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Personal Productivity

My War on Clutter: Inspiration for Independence Day

Tomorrow is the Independence Day holiday here in the US, so a lot of folks reading this will have the day off from work. If my own clutter war is piquing your interest in improving your surroundings, tomorrow could be the occasion for you to put a few minutes toward making a dent in your own pile.

Here's some inspirational (and cautionary) links to get you started.

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Vox Pop: To-dos on your iPhone?

As noted by John Gruber and Living with Mac, the iPhone doesn't currently appear to have built-in support for "to-dos" -- even the modest task support that's built-in to OS X's iCal. :-(

While this is difficult for me to understand (I know it's something I'd expect in even a Gen 1 smart phone), it's cool to see that web- and Mac-based developers are stepping up to the plate in the absence.

A few of the apps I've seen so far (and in varying states of reality and vapor):

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My War on Clutter: The Tools to Purge BIG

[This is a first-person account of what's worked for me in preparing to gut the crap out of my house; you should feel free to do or not do any part of this -- or just adjust the recipe to whatever suits your own needs, hangups, household fetishes, and budget. But you knew that, right?]

My past attempts at removing clutter have consistently bottlenecked at a few common points. Often I wasn't really committed to the idea of a full purge, so I'd ignore whole boxes of memorabilia. Other times, my goal was primarily aesthetic, so I'd end up shoveling things into pretty boxes and "organizers". But I finally realized what's really been stopping me from accomplishing anything substantial. It's so simple and so dumb that I'm embarrassed to admit it: my garbage can was too small.

Yeah, I mean that both literally and figuratively. Because part of my success in purging this time around has come from thinking much bigger in every way -- I want bigger changes from throwing out more stuff including the big dumb items that won't fit in a garbage can. Here's some tools and processes that have helped me.

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My War on Clutter: Never "organize" what you can discard

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in _It’s All Too Much_ brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn't help get you closer to the life you want to have, it's simply not worth keeping. Period.

Obviously (and unavoidably), this goes for a family room that's turned into a junk drawer for DVDs and books, and you can clearly see it evidenced in a kitchen where no flat surface is free of junk mail, bills, and newspapers. Those you can't miss.

But, for me, the real story is about the ways you try to solve clutter problems solely by getting more space or obtaining more containers -- jamming all those DVDs into cabinets and stuffing those newspapers into bigger volume baskets. The clutter doesn't need a prettier package; it just needs to go. Now, and in very large quantities.

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My War on Clutter

As I mentioned the other day, I learned about the anti-clutter book, _It’s All Too Much_, when its author, Peter Walsh, was interviewed for the Unclutterer site.

Well, the timing must have been right, because I bought a copy, and by the time I'd finished the first chapter, a switch had flipped in my head. I say "timing" because, while the book is pretty good (if perhaps not particularly groundbreaking), the author's observations on why people allow themselves to live with too much crap were an overdue existential bitchslap for me. And, I'll admit, he has simple cures for dealing with this seemingly intractable challenge, and for me that's a hard combination to beat.

Clutter of every kind has been the default state of my physical world forever. Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because -- y'know -- you never know when it might come in handy. Bad habits formed early, bad habits stuck, and, for the most part, bad habits remain intact to this day.

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Merlin on MacBreak Weekly: iPhone Release Show

MacBreak Weekly 46: iDay


Hosts: Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, Scott Bourne, and Alex Lindsay >


iPhones in hand our MacBreak quartet gives you their first impressions of the latest from Apple...

Here's a direct MP3 download of MBW 46.

Believe it or not, this week's episode was about Apple's iPhone. Yes, the iPhone. I know: I was surprised, too.

Also, we shot a quick MacBreak (video) on Thursday night where we visited with people queued up outside the Stockton St. store here in SF. I chatted with a bohemian clown, an expensive-looking video camera, and a man from Gizmodo who had a webcam attached to his head. Just another Thursday in Union Square.

Anyhow, the iPhone is out, it's pretty, and lots of people are buying them. For further coverage of the iPhone and the experiences of its excited new users, kindly visit the entire internet.

