Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Merlin Mann | Jun 29 2006
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 »
Merlin Mann | Jun 20 2006
Erik Schmidt has a useful post on how he's using OmniOutliner Pro and Kinkless GTD in law school. His explanation of kGTD is succinct and nicely captures the economy of using a simple system to track projects and tasks.
But, I think his section on law school note-taking and planning is a particularly good read for anyone who could use OO for similar purposes -- he highlights how you can adapt a basic structure (in his case, reading arranged by time/syllabus order, and notes arranged by class), but then have lots of flexibility via things like drag and drop:read more »
Merlin Mann | Jun 19 2006
My friend's dad is a hard-nosed American sales guy. He spent thirty years developing and, in my opinion, mastering the disparate skills of schmoozing, selling, negotiating, and closing. (Man, this guy could close.) But when he started moving into big-time international sales, he realized there was this whole world (literally) of customs, skills, and rhythms he'd have to master -- lest he unintentionally offend a client and blow the deal.
When I first heard about some of these differences ("In Japan, brace yourself for several days of intense all-day recreation before business is ever discussed"), I picked up a copy of Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, which has tons of fascinating advice on how to adapt your behavior when conducting business outside the US.
I wonder how many of these have changed since I read the book in the mid-90s -- the world has shrunk a lot since then. Still, I have to say that as a poorly-traveled American, I do find this stuff fascinating And, now I've discovered the book's authors have this ginormous repository of web-based information.
Here's some favorite random factoids, mores, and customs from outside the U.S.:read more »
Merlin Mann | Jun 16 2006
This looks like a useful resource for people who're having trouble sleeping. It includes some educational hand-waving, tips on finding out why you aren't sleeping, plus cautions on the usual outboard sleep solutions (from the environmental to the pharmaceutical).
Here's their long-term, sustainable tips for developing better sleep hygiene:
Personally, I cast aside their hand-wringy warnings last night and treated myself to a cocktail of Melatonin and Valerian; slept like a lamb, I tells ya. Now on to cutting out tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, clock-watching, and worry. Yep. Need to get right on that.
What works for you? How do you beat insomnia?
Merlin Mann | Jun 12 2006
Merlin Mann | Jun 7 2006
Merlin Mann | May 30 2006
I've been Googling around for good advice on how people deal with "email overload," and I think this 1999 report from the CommCore Consulting Group may contain some of the more sound and evergreen advice out there for not contributing to the noise (cf: "Writing sensible email messages").
It covers etiquette and best practices for both voicemail and email. Some of the best tips on email:
And on voicemail:read more »
Merlin Mann | May 17 2006
I think Deane's insights on procrastination and programming might actually be even more true of writer's block and for many of the same reasons. But perhaps unlike coding, the gestation period of a writing project almost always benefits from a series of very small starts.
While there are dozens of tricks for psyching yourself out of a perceived writing slump, you eventually learn that blocks are sometimes there for a theoretically plausible reason -- because you really haven't figured out what you're trying to say yet, but suffer crippling anxiety and dread about even committing the "shitty first draft." So, as with the programming example, your brain beats itself up for being such a laggard and you may stay locked in creativity-sapping inaction. But the truth is you're probably working on it already. The only way to find out is to start someplace. Anyplace.
As Neil Fiore wisely points out in his excellent book, The Now Habit, we usually have more than enough information to just start most any job. Don't begin by fussing about perfection or the "right" place to start, just start. You can get help midwifing the process through tools like outlines, mind maps, or talking to a duck.
But, if you've truly procrastinated even getting to the point where proper gestation and idea seeding can begin, you're understandably in a bit of trouble. Because now you have to go straight to producing the artifact (the code or the article or whatever) while your brain still craves that extra bit of time to turn it all over. Like they say, a pregnancy takes nine months, regardless of how many women you've put on the job. Don't slip on a deadline that makes you try to make an infant in one night.read more »
Merlin Mann | Apr 21 2006
Like most 43F articles on economical carriage and stowage, the Jimi post attracted a lot of interest. Makes me think it's time for an open thread: What's your favorite minimalist wallet? Jimi? Slimmy? Moneyclip? Coin purse? Goin' commando? Spill in comments (and feel free to link to canonical product pages or price compar-i-nators like Froogle).read more »
Merlin Mann | Apr 20 2006
I like James' ideas for catching the "brain rain" -- a way of setting aside a few minutes each day for firewalled creativity through idea generation and capture. This kind of habit could fit nicely into an end-of-day ritual, maybe before a quick review and daily cleanup.
read more »
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