Merlin Mann is a productivity guru that wants you to stop worrying about rearranging deck chairs and start finding the time and focus to do your best creative work. He's funny, zany, and prone to a really obtuse but ultimately insightful analogy. He's internet-famous for things like Inbox Zero and The Hipster PDA; but he's also way awesomer than that.

Estimate time to read this page: 4 – 6 minutes

Edition Reviewed: Human Being
Recommendation: Check him out.

I ♥ Merlin Mann. Yep. That’s right. I’m reviewing a person.

I think he came to my attention through his comedy podcast You Look Nice Today, which led to The Monsters of Podcasting, discovering Jordan, Jesse, Go!, and then the rest of the Maximum Fun podcasting empire.

Jesse Thorn (aka, the Podfather) holds an annual “Convocation of Awesomeness”, MaxFunCon, and he releases some audio from the ‘Con as a podcast. This is where I unexpectedly found myself developing an enormous man-crush on Merlin Mann. (Check out MaxFunCon Podcast Episode 11: Merlin Mann.)

Merlin, as is turns out, is a productivity guru that’s having a bit of a crisis. He’s the guy behind 43 Folders, a site that was, until very recently, about David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and he’s the Inbox Zero guy, and he write a personal blog too, Kung Fu Grippe. I say he’s a man in crisis, because he seems to have woken up one day and say to himself, “You know, self, I spend WAY too much time in my day working, talking about, and figuring out how to be more productive instead of actually being more productive, and really, it’s just a really advanced form of procrastination.” I admire that.

What I admire even more is that when he stopped drinking the Kool-Aide, he stood up and told his audience, who had come to rely on him as a Kool-Aide supplier, “Dude! This Kool-Aide is bullshit! Stop drinking it!”

That takes enormous courage. It means that his web traffic took a hit, and his inbox took a hit, and his income took a hit, and that’s pretty awesome. It would have been much easier to go back to writing a BS productivity blog and giving people tips and tricks on implementing obnoxiously intricate productivity systems or whatever specific deck chairs you have to rearrange on your personal Titanic.

So now he talks about figuring out what’s important to you, and what’s scary, and how they’re sometimes the same thing. He talks about making tough decisions and setting yourself up to either succeed brilliantly or fail publicly. He talks about how all the people who write list-blogs are competing with the things that really matter to you (family, work, art, life) for the only thing of value that you have, your time and attention, and how that’s not a fair trade. Not even a little bit.

This, along with some RadioLab episodes and some Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin books, formed the basis of the early stages of my “Integrated Attention Theory.” I know. I’m working on a sexier title. 😉

If you’re interested in, as Merlin calls it: Time, Attention and Creative Work, you should check out his blogs and podcasts:

A kind of interesting personal side-note: I have a shirt from Mule Design that says, “Get Excited and Make Things,” on it. It’s become a personal motto. I mean, really, that’s what clients pay us to do. So, when I was in Austin for Valentine’s Day I went to a bike shop to rent a bike. I was wearing that shirt, and the guy behind the counter was like, “Dude! Where did you get that shirt? Do you know who Merlin Mann is?” That led to a 45 minute conversation about finding the time and focus to make awesome stuff that matters to us.

So there you go. Merlin Mann makes me friends. I owe him a beer or something.