Business 2.0 interview with GTD's David Allen

David Allen: The master of getting thing done - July 1, 2007

Terrific article on David Allen and his company. Although the perspective is heavy on the business and money (well: after all, it is Business 2.0), there's lots of interesting history and insight in here as well.

David Allen sits in his small office in a cottage behind his house in Ojai, Calif., talking business with a visitor. Suddenly he stops. "That reminds me," he says. He scribbles the words "bird feed" on a piece of blank notebook paper and tosses it into his inbox.

It's an ordinary moment in an ordinary day. But for Allen and his legion of followers, it holds the key to salvation. He has emptied his mind of a nagging task, placed it into a trusted system for processing, and casually returned to his conversation.

I hung with David when we were doing our podcast together (download the mp3), and I'll tell you what: that is exactly how the man works, and it's inspiring to watch.

Via: kedrhodes' bookmarks on del.icio.us

Michael Buffington: iGTD + Quicksilver + subversion

by Michael Buffington

This is the second entry in a multipart series about my recent obsessive love affair with GTD, the iGTD application and Quicksilver.

In the last entry I put the emphasis on getting my tasks written down quickly and out of my focus into a system I could trust. I could choose to spend some time later to review my tasks and do what I like to call "iGTD gardening", where I check up on all my projects and do a bit of weeding of duplicate or irrelevant tasks, and fortify those tasks with whatever information comes to mind as I'm looking at them.

Since I'm now in the habit of pushing new tasks to iGTD and immediately forgetting about them I have the refreshing ability to work on a task without ever thinking about anything else. iGTD then becomes my set of instructions to follow when I need guidance, and if I've tended my task garden well, it's a rich set of instructions with a lot of tedious thinking already finished.

This system works out alarmingly well until you're possessed by SSD (severe stupidity disorder) and delete your iGTD database without even a whiff of lingering vapors. Immediately you'll be consumed by a profound and unshakable dread as you realize your tether has been severed from the mother ship and you begin to drift into outer space, your Tang to be divided up amongst your colleagues (even the ones you loathe).

Luckily for most of us, iGTD makes database backups upon starting up the iGTD app and for a couple of other events, and luckier still, most of us don't suffer from SSD very often.

But I often do, and don't leave anything to chance.

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Vox Pop: Have you tried outsourcing your life?

A lot of my friends have been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, to varying degrees, several of them have started trying on some of his more audacious ideas, such as checking email once a week, finding an "income muse," going on an extreme information diet -- a few people I know are considering outsourcing pieces of their personal and professional lives.

For reasons I can't fully explain -- and will, for now, just write down to Tim's engaging style -- I also found this outsourcing idea weirdly fascinating. You identify the tedious tasks in your life that don't represent the best use of your time, and assign them to an overseas worker who can complete them for a few bucks an hour. This apparently can be virtually any kind of mundane task, from booking a dinner reservation to doing research on a company to -- heck, why not? -- answering your email.

So, while I know lots of people share my theoretical interest in this, I wonder how many of you have tried it, and how many of you are using outsourced help on a regular basis. What's your experience been? Does this work? What sorts of task are most amenable to long-distance assignment?

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Unclutterer talks with "Clean Sweep" host, Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh answers questions for Unclutterer.com

Thanks to my self-imposed media tunnel vision (and the bulging TiVo that enables it), I've apparently managed to miss a show on TLC called Clean Sweep that sounds like it's potentially up my alley. I guess the idea is that they parachute in to crazy-messy houses and help the harried occupants affect a makeover.

The wonderful Unclutterer.com recently interviewed the show's host, Peter Walsh, and he had a couple interesting things to say about origins of clutter that get to the root cause:

Clutter comes in many forms and the reasons why people hold onto it is similarly complex. There are two main types of clutter: Memory Clutter – which reminds one of an important person, or achievement or event from the past – and I-Might-Need-It-One-Day Clutter – this is the stuff held onto in preparation for all possible futures that one might encounter. Keeping things from the past or sensible planning for the future are great things – it’s when the objects take over that there’s a problem. With many of the people I encounter, their primary relationship is with their stuff. Instead of owning their stuff, their stuff owns them. This clearly is not only unhealthy but also a real stumbling block to happiness and a fulfilling life.

Here's Walsh's new book: It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Already ordered our household a copy.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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