43 Folders

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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.


HOWTO cook a moister turkey: Ice it, pilgrim

Although I’m not much of a hand at generating tasty birdflesh, I heard a great tip a while back, gleaned from Mr. Harold McGee, author of the all-time-awesome geek food book, On Food & Cooking.

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GTD: Project Verbs vs. Next-Action Verbs

In implementing Getting Things Done, you're wise to understand that words are powerful things. And the king of words in GTD, as in life, is the verb.

How you articulate an activity or how you choose to frame a project within the context of your larger life and work will say a lot about how successful you can be in turning all your "stuff" into atomic actions that will work in support of valuable outcomes. This starts with simple things like beginning next actions with a physical verb, but there's actually a lot more subtlety (and potential confusion) to it.

In fact, one of the hang-ups that many people encounter in planning their work in GTD is that, no matter how hard they try, they can never seem to get the distinction between single-action verbs and the larger "look-into" style projects that may require sub-actions. This comes up a lot, and it can lead to frustration and untold friction.

Well, if you've ever shared this affliction of not knowing your verbs from a hole in the ground, I have some rare and unexpected GTD gold.

Buried in the companion booklet for the Getting Things Done FAST! CD set (currently out of print) is one of the more useful bits of GTD instruction I've seen outside the book. It's a list of "Project Verbs" versus "Next-Action Verbs" and, man, is it ever useful.

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NextBus testing 16 new SF transit line predictions

sf_muni: Muni arrival times, hidden routes

Click me for a cool Google Map mashup

God, I love NextBus.

If you live in San Francisco and, like many folks, rely on SF MUNI to get from place to place, your life gets at least one order of magnitude more liveable when you can consult NextBus's GPS-based arrival predictions for the seven streetcar lines and a handful of popular electric coach (read: "bus") lines.

Of course, NextBus itself is nothing new, but, yes it still completely rules, and yes, I still meet at least one San Franciscan a week who has no idea that NextBus even exists. So, you know. You're welcome.

Anyhow, if you're new to the world of non-roulette-like MUNI transit, here's the current official coverage:

Now, what is new (to me at least) is that it looks like MUNI and NextBus are (non-publicly) testing this august service on several more bus and cable-car lines, and that you can currently get predictions on any them from the web or your phone right now. Although apparently not officially supported yet, here's the 16 new additions (hoisted from the LJ post where I learned about this):

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Vox Populi: How are you using Mail Tags?

I open the floor to all of you on a question of particular personal interest to me: How are you using Mail Tags?

While my uses of it to date have been helpful, I keep getting the feeling I'm not getting all that I can out of it -- especially since the ability to associate Projects, Priorities, etc. to a message could make for some really enticing Smart Folders.

I wonder if my question is ultimately more taxonomic in nature -- ultimately more about Spotlight in general or Tags in very very general: When tagging items on your Mac, what kind '-onomy' are using? How strictly do you enforce your vocabulary? What are the best practices for someone who's new to this?

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Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life

How to get organized and stay that way

When I was up in Toronto last week, I was interviewed by Samantha Grice from the National Post about 43 Folders, productivity stuff, and the sad sorry state of my own day-to-day productivity. Very "Brady's Bits."

As a sidebar to the little profile she wrote, Samantha also asked me to draft a few words on my favorite fast tips for getting it together.

Although these will each be painfully old news for you who've been with 43F for a while, I wanted to share the original draft of what I came up with, because it's sufficient as a cocktail-napkin version of what I think 43 Folders has to say to people. You may share it with the disorganized and confused in your own life, if you like.

I also loved the limitations of this particular exercise: 300 or so words in five bullets that represent my best day-one tricks. Due in minutes. My kind of challenge. Although I did go over on word count, and I'll own that.

Herewith: **Merlin's top 5 super-obvious, "no-duh" ways to immediately improve your life.**

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Undo branches in Vim 7

All about Linux: A visual walk through of a couple of the new features in Vim 7.0.

