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

Personal Productivity

Brian Oberkirch on reducing noise and stealing back attention

Trimming the attention sails at Like It Matters


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The 4-Hour Workweek
by Timothy Ferriss

Friend of the Folders, Brian Oberkirch, has gone on a tempo-attentional crash diet:

I had a “no mas” moment. I have a project generating a ridiculous amount of non-productive email. I have social networking service emails crufting up my inbox. I burned time in online ‘debates’ I just shouldn’t have gotten involved in. And I read Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week, which unhinged my mind and helped me think totally differently about goals, workflow, and being a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

I've met with Tim Ferriss a couple times (fascinating guy) and have a galley copy of his new book sitting on my desk right now. With what Brian says (combined with the raves for the book I heard from a couple folks I trust last night), I expect I'll be starting into it today.

Back to Brian's project: while you may not necessarily need to make your world as completely devoid of noise and distraction as Brian has, I encourage you to review his list. There's a gold mine of tips in there for ways you might also choose to wrest back your attention and start responsibly firewalling your time.

Loathe as I am to admit it, I've recently had to adopt one of Brian's dicta and have already used it twice today:

Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

Anything you'd add? Got a felonious time burglar you've recently arrested?

Quicksilver's plug-in for Stikkit goes public

Values of n Blog: Stikkit quick with Quicksilver

(Disclosure: Merlin is a proud member of Stikkit’s advisory board)

As Rael writes on the Values of n blog, Alcor has just released his first public version of the Stikkit plug-in for Quicksilver:

The plug-in enables you to send text to a new stikkit, edit an existing one, append and prepend, search by text and tag, jump right to the Stikkit you were after, and more. True to form, QS has again revolutionized the way I use yet another app—this time my own.

I've been using a pre-release of the plug-in for a few weeks now, and personally I think it's just swell. A few little tips and suggestions:

  • Append! - Just as you might do with a text file, you can create a QS trigger that allows you to append (or prepend) text to any of your favorite stikkits (your to-do list, per-person agenda, project list, and list of software bugs are all handy ones to automate with triggers)
  • Tag access - Tags are now your friend, big-time. Start typing, and when the tag you want appears, hit enter, and you'll go straight to a page with all that tag's stikkits; RIGHT-ARROW into the tag, and you'll see all those stikkits in a clickable QS dropdown
  • Proxy mania - Consider how you might be able to use a combination of Stikkit, proxy objects, and triggers to automate transactions like the one shown above and right. Specifically talking about this example, let me assure you: selecting a string of text and hitting one key to silently generate a new stikkit is just badass
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New TextExpander snippets for fast HTML

TextExpander: Customizable Typing Utility Saves Time! (TextExpander snippets)

TextExpander nerds, rejoice! Your friends at Smile on My Mac have added a couple new snippet sets that can be imported into our favorite keystroke-saving preference pane.

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Merlin & Leo: Gentle introduction to GTD

The Tech Guy Labs - Leo Laporte, "The Tech Guy" [2007-03-31]

On last Saturday's Tech Guy radio show, Leo Laporte and I talked about some of the basics of David Allen's Getting Things Done system. For most regular visitors to 43 Folders, this is going to be very introductory stuff, but I think it may be useful to folks who are getting started or are just curious about what "GTD" even means.

My segment appears from about 00:59:30 to about 1:08:45. Here's a link to an MP3 of the show, plus a few of the items that were mentioned in the segment:

iGTD: Strong OS X app with powerful Quicksilver integration

iGTD & Quicksilver

As I mentioned on MacBreak Weekly the other day, I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far in iGTD, a new "Getting Things Done" application for OS X.

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Microsoft to boldly go where Apple is already going...eventually

Microsoft changes tune on selling DRM-free songs

Exciting news on the digital music front. Microsoft plans to follow Apple's plan to sell DRM-free tracks from EMI to its extant army of Zune enthusiasts. Welcome to the social:

"The EMI announcement on Monday was not exclusive to Apple," said Katy Asher, a Microsoft spokeswoman on the Zune team, in an e-mail to the IDG News Service today. She said Microsoft has been talking with EMI and other record labels "for some time now" about offering unprotected music on its Zune players in an effort to meet the needs of its customers.

Way to innovate, Redmond. Once the period of EMI's exclusive deal with Apple has ended, this should make both Zune owners very happy.

[via: Boing Boing: Microsoft dropping DRM from Zune Music Store]

TMS: John Roderick, Chris Wetherell, and John Vanderslice

The last week or so of The Merlin Show has featured three fun interviews with independent musicians -- talking about Macs, handling email, and figuring out how to get paid. Stop by for visits with John Roderick, Chris Wetherell, and John Vanderslice (or view the videos right here, after the jump...)

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Vox Pop: Google Desktop Day 1?

So far, Google Desktop for the Mac isn't moving me.

I like the idea of it a lot. Integrating my Google and local searches and theoretically improving on Spotlight's UI and indexing foibles are laudable goals and, to my mind, could be useful additions if they're done properly. But, based on, admittedly, just 24 hours' usage, it hasn't provided a lot of new usefulness for my own purposes that isn't better served right now by a combination of Quicksilver and Spotlight.

When people ask me (ad nauseum nauseam [mea culpa]) to explain why they would ever need Quicksilver if they already have Spotlight, I opine that, while the latter does a good job of indexing the contents of your Mac world, the former does an outstanding job of helping you access and manipulate it in theoretically endless ways. They're actually very different things, and although they can and do work together, claiming they're trying to accomplish the same thing suggests a lack of exposure to what Quicksilver can do (as well as a dearth of experience in what Spotlight cannot).

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Pick of the Week: VLC Remote Interface Widget

Download VLC Remote Widget v0.2

(On each MacBreak Weekly, guests choose a "Pick of the Week" -- a piece of software or hardware, a web site, or just a cool trick -- that they want to share with the audience. Here's Merlin's pick for this week's episode)

For my money, VLC Media Player is the coolest OS X digital video player out there. It's free, open source, frequently updated, and seems to have no trouble running most every kind of video I've thrown at it.

Currently, one way I use VLC is to play movies on an old (pre-IR remote) PowerBook that's S-video'd up to our TV. This works like a champ, but, if I want to pause or fast-forward the movie, I have to haul my lazy ass over to the Mac to do so. To the rescue comes VLC Remote Interface Widget.

This is a very simple, (currently beta) Dashboard widget that lets me access the VLC controls on a Mac over my local network via a second Mac that's sitting on my lap. Just tell the controlling Mac what the IP address of the movie-running Mac is and to which port it should send the commands ("8080" should work fine), and presto: your laptop turns into a $3000 remote for your $3000 PVR. And all for free. :-)

It would be cool if future releases mirrored more of the VLC key commands -- e.g., I've gotten very fast at CTRL-CMD-left arrow for a TiVo-like instant replay -- but this has been performing solidly for me, and it just might scratch an itch that you have too. And, even if you don't (yet) have a use for the remote, do give VLC a spin. It's powerful stuff.

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.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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