43 Folders

Back to Work

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

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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

Time Management

Vox Pop: What we talk about when we talk about "priority"

Since the Bronze Age of personal productivity, conventional wisdom has taught us the importance of priority in deciding how to plan and use our time. And, in the abstract, anyhow, that notion of putting your time and attention into those things that are the most valuable to you seems so "obvious" as to be a tautology, where "productivity = acting on priorities." (Of course, whether people's execution of the things they claim are important always maps to their stated intentions is another matter for another post a really big book.)

But, we can probably agree that in the post-Lakein world of productivity and time management, everything from Covey's Quadrants to the Pareto Principle to the four criteria to -- what? I dunno -- firewalking, has been used to help us train our attention on the things that need us most and provide the greatest value in our world. Priority.

But, in practice, what the hell does "priority" really mean?

read more »

43f Podcast: Kung Fu, Meditation, and Sexual Intercourse

Kung Fu, Meditation, and Sexual Intercourse

There’s as rich a body of literature about (and tools for) Productivity as most any subject you can imagine.

To avoid becoming an unproductive dilettante, make sure your practice of Productivity always takes precedence over your talmudic scholarship on the subject.

AKA: All the reading in the world won’t teach you as much as your first french kiss.

(Running Time: 03:47)

Subscribe to the 43 Folders Podcast on Odeo.com Subscribe to the 43 Folders podcast in iTunes

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

read more »

David Allen on best practices for implementing GTD

Productive Talk #07: Implementing GTD

43 Folders and The David Allen Company present the seventh in a series of conversations that David and Merlin recently had about Getting Things Done.


In this episode, David and Merlin look at best practices for implementing Getting Things Done. David shares some great advice on firewalling review time and warns us how to avoid the perils of "cruise control." (9:37)

More at: http://www.davidco.com/ and http://www.43folders.com/

Grab the MP3, learn more at Odeo.com, or just listen here (after the cut).

Merlin's comments

My favorite bit in this one (jump to 1:38) is where we learn that some of David's best stuff seems to have had a genesis in an unlikely place -- from his tenure as the manager of a gas station, back in the day.

read more »

Guest Review: Fraser Speirs on "Time Management for System Administrators"

Review by Fraser Speirs

At the end of 2004, Merlin blogged about possible extensions or specialisations of Getting Things Done for specific constituencies, such as programmers, students or parents. Thomas A. Limoncelli’s book Time Management for System Administrators is perhaps the first example I’ve seen of a book which advocates a GTD-style workflow with some modifications specific to the system administration “lifestyle”.

Book Structure

The book is laid out under the following thirteen chapter titles:

  1. Time Management Principles
  2. Focus Versus Interruptions
  3. Routines
  4. The Cycle System
  5. The Cycle System: To Do Lists and Schedules
  6. The Cycle System: Calendar Management
  7. The Cycle System: Life Goals
  8. Prioritisation
  9. Stress Management
  10. Email Management
  11. Eliminating Time Wasters
  12. Documentation
  13. Automation

The core chapters for GTDers to think about are really chapters 4 through 8 and 13. The material about maintaining focus, handling email and managing stress will be familiar to regular readers of 43 Folders.

Although Time Management for System Administrators is not a simple modifier on GTD, in the sense that the author doesn’t explicitly reference GTD until the epilogue, much of the structure of Limoncelli’s suggested workflow will be recognisable to those familiar with David Allen’s book. Although Limoncelli doesn’t refer to GTD in the body of his work, it’s hard to avoid certain very obvious parallels such as the analogy of one’s memory as “RAM” (c.f. Allen’s “psychic RAM”) and the strategy of “Delegate, Record or Do” (which sounds much like Allen’s “Do, Defer or Delegate” in another order).

However, it would be unfair to dismiss Time Management for System Administrators as a GTD knockoff. It’s certainly not. One area in which I have personally found GTD to be weak is that of helping me decide ‘what to do next’. Certainly, David Allen does have some advice on that matter, but I always found it a little difficult to relate to my workplace. Limoncelli’s Cycle System is, I believe, a very strong contribution to filling that gap in GTD.

read more »

What would you ask David Allen?

Forums - Ask David any question

Over on the DavidCo forum, Lisa asks:

If you could ask David Allen any one question about GTD, what would it be?

It mightn't surprise you to know I'd want to learn a bit more implementation and about how David sees contexts working best for people whose work mostly happens in one place (recently).

But I'm especially curious to hear what you guys would ask, given the chance. What would you ask David Allen about Getting Things Done?

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.

read more »

HOWTO: Flag "penciled-in" events in iCal

As I've mentioned before I like using iCal's invitations to share appointments with people -- especially since this lets them easily respond to let me know whether they 1) will attend, 2) won't attend, or 3) are just "tentative." Unfortunately, there's no analogous tentative flag for the (seemingly endless) number of appointments and event I want to just pencil-in -- you know, those times when you want to make sure to block out time for a call or lunch, but are waiting on confirmation from folks who don't use iCal (or for whom it makes no sense to pester with an invitation). My workaround -- yes, like many of these things -- is really simple.

read more »

Getting more out of iCal

Okay, I admit it. I've grumbled about iCal on and off since it came out. It's one of those things in life that makes you nuts with how it almost works. The alarm choices are amazing but there's no way to have them added automatically. The shared calendars are great, but only one person can make changes. The snoozing sucks, notifications magically disappear, and some days, the "moist Jolly Rancher" design motif makes me want to barf pink. Hrmph. But (and it's a big but)...

The truth is, iCal works great with kGTD (mostly of course), and once you make your peace with the perplexing stasis of its feature set, there are some not-bad hooks and affordances hiding in its pastel, roundy corners. Here's a few I like.

read more »

Harnessing your interstitial time

Sometimes, it's easy to feel like your work has degraded into a series of interruptions--that any block of time you've set aside to focus on a project is in constant danger of being minced to bits by phone calls, emails, and the weekend anecdotes of your co-workers. Worse still, we all suffer daily from innumerable waits, delays, and last-minute reschedulings, all of which can upend our plans and lead to a constant shifting of available time.

Rather than always seeing these changes as an intractable liability, try to look at them as opportunities to liberate unexpected pockets of time and focus. While literally non-stop interruptions are likely to make any of us nutty, a slight adjustment to your planning and outlook can lead to fast gains in productivity and a much-improved attitude about your working environment.

read more »

Five fast email productivity tips

There’s been a lot of great discussions about email productivity going around on sites I enjoy, so I thought I’d throw in five no-brainers that I’ve seen help a lot of folks.

read more »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


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. »

Scared Shitless

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. »