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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

Organizing Your Hipster PDA

Fans of the Hipster PDA have been cropping up around the Interweb, so I thought I’d share my favorite hack for organizing your cards on the go. Like the Hipster PDA itself, it’s a lo-fi no-brainer, but I’ve found it a useful and durable way to keep things straight.

If you’ve gotten in the habit of carrying a stack of cards around, you may notice it can be confusing to quickly see which cards are “fresh” and which ones are “used.” This can lead to hilarity like handing one potential client a card with a note about another on the unexamined back of the card. Mostly, though, it’s just annoying to have to juggle a bunch of loose cards plus your space pen while rushing to jot something down.

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LazyWeb: Library Book RSS Feed?

How about an RSS feed of my public library account? Books out, books overdue, and books on request.

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I Want a Pony: Snapshots of a Dream Productivity App

There’s an early episode of The Simpsons where Homer learns he has a long-lost half-brother named Herb who’s a major automobile mogul. Out of love for his newfound family, Herb lets Homer design and build his ultimate car. The result is a piece of pure American id, in which Homer’s most extravagant obsessions combine to create an unmanufacturable $82,000 boondoggle—complete with bubble windows and a place to put a really, really big fountain drink.

In that pioneering national spirit of favoring geegaws and fantastic chimeras over practicality, here are a few completely random ideas about a notional productivity application I’d like to see someday (as well as few bitches about the lame state of the ones we have now).

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Map Folding: Building a Weekly Plan

I've sometimes struggled to cover the middle ground between high-level project planning (What projects do I have? and When are they due?) and ground-level daily execution (Call Jim; Draft Report; Fix CSS align in right rail nav). I've noticed that I'm often disappointed—not with what I accomplish in a given day—but with how far I've moved a project forward by the end of a working week.

At the same time, I have to confess a small frustration with the Getting Things Done notion of a "next action": if I'm really scrupulous about capturing every next thing I know I need to do, I end up with an unusably long and unstructured list (remember: my work is mostly one big "@online" context). At the same time, I try to be good about not putting too many to-dos in my hard-landscape calendar. So, while I know the raw materials for focused work are all there, I sometimes find it challenging to make meaningful clusters of activity from them without re-thinking everything five times a day (I mean, isn't that the point of planning ahead?).

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Idiot-proofing your tickler maintenance

After reading the recent caterwaul about my sloppy GTD habits, Shannon Lee emailed with a great hack for making sure your tickler file gets reviewed each day.

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SplashShopper: Shopping List Manager for Palm (and the Desktop)

Click for a full screen shotI have squirrely phases that repeat like clockwork. An abortive pass at creative drawing, an oddly devoted infatuation with the early ELO, and the sudden yen to play with my old Palm V—each reappears every 7 or 8 months, and each, in its fashion, passes in less than a week. Turn, turn, turn.

Last time that the Palm bug bit me, I learned about SplashShopper, the heir apparent to my previously favorite PDA app, JShopper. Both Palm apps excel at tracking Have/Need items for a bunch of different stores, which you can customize to your heart’s content. This means, for example, “2% Milk??? can be associated with Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and Costco, as well as the bodega around the corner.  So you have a persistent, reusable, totally contextual shopping list for wherever you happen to be. Best use of the Palm ever, this shopping list tracking stuff. But, SplashShopper attracted me with two big additions.

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Links to GTD Apps, Templates, & Scripts

I’d like to start collecting links to tools, applications, scripts, and templates that people have created for implementing Getting Things Done, and that they would like to share with folks on the web. If there’s something you’d like to see added here, leave a comment with a link and some background information (status, license, platform, etc.), and I’ll check it out. As with our OS X inventory collection, I’ll add the most useful-, novel-, and promising-looking submissions.

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DEVONthink: Integrated Information Manager

Version 1.9 of DEVONthink is scratching my information where it itches. Or something. Anyway, it's a cool app for managing lots of stuff. Read on...

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Sciral Consistency: Track Fuzzy Interval Tasks

Sciral Consistency lets you track repeating tasks using fuzzy intervals.

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Hack your way out of writer's block

I recently had occasion to do some…errr…research on writer’s block. Yeah, research. That’s what I was doing. Like a scientist.

I found lots of great ideas to get unstuck and wrote the best ones on index cards to create an Oblique Strategies-like deck. Swipe, share, and add you own in comments.

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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. »