43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Productivity Pr0n

Folders for organization _and_ action

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:

  • allow me to keep like with like
  • let me not have to think about the things I don't need to think about right now
  • help me know how to find things when I do need them
  • assist me in switching gears quickly
  • make my life less chaotic and messy

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?

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43F Series: "Back to GTD"

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?

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2 OS X timers to watch: Flextime & Meridian

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.

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New GTD resources page

52 Reviews » Getting Things Done, Resource Edition

52 Reviews has a handy reference page on popular GTD implementation tools. Although, personally, it looks incomplete to me without Kinkless GTD on there :) .

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:

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43F Podcast: It’s just a cup

The 43 Folders Podcast

It's Just a Cup

43folders.com - Are you enjoying your coffee or just obsessing about the cup you put it in? (3:25)

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

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Life Tools: Personal development mini-site

Browse Life Tools

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.

[ via del.icio.us/popular ]

DIY paper planner

Carthage: Hannibal's Journal: Personal: Rolling my own paper-based time management system

I like this simple homemade paper planner -- especially the free form lined approach for the pages.

What I recently decided to do is make my own day planner, print it up on my laser-jet, and then take it somewhere to have it spiral bound. Since I'm lazy, I didn't want to have to type the date at the top of 365 pages in Word, so I came up with a way to do it by putting "March, 2006" next to the automatically generated page numbers in the header. I also put all the other formatting for the page in the header as well, so that it's reproduced on each page of the document. Then, I just add 31 page breaks and voila, a DIY day planner for the month of March...

The wide lined column is for writing down the day's tasks. The narrower one is for appointments; I just scribble in the time and a note. The "Contacts" region is where I write reminders to get back to people by phone, email, etc. Finally, the "Notes" region is where I write down stuff like confirmation numbers, tracking numbers, phone numbers, and anything else anyone tells me while I'm on the phone that I need to jot down.

Dr. Contextlove or: "How I learned to stop worrying and love iCal"

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.

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Tool Updates: D*I*Y Planner; GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus

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

D*I*Y Planner 3.0 (Classic/A5 Edition) | D*I*Y Planner

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:

Way more professional and extensive, covering not only time/project management but also lifestyle, health, creativity and more (e.g., life balance, storyboards, diet tracker, finances, exercise log, story submissions, etc.). Nearly 200 pages of templates are included.

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.

N.B. Fans of a tricked-out Hipster PDA can look forward to an index card edition late next month. Until then, the 2.0 HPDA edition is still available on his site.

GTD Tiddly Wiki Plus

GTDTiddlyWiki Plus - your simple client side wiki

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:

GTD TiddlyWiki Plus is much better than GTD TiddlyWiki because it is not a derivative of TiddlyWiki; it actually is TiddlyWiki. This means that plugins and macros can be added and the system can be upgraded as new versions of TiddlyWiki come out.

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.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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