43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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

Setting Limits

Closed Doors and Casualties in the "Coup d'attention"

'Weird how people bow, scrape, and apologize for the interruptors of their work. Corporate America is Stockholm Syndrome with a power tie.'

Last night, I got home from a lovely one-day trip to do some speaking, and I was catching up on a couple emails before I went to bed. One of the messages was a thoughtful note from someone who works in the US Government (and whose name, job, and identifying elements I'm changing to protect his or her privacy).

"Sally," I'll call her, likes the 43 Folders stuff, but has legitimate concerns about how all this "attention management" stuff might send a wrong or hostile message to her colleagues. It's a great point.

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Time & Attention Presentation: "Who Moved My Brain?"

Who Moved My Brain? Revaluing Time & Attention (slideshare.net)

a brain in a jarThanks to my pals, Dara and Shawn, I've been preparing for a return visit with the folks at GoDaddy to deliver a couple talks on Inbox Zero and Time and Attention.

As I've been going over my slides for the Time & Attention talk, I realized I hadn't shared how the material has evolved since it premiered at Macworld in January. Which is to say, "Kind of a lot." So, I've posted the updated deck.

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Making Time to Make: One Clear Line

This article is Part 3 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Then: Part 2, The Job You Think You Have

Tick tock.Could an email recluse like Neal Stephenson just cowboy up by agreeing to a monthly chat session or the occasional visit to a fan forum? Sure, he could. Could a volunteer intern scan Neal’s email once a week for particularly wonderful notes? You bet. Could he even conceivably just drop all the blast shields, open a chat room, “livestream” from his desk, and then spend the rest of his life answering questions from people with nothing better to do? Maybe. Sure. But, probably not. He’s already told us as much, hasn’t he?

The point, from my perspective, is that Stephenson possesses the man-sized pant stones to declare precisely what the people who enjoy his work should expect from him. And, in so doing, he has drawn a clear line that some might find hard to love, but that is very easy to see, understand, and respect. No, he didn’t hire someone to answer his email, or get a kid to pretend to be him on Twitter, or install a Greasemonkey script that “autopokes” people on Facebook (I’ll leave you to guess which two of these I do).

Neal Stephenson essentially said, “Listen, gang, here’s what I’m going to make for you: novels.” And then, he went back to typing. To working. On work.

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Making Time to Make: The Job You Think You Have

This article is Part 2 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Previously: Part 1, Bad Correspondence
Finally: Part 3, One Clear Line

Photo of Former Beatle, Maker, and Non-BlackBerry Carrier, John Winston Lennon (1940-1980) If you're a publisher, journalist, author, blogger, musician, artist, designer, cartoonist, or any other sort of person whose job it is to connect with people by communicating ideas, it's natural and wholesome for people who are interested in what you do (and many of whom are certainly makers-of-stuff in their own right) to develop a relationship with your work and to want a way to participate in it, add to it, and build upon it. It's equally great to reciprocate in a way that's collaborative, fun, and useful. God knows, it's anybody's dream to have people interested enough in what you do to find that they want to reach out to you. Talk about a first-world problem.

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Making Time to Make: Bad Correspondence

This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series about attention management for people who do creative work called, Making Time to Make.
Next: Part 2, The Job You Think You Have
Finally: Part 3, One Clear Line

Over the years, novelist Neal Stephenson (wiki), has had at least a couple different pages where he's explained why he's chosen to limit the access he provides via email, interviews, and phone calls. It appears to be something he's given a lot of thought to.

Via Jessamyn, here's an Archive.org mirror of an older version of his page where he explains his introversion and need to stay focused on his work, alongside FAQs that answer many of the questions he typically has to field. Read it all though. It's pretty good. Stephenson's bottom line?

I simply cannot respond to all incoming stimuli unless I retire from writing novels. And I don't wish to retire at this time.

And here's another well known piece, Stephenson's "Why I am a Bad Correspondent", in which he lays out more details about why he's chosen to create an expectation based on guarding his attention so slavishly:

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Field Reports: Guerrilla Office Tactics

I've started collecting stories -- some of which may be entirely apocryphal tall tales -- of the purported lengths to which people are going to filter noise and to ensure that their time and attention aren't ceded to bad ideas, thoughtless people, or garden-variety time burglars.

Here's a few of the more novel ones I've picked up. I'd also love to hear your favorites from amongst the cheats, tricks, and squirrely rules you've heard about:

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Vox Pop: Re-creating scarcity

I have a friend who told me he was thinking about giving his project managers a weekly pile of chips that could be redeemed for person-hours in meetings. So, to schedule firewalled, group face-time, the PM would need to cough up the equivalent number of tokens from her pile. Thus, one, long, all-hands meeting might require the whole week's stack. While, fewer, shorter meetings with smaller groups made the pile go further.

It was just an idea, and I'm pretty sure he never implemented it, but I think it's a fascinating concept. Why? Because I love the idea of re-introducing scarcity into systems that lack boundaries.

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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. »

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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. »