself from two things you’d rather not be doing by doing them simultaneously.

And, for what it's worth, here's what I had to say about the myth of multitasking a few years back:

powered by ODEO

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Foo for Bar: Kicking Ass with Outcome-Based Thinking

The other day, I was talking with someone who is trying to encourage a Getting Things Done-like work approach amongst the people on his team. We started talking about which parts of David Allen's GTD system appear to have the greatest long-term impact on the people who have adopted it and who ultimately stick with it for years.

When asked to distill everything down to its most powerful concepts, I came up with three, and here's how I'd summarize each:

  1. Outcome-Based Thinking. Articulating in the most specific terms possible what a successful outcome looks like for any given use of your time. Or as I like to put it, "How will I know when I'm done with this?"
  2. The Next Action. Knowing that you don't need to track everything you could conceivably do about a Project; you just need to know the next physical action that would get you closer to completion.
  3. The Review. Accepting that the heart of the Trusted System that lets you move through a day with a high tolerance for ambiguity is the knowledge that eventually everything you're doing gets looked at once a week without fail.

While I think stuff like ubiquitous capture, the Natural Planning Model, the Two-Minute Rule, and many other bits are arguably as important, these are the three things that I feel have the biggest impact on how people's results change over time.

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Carrots, Sticks, and the Paradoxes of Motivation

Shankar Vedantam - When Play Becomes Work - washingtonpost.com

Shankar Vedantam discusses research on motivation which points to the schizophrenic role that rewards can play in our perception of a task.

A host of experiments have shown that when threats and rewards enter the picture, they tend to destroy the inner drives. Paychecks and pink slips might be powerful reasons to get out of bed each day, but they turn out to be surprisingly ineffective -- and even counterproductive -- in getting people to perform at their best.

Add the right incentive, and you can encourage better output; add the wrong incentive and you risk removing the natural motivation people feel to do something for the intrinsic value they get out of it.

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Obama on Firewalling Time to Think

Obama on Vacationing and Time to Think - NYTimes.com

I like this snippet of accidentally-captured conversation between Barack Obama and British MP, David Cameron. Cameron asks Obama if he will be taking any time off for a vacation this summer:

Mr. Cameron: Do you have a break at all?

Mr. Obama: I have not. I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process — said that should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be ...

Mr. Cameron: These guys just chalk your diary up.

Mr. Obama: Right. ... In 15 minute increments and ...

Mr. Cameron: We call it the dentist waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.

This encourages and inspires me. If people as busy as these two guys (or Bill Gates, for that matter) can make time to rise above the noise, it's hard to imagine why each of us wouldn't want to occasionally unchalk our diary enough to try something similar.

[via Mrs. Mann]

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First Look: Evernote for the iPhone

(Oh, man. I’ve got a crazy busy day today, but it just got a lot busier thanks to an intoxicating morning with the iPhone 2.0 update and the iTunes App Store. I’ll try and sneak in a few little posts today on the amazing new apps as time permits)

Evernote (iTunes App Store Link)

  • Free
  • works with Evernote web and desktop apps

I need to do a full post on [Evernote](Evernote](http://www.evernote.com/) here some time soon, because it really is a nifty little application for collecting, storing, and organizing practically any kind of information you can throw at it. The iPhone version is a stripped-down, all-business version of the app that will scratch an itch for Evernote fans who are fatigued by having to email everything to the mothership.

More after the jump, including how to take screengrabs like this on your iPhone 2.0...

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Beeswax: Free Productivity App in the Spirit of Lotus Agenda

Beeswax - Mind Your Own Beeswax

Wow, this looks like a really interesting project to watch — a GNU-licensed, command line productivity app that finds inspiration in a bona fide classic:

Beeswax is an information management system inspired by Lotus Agenda. It aims to recreate Agenda’s flexibility and efficiency in a clutter-free, text-based (ncursesw) user interface with vi key bindings. Beeswax views & reports will have specifications for sections, columns, filtering, and sorting…

The relationships between items of information are highly flexible. An item can be easily assigned to several different categories and the view immediately displays the new relationships. An item can just as easily be detached from categories. As you move items through Beeswax, their relationship to each other remains highly flexible.

You still hear a lot of people saying Agenda is the closest they ever got to their dream productivity app. And, depending on who you ask, Agenda's endless flexibility was either incredibly powerful or infinitely fiddly.

Beeswax is a very young application, but I’ll definitely be giving it a spin. There's certainly a long-standing itch for Agenda that lot of folks would love to have scratched.

The Question to You

Any of the old hardcore Agenda folks tried out Beeswax yet?

[via Anarchaia]

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Email Insanity & the 0.001 Challenge

Via a Toot by Jeff Atwood comes this thoughtful post by Tantek Çelik on how email is no longer working for him. His first reason is a biggie:

1. Point to point communications do not scale.

All forms of communication where you have to expend time and energy on communicating with a specific person (anything that has a notion of "To" in the interface that you have to fill in) are doomed to fail at some limit. If you are really good you might be able to respond to dozens (some claim hundreds) of individual emails a day but at some point you will simply be spending all your time writing email rather than actually "working" on any thing in particular (next-actions or projects, e.g. coding, authoring, drawing, enjoying your life etc.)

This is one reason I'm getting attracted to using Get Satisfaction as a way to expose help issues to a large group of helpers and helpees (BTW, we're just getting started on GS -- FAQs and more will be coming soon). I'm also realizing that this is why I (and Jonathan Coulton and probably you) struggle with holding up dozens of one-on-one conversations -- it locks up your attention and its fruits in thousands of inaccessible alcoves. And truly, that does not and will not scale.

But, y'know, as I read Tantek's post, alongside his "Communication Protocols" notes, I found myself returning to a pet theory that I've been too embarrassed to lay out in a real post. But what the heck, I'll capture some notes and you can tell me what you think:

I suspect that email encourages people to act insane.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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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. »