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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

Solid tactics for understanding (and beating) procrastination

Excellent, Neil Fiore-esque advice on unpacking why you’re procrastinating and rewiring the crummy thinking that supports it.

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Hybrid GTD/Ternouth paper-based system

Good post on implementing elements of _Getting Things Done_ with Martin Ternouth's paper project management system (mentioned earlier here).

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Psyching yourself out

Open Loops: Your Central Nervous System: Your Biological Key to Productivity

Interesting article on ways to jumpstart your brain into action by changing something physical.

By mimicking the sympathetic reactions to a threatening environment (sitting up straight, standing, moving quickly, deeper breathing), it appears to be possible to activate the sympathetic system, which then takes over.  We are ready to act, or in our case, be productive.  We can also change our environment to one that causes the sympathetic system to activate, one that is more spartan, threatening, or simply uncomfortable.  The result?  We take action.  We are more productive.

This doesn’t surprise me a bit, and if it’s all true, it might confirm my hunch that sitting still and staring at a screen all day is a recipe for lethargy, lame thinking, and productivity inertia.

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More Quicksilver Power Tips

As long as we’re on a run with Quicksilver tips, here are a few of the ways that I use Quicksilver that include pieces of the program that many folks aren’t familiar with yet.

Note that these are intermediate to advanced tips, so, again as ever, please look over the documentation (such as it is) and my setup guide—make sure you're using the latest version, read up on Quicksilver, load up on plugins (available via “Preferences > Plugins” in the Tiger version), and make sure you’re running in beta mode before asking for help.

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Quicksilver: AppleScript to quickly add Entourage Tasks

Entourage - Fast Task.scpt

A hacker who wishes to remain anonymous has answered my prayers by creating a modest one-line AppleScript that lets you pipe input from Quicksilver into a new Entourage Task with zero cruft—no Category, no Project, no date, and no reminder. Perfect for fast capture any place, and something I’ve craved for over a year.

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Quicksilver: The Comma Trick

Screenshot of The Comma Trick in action I’m still encountering folks who are big-time Quicksilver fans who don’t know about “The Comma Trick,” so check it out: when you’re using the first (and often the third) pane in Quicksilver, you can hit “,” (comma, with no modifier key) at any time to add the currently selected item to a working stack. Go ahead and try it. (important: The Comma Trick only works if you’ve chosen "Advanced Features: Beta" in “Preferences: Application??? and the “Primer” or “Bezel” command interface in “Preferences > Appearance”—switch if you need to and restart QS)

  1. Invoke Quicksilver (CTRL-Space by default)
  2. Use QS to navigate to your ~/Documents folder (or wherever a bunch of small documents live)
  3. Select a text file or a Word doc or what have you (don’t grab anything too huge for now)
  4. Type “,” (that’s a comma)
    • The icon in the pane should “scooch up” a little and the icon for the selected item now appears in miniature format below its name
  5. Select another file (again, any small file will do), and, again, type “,”
    • The icon for the item you added should now also appear next to the icon for the first item
  6. Repeat steps 3-4 a couple more times on random small documents
  7. When you’re done making your stack, TAB over to the second pane, and type til you get “Copy to…
  8. TAB over to the third pane and type until “Desktop” shows up
  9. Hit Return
    • All the files you’d added in the first pane should now be copied to your Desktop

Now consider a few possibilities of “The Comma Trick”

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Mail Act-On: Invoke Mail.app rules with custom commands

Mail Act-On 1.3 - Key Stroke Plugin for Apple Mail.App

If you’re using Tiger and Mail.app, you need to have a look at Mail Act-On, a free plugin developed by Scott Morrison and Jonathan Paisley that lets you assign keyboard commands that are bound to custom “Rules” you set in your Preferences. This is (very cleverly) accomplished by naming the rule according to the CTRL key you want to assign to it.

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The D*I*Y Planner: Hipster PDA Edition

a million monkeys typing » D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition

Geek worlds collide as Douglas Johnston releases the “Hipster PDA” edition of his popular D*I*Y Planner. As with the classic version, Douglas has adapted and refined popular “paper planner” templates—only this time they’re tailored to fit on our beloved index cards.

To commemorate this august occasion, we’ve asked Douglas himself to share his thoughts on why paper seems to be making such a comeback (if it ever “went away”), including some insights into who this format may and may not work best for.

Great work all around, Douglas!


The D*I*Y Planner: Hipster PDA Edition

by Douglas Johnston

D*I*Y Hipster PDA In this day and age, paper-based planning (PBP) is a notion roughly analogous to horse-and-buggies, pneumatic networking, sliderules, and steam-powered lawnmowers — in other words, ancient technology.

So, why are we suddenly seeing a resurgence in paper-based organizational tools like planners, index card sets (a.k.a., the Hipster PDA), file folders, pocket briefcases, and honest-to-goodness real-ink pens? Outside of a number of philosophical reasons, I believe that it's ultimately a matter of knowing that these things actually work. After all, not even the trendiest tools last for more than a season if they don't deliver (and I have a junk drawer overflowing with orphaned gadgets to prove it). There's a proven track record behind paper-based planning, and an endless array of options for those people wanting to define --and redefine-- their systems.

Despite being an IT professional, I've found that the dozens of technology-based systems I've used over the years have never really been fully effective solutions for managing my time and projects, and so bits and pieces of my life are now scattered in a hundred incompatible systems, never to be seen again. The last straw was when several of my Palm databases became badly corrupted last year, the bad data having also spread to the desktop and the backups: needless to say, much was lost. I began to wonder if the Day Runner I used a lifetime ago could be resurrected and made useful again. This plan had its problems, however: not only was the nearest Staples a four-hour jaunt away, but their shrink-wrapped forms were quite limited in variety and usage, not to mention very expensive -- a typical pack of 20 To Do sheets was about $5 USD. The D*I*Y Planner project was thus born as a way of providing a wide assortment of forms at little cost. (Although, my wife might argue that I was just being cheap.) With the realization that others might find it useful, I decided to create a system that could be tweaked to suit almost any methodology or situation, relying heavily upon user feedback for ideas and direction.

The latest member of the D*I*Y Planner family is the Hipster PDA Edition, a set of 34 organizational and planning templates designed specifically for 3x5“ index cards. I've received hundreds of requests for a kit like this, many claiming it was an important option for creating an ideal customized system. At first, the demand took me by surprise; after all, why would you want to print so tiny on cards that contain so little information and are so hard to file?

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Dashboard Widget for Unix 'Remind'

A few months back Mike Harris wrote us up a great article on Remind, a very cool and flexible little UNIX app for tracking date-based events. If you enjoy Remind and are using Tiger (OS X 10.4), checkout Nick Vargish’s Remind Widget. Gives you all the power of Remind in a pretty and configurable package. Great work, Nick!

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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. »