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

A vacation from the endless lists

Try a nice simple to-do list that you can really manage.

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On the culture of distraction; one pipe for all interruptions?

Driven to distraction by technology | CNET News.com

Really good article on the problems and implications of the interruption-driven lifestyle. Full of great bits, including this:

Businesses could benefit from introducing a collective effort to switch off, Honore said. He points to the marketing department at Veritas Software, which last year instituted “E-mail-free Fridays” for its marketing department. The move came at the behest of Jeremy Burton, an executive vice president who was finding his in-box stuffed with 400 messages a day, many from his own department.

In Burton’s department, employees can’t e-mail one another on Friday, but they are allowed to e-mail customers or other parts of the storage company if they have to. The result? Workers spend more time connecting face to face, and Burton finds his in-box is only half as full.

And when it comes to finishing up a big project, many workers are unplugging altogether—something that Microsoft’s [Chris] Capossela says should not have to be the answer.

Well-written software could offer a better solution, he said. It should help employees stay connected but enable them to receive only messages they want to get—from a boss or family member, say.

Also, Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slowness (Amazon.com: US | UK | CA | FR | DE | JP) offers great tips like this, among others:

Before using any time-saving technology, ask yourself if you could perform the task…more efficiently using an old-fashioned method such as walking across the office and talking face to face.

I really do encourage you to read the whole article, because it gets to the heart of a problem that’s contributing to most everyone’s stress and feeling of being constantly overwhelmed. And you might want to follow it up with seeing how Billy G. reportedly carves out a “Think Week” each year.

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Productivity tarbabies and dark nights of the geek soul

Being a whistle-stop tour of 43F posts on the highs and lows of honing your productivity mojo. With special attention to the times when all that fiddling makes you less productive and more stressed out. Sampling from 10 months of posting on keeping your footing when the TODO lists get too numerous, steep, and weirdly fractal.

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WIRED interview: extended 12-inch version

Following the leads of David and Marc, here’s the full transcript of the answers I gave for the WIRED News article via email last week.

As usual, I’d really hoped to play down the goofy “cult” label, but, oh well, I imagine that’s the angle some editor destined the story to have. So it goes.

Still it’s a good piece if it helps a few new folks get it together, and I certainly can’t complain about the exposure (and very considerate deep-linkage).

Thanks for the opportunity, Robert.

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nextaction: GTD task-tracking app


Finally took a few minutes last night to catch up on the zeitgeist and had a look at nextaction, a very clever, javascript-based app for running your GTD system.

Like the popular GTDTiddlyWiki (earlier on 43F) it runs offline and in your own browser (Firefox, please; no likey Safari). Where it differs is in its task-centric approach which is, in some respects, a truer GTD-based approach than the TiddlyWiki implementation.

Tasks, Contexts, and Projects are entered and tracked in a handy “dashboard,” so it’s very quick and easy to see which tasks can be accomplished at a given time. One addition I love is the ability to have parent contexts. So, an entry into my “@printer” context is also automagically included in “@mac” etc. Overall, just a great feature set for such a young application.

Since the comparisons with GTDTidddlyWiki are unavoidable, it’s worth mentioning that these are two very different approaches that you’ll want to consider based upon your own needs in a tool.

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43F Google Group: How big is a project?

Google Groups : 43 Folders [How big is a project?]

Good thread on the Google Group about what constitutes a project, especially in terms of the GTD sense of the word (defined in the book as “a desired result that requires more than one action step”).

I also used to find it confusing that there seemed to be an implication that you should only have one “next action” per project, which, gratefully, was completely a misreading on my part; you should have at least one next action per project, but you can and should have as many captured next actions as you know of.

As I read it, the important part is that, if they’re on your TODO list, they need to be the next physical thing you could do to keep things moving—as opposed to stuff that can’t or shouldn’t be done yet for whatever reason (time, dependencies, waiting on other people, etc.). That deeper “back of the envelope” planning should happen in project support materials so that your TODO list is exclusively stuff that’s tee’d up and ready to go.

Related posts:

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Beginner's Mind, Metropolis, and all our unnecessary parts

a million monkeys typing » The Beginner’s Mind

Metropolitan Clock

Douglas’s post reminds me of that unintentionally hilarious scene in Metropolis where the Beleaguered Iconic Worker is pushed to exhaustion in the clearly meaningless work of moving the clock hands around on the Big Futuristic Machine he’s charged to attend. (God, I wish I had a screengrab to share; it’s a stitch to watch. Found one. Thanks, Douglas.)

There have definitely been times in the past couple years when I’ve felt the same way about maintaining “my system”—driven as if by a motor from one list to another, dashing to connect all the pieces into some theoretically unified field theory of my life. It’s nutty.

The irony is that I, like many of you, tarry in this productivity sweat shop in order to achieve what David Allen has called “mind like water,” or the ability to adapt to change and disruption in a relaxed manner. So often, of course, the result is the virtual opposite. You get so stressed out about moving the meaningless clock hands on your Big Futuristic Machine that you forget what they’re supposed to be attached to.

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Unpacking the anxieties on your TODO list

Writer’s Block, Geek-Block, and Procrastination

I like this practical, tactical approach to “cringe-busting” a list of tasks that you’ve been procrastinating. Basically, you write down each thing you want to do as well as the anxiety that’s kept you from doing it.

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Index Card Printer Review: Canon Pixma iP3000

The Hipster PDA has been extended and improved beyond my wildest dreams thanks to things like GTDTiddlyWiki, Douglas Johnston’s DIY Planner, and John Norris’s very creative templates. With this growth and interest have come a lot of requests from readers for the best, cheapest, and most Mac-friendly printer for printing directly to ordinary index cards. I’ve shared this interest since, frankly, I’ve been buffaloed as well—crippled by the crappiness of my old Epson and unsure what to try next. So I did what I always do: I asked for help.

Even as I started asking for reader advice on inexpensive printers that handle standard index cards well, I had a feeling this was going to be a tough post to put together. This was borne out by the very wide range of suggestions you all submitted—over 30 different models by most all the major companies were mentioned (although only 4 got mentioned more than once)—as well as the plain fact it’s virtually impossible to give meaningful advice on a product you’ve never used. Duh, right?

Anyhow, to put this together, I’ve adopted a blended approach. First, I took everyone’s suggestions (and warnings), compiled a tally count, and then did a bit of extra research on CNET, Epinions, etc. (including a couple phone calls to sales support and some assorted friends).

But, in the end, I decided to put my real-life money where my mouth theoretically should be: I popped in to CompUSA on Saturday morning and bought the recommended model that looked best to me—the Canon Pixma iP3000—and then spent the rest of the weekend testing it out. See how much I love you guys?

The Winner: Canon Pixma iP3000 Photo Printer

This sexy little number looks like a toaster oven from 2001 and has an awful lot of cool features given its sub-$100 price tag. Most importantly for our purposes, it takes a big pile of regular old, drug-store index cards and prints whatever you want onto them at a clip of about 10 seconds per card. It also has a 150-sheet, cassette-loading paper drawer (similar to those on the old LaserWriters). This means that you can load up the tray with plain printer paper without removing your blank cards from the top loader —no juggling, and no disruption to your “normal printing.”

It’s a great photo printer and a fast, middle-quality text printer, but if you’re looking for a cheap way to print index cards from your Mac, I think this is a great choice.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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