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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.


Building a Smarter To-Do List, Part I

Since new folks visit 43F each day, I thought it might be valuable to return to one of our most popular evergreen topics to review some "best practices" for keeping a good to-do list. While a lot of this might be old hat to some of you, it's a good chance to review the habits and patterns behind one of the most powerful tools in the shed. Part 2 appears tomorrow (Update: now available). (N.B.: links to previous posts related to these topics are provided inline)

Why bother?

In my own experience wrangling life's entropic challenges, some of my best gains have come from maintaining a smart, actionable, and updated accounting of all the things I've committed myself to doing. While the quality of that list may vary from day to day, it's the best place to train my focus whenever things are starting to feel out of control. In fact, the health of my to-do list usually mirrors the health of my productivity (as well as the barometric pressure of my stress). On the good days, my to-do list has a living quality that helps guide my decisions and steers me through unexpected changes in priority or velocity. And on the crummy days, it becomes the likely suspect when I need to quickly reassess the state of the union and make changes.

While you can argue for the flavor and approach to task management that best suits your style (and your personal suck), it's hard to disparage the benefits that come from getting task commitments out of your brain and into a consistent location. One list scribbled on one busy day is not necessarily the answer (although it can be a lifesaver). Try thinking of your to-do list as an evolving plan for responsibly focusing your effort and attention in the near future.

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Don't be (or suffer) the office karmasuck

Good, short article on increasing your confidence at work

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TOPICS: Tips, Work

Prompts to start you writing

Roy Peter Clark has distilled the concept of “writing as carpentry” down to twenty simple techniques for tightening up your work.

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Having a job _and_ a creative life

Ideas for keeping your creative life alive while you pay the bills.

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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.

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Incomplete tasks and the Zeigarnik Effect

“The Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.”

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Tips on commuting by bike

Excellent thread over on the Google Group about using a bike to commute to work.

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TOPICS: Life Hacks, Tips

Geoffrey Litwack: Tactical advice, observations on GTD implementation

Really good post on a satisfying hybrid of paper and digital. Full of good insight and “what I've learned” observations. Best of many good lines: “The power of Greyskull is the power of the next action.” Word.

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Eight tools for streamlined decision-making

The always-enjoyable Mind Tools shares eight of the most popular and reliable tools for decision making.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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