Version 7.0 of Vim has some sexy new features under the hood, including the ability to jump back in time -- you can undo your app to where you were a few minutes earlier, for example. As explained by All about Linux:

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Process email faster with Mail Act-On

My usage of Mail Act-On, while far from novel, has revolutionized the speed with which I can blow through email processing.

If you've never seen it before, Mail Act-On is a very clever Mail.app plugin that lets you create key commands that execute Rules you've generated in your Preferences. Sounds pretty dull, right? Absolutely. Until you start putting this stuff into action and learn how painfully slow all that draggy mc drag drag business is. Here's how I've set mine up.

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Ask 43F: Handling notes in scattered places

Shiran Pasternak writes to ask:

I'm overwhelmed by various note-taking tools you've recommended in the past (so it's your fault). I use, fairly arbitrarily, either TextMate, OmniOutliner Professional (purchased for kGTD, of course), and Notational Velocity...

My main problem is how to retrieve the notes, given that they exist in these scattered applications. Should I then migrate all my notes and use just one of these (or another I may have missed)? Or, should I use a combination of the tools? If so, can you offer heuristics for when to use each note-taking application, and also, if possible, some ideas for how and when to retrieve notes?

This is a really good question -- especially given how many people are suffering from the first-world problem of having way too many cool Mac apps to choose from for this kind of work. The short answer is to slim down the number of tools you're frequently using, but to then be sure you also do something smart and repeatable with everything you've captured. The longer explanation...

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43F Recap: Best of iCal Tips

Wow. It's been over nine months since I quit Entourage in favor of the kGTD/iCal productivity tag-team. In that time, I could have had an infant, finished a school year, or been responsible for a couple failed sitcoms. (I mean: if I had a uterus, was still in college, and were, say, McLean Stevenson)

Yes, friends, I do still spend a lot of my day shaking my hammy fist in impotent rage at iCal's numerous shortcomings, but I've reached a kind of détente with Apple's stock calendaring app, and along the way I've discovered some modest ways to squeeze more drops of Cupertino-y goodness from its moist Jolly Rancher-like pages. Here's a few of my favorites.

  • Getting more out of iCal - "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."
  • HOWTO: Flag “penciled-in” events in iCal - "When I create the event, I just put a Spanish-language question mark “¿” (hit: OPTION-SHIFT-?) in front of the event’s title. Like so..."
  • Schedule (and choose) a dash in iCal "If you start the name of the task with the number of minutes in the dash, you have a very easy to way to see items that can be knocked down quickly (hint: sort “To Dos by Title”)."
  • Dr. Contextlove or: “How I stopped worrying and learned to love iCal” - "But why bother with organizing these into meta-groups? Ah, because it makes it so easy to reveal or hide all the tasks that I can work on at a given time, just by ticking the group’s little click box."
  • Kinkless GTD .83: Enhances Quicksilver and iCal integration, much more "I really like to plan in kGTD and then do out of iCal since it reduces the amount of fiddling and meta work temptation. That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t benefit from a little extra backward integration."

Percolating your blog drafts

Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas) at LifeDev

Good advice on developing a tunnel for how you draft stuff that will eventually go on your blog. I think #3 ("Let it develop") -- while it could benefit from a bit more explanation -- is the really interesting part. Try not posting immediately, and return to the draft later on:

It’s hard to say how long this step lasts. Sometimes it’s all over in 15-20 minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks. The important thing is not to rush the process.

5ives: The text file behind the curtain

I do something similar with 5ives, where this kind of process is really conducive. I have a running, two-year-old collection of ideas, partial lists, orphan titles and lots of "one fun line I could build a good list around." Goofy as many of them are, some actually sat around since the site began until they evolved to the exact choices, wording, and order that I liked.

Tip: Use text folding

Since this kind of collection method can get messy (over 100 partial piles of junk in one text file), I like to use text folding inside TextMate. This makes it easy to "roll up" lists in such a way that just the title shows, then you can individually click a little "reveal" arrow to see the hoisted contents. Something like this (note the arrows in the gutter):

The beauty part is that I can still append text to the bottom (or prepend to the top) using Quicksilver since it's all just plain old text. Neato.

[ via Gina on Lifehacker ]




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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