Merlin Mann | Aug 22 2006
Yesterday, I mentioned I'd been talking with someone who's looking at interesting things people are doing with Microsoft Excel. I talked to her again yesterday, and with her official okey-dokey, I'll virtually introduce Tralee Pearce (*waves*), a reporter from Toronto's Globe & Mail whom you might remember from a very swell article about the Hipster PDA.
So, by request -- and to help Tralee with fleshing out her fun-sounding article -- I hope you all will jump in here: What kind of cool, novel, and non-obvious stuff are you doing with Excel? What's the wildest, most obsessive, most nerdy thing you ever saw someone do with our favorite spreadsheet program?
Merlin Mann | Aug 17 2006
I enjoyed this recent ATC story about the interview skills guru, John Sawatsky. "The Sawatsky Method" contrasts sharply with the confrontational attack dog methods most of us associate with people like Mike Wallace:
Even for non-journalists, if you need to conduct the occasional interview, Sawatsky's got some golden tips.
Merlin Mann | Aug 14 2006
Good Ask Metafilter thread on finding ways to motivate yourself to do things you don't want to do. Good advice so far includes:
Merlin Mann | Aug 10 2006
I recently ran across a mostly-helpful post on a website that mentioned the importance of using email folders for "organization." For some reason, this made me wince. I suspect it's because the day I got good at email was the day when I stopped organizing my messages and started focusing on doing something about them. Is this a distinction without a difference? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.
As one of the holiest sacraments in the Church of Productivity Pr0n, folders -- be they physical, digital, mind-mapped, or purely notional -- represent the canonical way to put information into thoughtful piles. Folders of any sort afford a kind of higher-level, low-stress thinking that GTD fans in particular seek out. Folders do lots of stuff well:
So, yeah, folders are great at all of these things, for sure, and yeah, they do help you to get organized, especially in the sense of having less stuff in your life that's sitting around unprocessed. But at what point can a folder become an impediment to smart and timely action? Put more generically: how do we not allow the buckets and cubbyholes in our lives to become affordances for procrastination and dis-organization?read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 31 2006
As we've noted before, GTD contexts lose a lot of their focusing power when either a) most of your work takes place at one context (e.g. "@computer"), or b) you start using contexts more for taxonomical labeling than to reflect functional limitations and opportunities. As you may have discovered, these problems can collide catastrophically for many knowledge workers, artists, and geeks.
Part of what makes the Natural Planning Model so attractive are the decisions that can be guided by contextual limitations ("I'm near a phone" vs. "I'm at the grocery store" vs. "I'm at my computer"). While it's definitely a kind of "first world problem" to have, facing the unlimited freedom to chose from any of a bajillion similar tasks from similar projects with similar outcomes is not nearly as fun as it first sounds. Consider the contextual hairballs of certain jobs and tasks:read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 26 2006
Merlin Mann | Jul 24 2006
As laid out in Chapter 5:
And, as David succinctly states elsewhere in the book, if you don't use a dedicated inbox in the context of a healthy collection habit, your whole house or office turns into your inbox. And that just doesn't scale. Failing to do so in recent weeks may be why you've fallen off the GTD wagon.
So, just as you learned Collection as the first step in implementing GTD (and to subsequently maintain your system), it's precisely the place to start when you're trying to properly get back into it.
And for the errant GTDer, I feel like the most powerful collection exercise is what DA calls "the mind-sweep."read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 18 2006
I've discovered that a lot of my most unpalatable, low-priority email arrives overnight; it's when most cron jobs and mailing digests run, plus, I suspect, it's when a lot of garden-variety crazies get their second wind (or 12th beer).
Waiting an hour or so to collect the overnight haul buys me time to wake up, get some work done, and generally orient myself. By the the time I raise the electronic flood gate, I'm already feeling on top of things and have no problem blowing through all my mail in a few short minutes. Even the crazy ones.
The larger issue is a pillar of Inbox Zero: it's your mailbox, and you get to decide when and for how long it draws your attention. I recommend affecting that decision while awake, cogent, and adequately caffeinated.
Merlin Mann | Jul 17 2006
Merlin Mann | Jul 10 2006
When we meet, you and I, you will see for yourself one of my most humiliating traits. No it's not my acromegaly, my plaid pants, nor my atrocious hairpiece.
No, friend, you will be deeply annoyed to hear me ask you to repeat your name at least twice, and possibly five times, during our inaugural conversation. And, in subsequent meetings, even though your face will be forever etched upon my brain (a skill at which I absolutely excel), I will probably call you "Champ," "Chief," or possibly "Tex." Because, yes, I will have completely forgotten your name. And it's not just a bad memory that's to blame here (although, of course, my memory sucks, too) -- I'm convinced it's because I am a terrible listener, and because I suffer intermittent encoding errors at the time data is written to disk, so to speak.
In working to improve this socially-crippling liability, in general -- to hear what people are really saying rather than just using the down time to formulate a pseudo-clever response -- I've begun skimming the web for advice. I have these sites and tips to share with you so far, so listen up!read more »
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