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Cranking (43folders.com)
181 points by seancron on May 16, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

John Siracusa had a great point about Merlin. There was some criticism that a "productivity expert" not being able to ship is quite paradoxical. However, as Siracusa stated, the reason Merlin has so much to say on the subject is because he's spent so much time struggling with his own failures in that area. Someone who's trying to lose weight isn't going to learn much from someone who's 80 pounds and has been their entire life, because they've never really faced the struggle of ever losing the weight themselves. On the other hand, Jared from Subway may be an apt subject to learn from because he has faced the path and difficulty of obesity and continues to fight it.

That, combined with the ADD he is diagnosed with, means that I find reading his advice and loving it while still knowing that shipping stuff for him is an extremely difficult thing to do completely acceptable.

Just to add: you can listen to Siracusa's comments re: Merlin on Hypercritical [1].

Also worth listening to is Merlin's own podcast (with Dan Benjamin) called Back to Work [2]. A lot of his recent talk has been about his book, the challenges in meeting the deadlines (along the lines of 'a few thousand words by next week') and how he manages the process. Merlin himself is like no-one else, and I can assure you that you won't be bored by his show.

[1]: http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/15 [2]: http://5by5.tv/b2w

On the boredom thing, I think it depends. I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Merlin is saying, but sometimes it can take him 15 minutes worth of mixed metaphors and magical tangents to get to a point better found in a minute or so. This show is particularly guilty in the earlier episodes.

For me, I think I prefer reading his writing. While also lengthy, it's been edited and trimmed back. It focuses on just the metaphors that full apply.

(Although for long car/train rides, Back to Work is fantastic.)

I don't see why you were downvoted on this--Merlin cracks on himself when he doesn't answer a question directly (which, by his own admission, happens very frequently).

  was some criticism that a "productivity expert" not being
  able to ship is quite paradoxical.
Not any more paradoxical than a [sport] coach that can't themselves win at [sport].

Doing, and teaching others to do are very different skill sets.

I'm not a father and don't intend to be for some time. But as a person who can be overly dedicated at times, this is most definitely a heads up. It's difficult to do things that you don't like to do, especially when there are other things that you'd much rather be doing (spending time with family/significant others, or, generally not giving away your time to bullshit). I think Merlin understands that and is teaching everyone a great lesson with this article: sometimes you need to stop, think, and pay attention to things that matter (i.e. not your job). Hopefully, anybody that takes on the mindset that Merlin has will be comforted by a boss or whomever and be allowed to "take a break" (not a vacation) and do as they please. Anybody who is a boss, manager, or otherwise needs to take note.

One of my favorite pieces from Merlin is his 'To Have Done List' podcast. The short version is to mentally transform that todo list that isn't getting done into a list that includes the benefit and your emotional relief once those items are done.


Writing a book is hard. I had a book contract once, and for a multitude of personal & productivity reasons, failed to ship. So I definitely relate to the problems associated with the pressures of deadline driven forced creativity/production. To this day, I regret not finishing that book.

It sounds like Merlin is making the right choice for him, right now. The end product will probably be better for this experience... how did it get this point? Why was he writing empty chapters to satisfy his deadlines. Assuming this book is about productivity, there's probably some definite lessons learned to share if he digs deep.

I don't know why it went that way, but I know that having kids is a full time job that doesn't help the process of writing (books or software). I have a small daughter and I know how hard it is to reconcile the duties of parenthood and making money. I keep my fingers crossed for him.

As a dad, it's hard not to be touched by that story

Or as a daughter. Merlin's courageous and sometimes ferocious writing reminds me that I deeply admire blank honesty and to redouble my own efforts. I'm glad he's ditched a book that wasn't his own and I'll buy the one he does publish.

As a dad, who also had a cancer-ridden father in a hospital bed that took up most of the living room, it's hard to not cry at work reading that story.

Fuck, I cried at work, just as a son who loves his father.

As a human being, it's hard not to be touched by that story.

Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that Merlin Mann got the name for his site '43 folders' from David Allen's 'Getting things done' book. I have been trying to implement GTD techniques for some time. The 43 folder idea appealed to me hugely at first, on a first reading of that book it was the single most seductive technique. I am still using GTD but I've dumped the 43 folders. At the same time I have come to see the value of strategies in the book that at first reading didn't seem all the helpful. The reason I dumped the 43 folders is that I don't think it's suitable for personal organisation. The problem was that with a folder (for every day in the current month = 31) and one for every month (12), the daily folders were mostly empty. This meant that there wasn't an incentive to check them every day and then you end up forgetting to do it and then you miss stuff. The technique might work well for a business though. Now I just store references to 'incubating' items in my phone calendar (which is synced with my google calendar). Sorry for going off on a tangent.

Minor point, but the 43 folders idea has been around decades longer than David Allen. That said, it wasn't until I read his book that I understood the accordion folder in my Grandpa's office:


Just about everything of David Allen's Getting Things Done concept is taken from somewhere else. He just combined them into one workflow system that seems to work well for most people.

I've been doing some GTD on and off, and to me the whole point is pick and choose. The 43 folders is one idea that I thought of as a good one, but not suitable for me.

I wonder if the 43 folders might work in an e-mail form though for putting e-mails off to a later date and then review them.

One of the points David Allen makes in his book that I didn't 'get' first time round was : "It's important to get reminders of everything big and small recorded in a system outside your head not because everything is equally important but because everything isn't."

And it has to be a system that you trust or you won't be able to let go of those mental reminders. Trust means not just that it won't get lost but that you know that you'll review it regularly enough to deal with the items.

I don't think there's a way of doing that, in gmail anyway. Closest I can see is to take the url of the email and paste it into the calendar

Boomerang for Gmail does this...

My point was that there currently does not seem to be a way, but that I think it would be a very cool idea.

I grew up around there (Cincinnati, OH). Have totally been to the Jewish Hospital and the Larosas.

57signals, 43folders, 114files, 99sockets, four6packs, 85meetoos ... is this a new trend in naming sites?

The first post on 43folders was Aug 31 2004, so probably not

See, I can't keep up with the times.


Once in a while I come out of my 'Unabomber-esque' cabin and sign onto Hacker News to see what is going on in the world, so yes to me it is new ... ;-)

In that case, let me warn you about the "missing vowels" trend you're about to notice...

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