43 Folders

Back to Work

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.

Saturday night remainders

It’s Saturday night and time to clear out my inbox. Here’s a hodgepodge of little tips, tricks, hacks, and unsolicited advice.

  • Moleskine cards & money. In addition to your Amazon wishlist, keep a couple index cards and an extra $20 bill in your Moleskine’s accordion file. The cards let you give people info without ripping up your book, and the money’s handy for forgotten wallets and impromptu lattés.
  • Online GTD parking lot. Use deli.icio.us as your online inbox. Park interesting sites with a tag like “readlater.??? A couple times a week, sweep through, visit, and tag the good ones.
  • Outboard brain. In a similar vein, have you ever forgotten a website that was really helpful? When you find it, post it to del.icio.us with a tag of “outboardbrain???. If you forgot it once, there’s a good chance you’ll probably do it again, so make sure you’ll always know where to look first.
  • Secure on the road - Commuting with your PowerBook? Two fast ideas for increased security: disable automatic login and lock your screen whenever you leave the house. You may lose your box, but at least it’ll be a little harder to get to your data.
  • Keyboard == friend - Learn. Keyboard. Commands. In every program you use and especially for selecting and navigating through text. Force yourself, train yourself, make yourself and I can pretty much promise a 20% bump in productivity inside of a month. Take your medicine already.
  • Seven things - If you’re too overwhelmed to even think about a big system, try this. Get to work early and make a list of exactly seven things that you can do by the end of the day. Each one should take no more than 30 minutes to complete, but try to make it just 10 or 20. Break one big project into seven little ones or just prioritize your clutter. Do the four you least want to do by 11:00, and I promise the remaining three will topple like fat kids.
  • Trust yourself - Unless you’re one of the rare people with a well-developed naming system for work files and computer files, don’t overthink it. The first name that pops into your head might be the first one that comes to mind when you need to recall it later. (This doesn’t work for everyone, so be prepared to come up with that fancy system and stick to it)
  • Project Objectivism - Not to get all “Ayn Rand,??? but even when creating a followup reminder for yourself, always phrase it in such a way that you are the active party. E.g., “Call Sue about her sending papers??? instead of “Sue sends papers.??? This keeps you the one responsible for the success and completion.
  • Honor thy 2-minute rule - GTD tip. The 2-minute rule is critical going both ways; don’t get so caught up in all your sorting and list making that you overlook the fastest way to actually accomplish something. By the same token, always maintain the focus you need to stay in processing mode when you need to.
  • Browse in tabs - Whatever your browser is, if it doesn’t support tabbed browsing you’re missing the boat. If you have no idea what this means, please just get Firefox, and thank me later. Tabless browsing is like having to check out a library book one page at a time.
  • Shut it all off - Unless you’re really more productive when multi-tasking (and fewer people are than think they are) minimize your distractions. Limit the number of information I/O to the absolute minimum needed for a single, focused task. Shut off email, your news reader, and that time-burgling bastard, AIM. Unplug the phone. Take the freaking ethernet cable out of your router if you have to. Don’t let the blur of movement try to replace one elegantly completed task.

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

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