Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Merlin Mann | Aug 10 2006
I recently ran across a mostly-helpful post on a website that mentioned the importance of using email folders for "organization." For some reason, this made me wince. I suspect it's because the day I got good at email was the day when I stopped organizing my messages and started focusing on doing something about them. Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.
As one of the holiest sacraments in the Church of Productivity Pr0n, folders -- be they physical, digital, mind-mapped, or purely notional -- represent the canonical way to put information into thoughtful piles. Folders of any sort afford a kind of higher-level, low-stress thinking that GTD fans in particular seek out. Folders do lots of stuff well:
So, yeah, folders are great at all of these things, for sure, and yeah, they do help you to get organized, especially in the sense of having less stuff in your life that's sitting around unprocessed. But at what point can a folder become an impediment to smart and timely action? Put more generically: how do we not allow the buckets and cubbyholes in our lives to become affordances for procrastination and dis-organization?read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 24 2006
Everybody falls off the Getting Things Done wagon from time to time.
Maybe you got completely caught up on your work for a while, but then got lazy and slid back into slack. Maybe you had a crapflood of new projects that made you "too busy" to do GTD properly. Heck, maybe you just decided it was a big waste of time and threw in the towel altogether. But, for whatever reasons of frustration, neglect, or (my favorite) "being too busy," it's not at all unusual to find you've slipped on your reviews, quit capturing, and basically let your little system fall into seemingly hopeless disrepair. And, I'll bet you're paying for it now, right?
You're wandering around, unsure what to do next, and you've lost confidence in your external system as a trusted outboard brain for your life. Stuff piles up. You hide the piles under newer piles. You make assurances to yourself. You start managing by crisis or by whomever in your life has the shrillest tone of voice in a given day. You've unintentionally started using the walls of your skull as a whiteboard (and you know how reliably that works).
Ultimately, you're spending all your time worrying about what else you should be doing, so instead of focusing on completing a single important task at a time, you've landed back in "plate-spinning mode," half-assing your way through a dozen poorly defined projects at one time (mmmm...multitasking). Nothing's getting done. You're procrastinating. You're eating pie and crying. You want to crawl under your desk and die. Sucks, doesn't it?read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 19 2006
An alarmed timer is one of the most simple external systems you can employ, and many of us distracted geeks have come to rely on them as a way to improve concentration, redirect attention, and bitch-slap procrastination. Why make your brain be the time-keeper and scold when you can just make some little robot do all the heavy lifting for you? Exactly.
Lucky for the Mac-scented timer geeks out there, this is an area of software development that seems to be flourishing lately, with sexy little apps like Minuteur and Dashboard widgets like ProdMe arriving on the scene to ride herd on the wandering mind.
Further, in the past week, I've stumbled across a couple more new apps that look like promising additions for the time-addled brain -- and, I'm happy to note, they look especially useful for fans of the (10+2)*5 dash.read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 14 2006
Tim Gaden summarizes ten tools with which Mac users can do GTD.read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 10 2006
Many of these will be familiar to GTD fans, but there are a few I hadn't seen or that are worthy of a second look:read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 6 2006
Merlin Mann | Mar 28 2006
UK-based collection of "life tools" covering topics like time management, stress management, decision making, etc.
Similar to (the oft-linked and more exhaustive) "Mind Tools," there's several cool articles in here if you dig around a bit (along with the now-ubiquitous Capital Letter Nouns for you corner-office types). A few I particularly like are Force Field Analysis, Meditation and Changing Behaviour.
Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but I do think these sorts of extreme distillations can sometimes be useful in providing people a foothold toward improving their world. Just underneath the candy-colored shells of pop psychology and "personal development," you can often find some profound, reliable, and time-tested insights into what makes us tick.
Then, of course, there's "Mission Statements." If you're -- you know -- looking to state your mission.
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Merlin Mann | Mar 17 2006
I like this simple homemade paper planner -- especially the free form lined approach for the pages.
Merlin Mann | Feb 27 2006
A favorite topic of GTD'ers is the contexts that we each choose to identify the times, tools, or locations by which a given task can or must be undertaken. This is a highly personalized decision, and I've learned a lot from seeing how other people are doing it.
Since I see it's been a while since I've talked about how I'm using contexts, here's an update that reflects how I'm now using Kinkless GTD and iCal to keep things wrangled.read more »
Merlin Mann | Feb 13 2006
There's been some interesting activity lately on two of the productivity tools that a lot of our readers like to follow.
D*I*Y Planner 3.0
Douglas Johnston has recently released v 3.0 of his Classic/A5 D*I*Y Planner. If you haven't seen this before, Douglas has put together a Creative Commons-licensed version of the plain-paper templates usually associated with Costly Paper Planners. But he's added some lovely design touches as well as some creative templates that are meant to support GTD and other popular productivity systems. Douglas says, of this version:
While, in my opinion, the recent 'net obsession with "things you can print at home" has gotten out of hand -- y'know they have graph paper in stores now? -- Douglas has added a lot more than blue quadrille lines here. This is thoughtful stuff, and if you love the immediacy of paper but don't want to spend a fortune on a big folio from Staples, this may be right up your alley.
GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus
Although I'm a little confused over exactly who's doing what to which version (why does my brain freeze up whenever I see words like "wiki" and "plus"?), it appears that GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus is a project to revive the popular (but stalled?) GTD Tiddly Wiki. According to Ted Pavlic, on the 43F wiki:
I haven't spent much time with this new release, but I'm intrigued by the idea of "plug-ins" as well as the idea that Ted plans to afford a "kGTD-like usage" for the GTDTWP.
I played with the last release of GTD Tiddly Wiki last summer, and I think it's a fascinating chunk of functionality. It's not really my particular cup of tea for everyday usage, but I really recommend you have a look for yourself. I get so much mail about the best way to "live" on two or more computers, and -- at least from a "GTD system" standpoint -- this seems like one novel solution.
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