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.

Time and Attention

Video: Merlin's Time & Attention Talk (Improvised Rutgers Edition)

Video: Merlin Mann - "Time & Attention Talk (improvised)"

Audio (mp3): "Merlin Mann - 'Rutgers Time & Attention Talk'"

This is a talk I did at Rutgers earlier this month. I kinda like it, but for a weird reason. Something something, perfect storm of technology Ragnarok, and yadda yadda, I had to start the talk 20 minutes late with no slides. Nothing.

So, I riffed.

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43f Podcast: Gangs, Constraints, and Courageous Blocks

iTunes: "Gangs, Constraints, and Courageous Blocks"

Learn how ganging and constraints can help you create the blocks of time you need to devote 100% of your attention to making your best work. (10:32)

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The High Cost of Pretending

Guess I'm finally realizing that most people just want you to PRETEND to read and digest their email. 'Yes, $CITIZEN! I agree with $THING!'

apophenia: Warning: Email Sabbatical is Imminent .. and other random thoughts

[via trivium]

danah boyd is finishing her dissertation, then going on vacation for a month. While, she's gone, she's not accepting email. At all. Got that?

No apology. No "vacation message" to pretend she'll read it later. And no implied promise that the stuff people send to her will magically be tended to by an invisble army of interns and elves. While she's away, every message she receives is simply discarded with a friendly response as to why. danah writes:

...I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I've trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I'm away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don't worry... if you forget, you'll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah's deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19.

If you roll your eyes at such fancy, uppity, big-city behavior, consider the alternatives most of us suffer in order to pretend we're listening. Even when we know we're not.

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43 Folders: Time, Attention, and Creative Work

["what is this?"]

Here's something I wrote last week for this site's new "About" page:

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

Call it a motto, or a charter, or -- if you have to -- a "mission statement." But, for both of us, it's a stake in the ground that keeps me focused on what I feel best suited to do for you with this site right now.

I want to help you identify and remove any obstacle that keeps you from making things that you love. And then I want to help you figure out how to make those things even better. That's pretty much it.

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"Right Now, What Are You Doing?"

Right Now: What Are You Doing?

Right Now: What Are You Doing? I've started to become a lot pickier about where my attention goes as I observe what it means to my work when it drifts. But, I still have a long way to go. Long way.

Like a lot of people I have a bad habit of CMD-Clicking tab sets in my browser, which then spawns a dozen or more new panes of potential distraction, pointless horseshit, and 10,000 excuses not to focus on what I really want to be making right now.

I whipped up this (rather plain and inefficiently coded) page this morning, and stuck it into every tab set that I tend to abuse: as the first tab I see.

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Attention & Ambiguity: The Non-Paradox of Creative Work

Psychology Today: The Creative Personality

[via delicious.com/huxant, w/a reminder by Jack Shedd]

Some days, I can't decide how I feel about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say: "chick SENT me high"). He's written some great stuff, but, sometimes, he mixes Big-Word academicspeak with anecdotal observation in a way that smells a little hokey to me.

So, although I'm trying not to audibly roll my eyes at a pop-psychology Top 10 list about creativity's "dialectical tension," I definitely am interested in one of his observations about the "paradox" of creative people.

Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility

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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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Cooking for the Creative Beast

Guest post

Guest blogger, Matt Wood, learns how to feed his creative side (without giving it a big gut). —mdm

Earlier this summer, I was in the kitchen, trying to cook dinner. I had a pot on the stove and a fire going on the grill outside. I was fumbling with a bag of frozen peas when my three-year-old started shouting at me to fix one of his toys. “Hold on a second, son,” I said. “I can’t do two things at once.” He looked me, dead serious, and said, “But you have two hands, Daddy.”

Too Many Pots on the Stove

My life usually feels like this. I set out to do make something nice, and I end up with a scorched side dish, charred burgers, and crunchy peas. The output barely resembles that delicious-looking picture in Cooking Light, but hey, the toy trains are running on time!

My immediate solution has been to limit the inputs and not try to do so much at once. If I can’t cook a nice meal with a preschooler underfoot, then I won’t even try. Chicken nuggets and grilled cheese for everyone, and you’ll like it, thank you very much. While this approach to dinner fulfills various statutes regarding child neglect, it’s also not very satisfying. Apply this approach to work and it certainly creates more time to do Important Things, but it makes for soggy, microwaved output as well.

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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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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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