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.


Your Story: Throwing new tools at a communication problem?

I'm working on a (likely non-43 Folders) piece about a topic that seems to keep coming up whenever I talk with people about how their team plans, collaborates, and generally communicates with one another. I'd love to hear from you in comments if you have a contribution to make.

What’s your story?

Do you have a story about a time when your team or company tried to solve a human communication problem by adding a new tool? In your estimation, how did things turn out?


read more »

William F. Buckley, Scourge of 20-pound Bond Paper

William F. Buckley Jr., one of the fathers of modern American political conservatism, died Wednesday. Whether you agree with his politics or not, it's hard to ignore this positively startling fact from his New York Times obituary: in addition to writing and editing more than 55 books,

read more »
TOPICS: Work, Writing

Help Me Figure Out How to Spend 12 More Hours a Week

punch_clock.jpgMinor milestone in my household coming soon: my son is starting preschool, meaning I'll suddenly have more time on my hands. It's only three mornings a week though; as much as I'd like to hire someone to read to me, it's not enough time to start anything major. But it is enough that I can't waste the opportunity. Four hours of quiet, non-Sprout time in the morning is perfect for getting the high-priority stuff out of the way. I need to come up with a game plan so I don't end up watching SportsCenter and fiddling with iTunes the whole time.

I have my own strategy, of course, but I wanted to ask the wise elders here how I should spend an extra 12 hours a week, and see if we can spot any holes in my plan.

read more »

The Annoying Productive Guy At Work: Shaming Users One Color At A Time

I was recently put in charge of on-site tech services after a two year apprenticeship as the assistant. Surveying the mess left to me by my former boss, I'm amazed at how many open projects he allowed to grind to a dead stop on his watch. I suppose it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Bloated from the effects of rapid growth, my company suffers from years of rampant position-creation and ill-considered solution grafts. Left to grapple with a culture of contradictory goals, incomplete training and an end-to-end process similar to Sartre's "No Exit" ("hell is other departments"), I'm surprised my predecessor got anything done at all.

read more »

Enlightened outsourcing Part 2: The practice

Ryan Norbauer returns with the hotly-anticipated conclusion to his series on the psychology and practice of outsourcing your life. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to start with part 1.

Now that I’ve primed your pump for an outsourcing extravaganza, it’s time to turn our eyes towards the quotidian.  Once you’re ready to hire help, there are two main challenges to face.  Firstly, you have to identify portions of your daily work that can be outsourced, and then you have to find the right person to do that work for you.

read more »

Technology for smarter ignoring

Cory Doctorow has a short piece in Internet Evolution called "The Future of Ignoring Things" that really resonated with me. Excerpt:

Take email: Endless engineer-hours are poured into stopping spam, but virtually no attention is paid to our interaction with our non-spam messages. Our mailer may strive to learn from our ratings what is and is not spam, but it expends practically no effort on figuring out which of the non-spam emails are important and which ones can be safely ignored, dropped into archival folders, or deleted unread...

Figuring out what you can afford to ignore in life is starting to seem like an art form to me. Since failure to filter incoming stuff properly over time has consequences way beyond annoyance, I'm starting to think that getting it right may be another one of those emerging knowledge worker skills.

It's definitely one I'm working on (and struggling with).

[via: BB]

read more »

Field Reports: Guerrilla Office Tactics

I've started collecting stories -- some of which may be entirely apocryphal tall tales -- of the purported lengths to which people are going to filter noise and to ensure that their time and attention aren't ceded to bad ideas, thoughtless people, or garden-variety time burglars.

Here's a few of the more novel ones I've picked up. I'd also love to hear your favorites from amongst the cheats, tricks, and squirrely rules you've heard about:

read more »

Vox Pop: Re-creating scarcity

I have a friend who told me he was thinking about giving his project managers a weekly pile of chips that could be redeemed for person-hours in meetings. So, to schedule firewalled, group face-time, the PM would need to cough up the equivalent number of tokens from her pile. Thus, one, long, all-hands meeting might require the whole week's stack. While, fewer, shorter meetings with smaller groups made the pile go further.

It was just an idea, and I'm pretty sure he never implemented it, but I think it's a fascinating concept. Why? Because I love the idea of re-introducing scarcity into systems that lack boundaries.

read more »

Vox Pop: What default settings would you change?

As I am wont to do, I was thinking out loud on Twitter this morning.

Twitter message: 'I wonder how different the world might look if the default 'new meeting' time in calendar programs were 10 minutes instead of 1 hour'

I'm convinced that, for better or worse, a lot of computer-related habits come straight out of using the default settings. For example a stock Mail.app install checks your email every 5 minutes (I reset mine to 'Manual') and, without interdiction, Apple's mail program will also create all your new messages as "Rich Text" (Nuh uh. Mine? 'Plain Text').

read more »

Vox Pop: Managing actions from list emails?

Inbox Zero Tech Talk

During the Q&A portion of my Inbox Zero presentation at Google the other day, an audience member stumped me with a question about how to manage action around mailing list distributions (the question starts at about 48:22).

He said he frequently receives email requests and questions that are also distributed to the other 20 people on his team. He describes a "waiting game" in which team members hang back to see if other people will respond first -- at least partly out of not wanting to duplicate effort or flood the sender. I thought it was a really intriguing question, although I said (and still believe) that distributed email would not personally be my first choice to handle this kind of communication.

Well, based on the reaction in the room that day, I gathered that this is a common dilemma for Googlers. Funny thing is that, since the video went up, I've received a lot of email from people outside the Googleplex who share the same problem -- a few of whom were aghast that I wasn't aware what a huge pain this is for knowledge workers. And to an extent, I'll admit those folks were mostly right.

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. »