43 Folders

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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.

Guesstimating portions with real-world objects

Typical Portion Control Tips/Guidelines

“Deck of cards, Merlin; deck of cards,” my friend Dennis would always say as we sat down to eat ribeyes the size of kittens.

That terrific, if ignored, heuristic for estimating the desirable 3-ounce portion of beef came back to me this week with all the interest in the USDA’s mypyramid.gov site and the new dietary guidelines.

I’m a big of fan of these kinds of rules of thumb and was pleased to turn up this small collection of real-world portion size guesstimates . Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Cooked vegetables – palm of hand
  • Grilled Fish – checkbook
  • 2 TB butter, etc. – thumb (joint to tip)
  • Chopped fruit – tennis ball
  • Apple – baseball
  • Potato – computer mouse
  • Bagel – hockey puck
  • Pancake – CD ROM
  • Steamed rice – cupcake wrapper
  • Cheese – pair of dice
  • 1 oz meat – matchbox
  • 3 oz meat – bar of soap or deck of cards
  • 8 oz meat – thin paperback book

Got any other cool real-world guesstimators?

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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