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The Biggest Problems in Time Management - Intro

I’m planning to write a series of articles over the coming weeks on the biggest problems in time management, and how they can be overcome.

The provisional list of subjects I will cover is as follows: 

  • Too Much Work
  • Too Little Time
  • Resistance
  • Wasting Time
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Lack of Direction
  • Failure to Finish 

Warning: This list may change!

These articles will come out at irregular intervals, so don’t expect them every day, or every Monday, or the first of every month or any other interval.


Building Up Routines

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that the reason that our intuition usually goes for the easiest tasks first is in order to build up routines on which the more difficult tasks can ride.

But why are some tasks easy while others are not? The usual reason is that an easy task is one we do often and therefore can do it without much effort or thought.

In other words it is a routine or part of a routine.

The ultimate aim is to make all our work routine. This may sound a bit boring - after all who wants to be trapped in a routine job?

Those of you who have read my book “Secrets of Productive People” will know that I gave three examples of productive people at the start of the book. These were Galileo, van Gogh and Ford. I showed how these three examples of extreme productivity were so precisely because they routinized productivity.

it’s very similar to the way that a musician builds one level of skill on top of another. Or someone learning a language becomes more and more fluent in the language the more they routinize the basic grammar and vocabulary, or how an athelete practises at higher and higher levels.

So to reiterate, that’s why the easy tasks get done first.


When You Feel You are Getting Nowhere...

It comes to us all, me included - that time when you feel you can’t work on your list for a moment longer without going crazy. This is the time when you feel paralyzed and your mind refuses to work.

What can you do?

Here are some suggestions: 

  • Work through it. It will pass.
  • Take a break and do whatever you feel like for half-an-hour (timed), preferably things not work-related. 
  • Have some “filler” activities on your list for just this type of eventuality. 

 Thing not to do: 

  • Abandon the list altogether
  • Change your time management system
  • Succumb to your feelings of paralysis and do nothing worthwhile for the rest of the day. 

The key difference between the do’s and the don’ts is that the do’s are part of the system while the don’ts involve abandoning the system. Abandoning the system can set your work back for weeks, while relaxing within the system means you can get straight back into the stream of things once you’ve gathered your mental strength again.


Top Ten Things to Avoid When Using the Long List

1. Special markings

For your intuition to work properly it’s important that you scan the list attentively according to the rules of the system you are using. You should avoid using special markings to distinguish degrees of urgency, categories, etc. The reason for this is that these markings draw attention to certain tasks and not to others. This results in unbalanced scanning. In other words they will have the opposite effect to what is intended.

2. Switching systems

One thing that’s absolutely guaranteed to ensure that your long list doesn’t get processed properly is constantly switching systems. Pick one system and stick to it. It takes practice and consistent application to get a system to work well and switching systems gets in the way of this.

3. Starting new lists

There’s only one thing worse than constantly switching systems and that is constantly starting new lists. If you feel you really must change your system then at least keep the same list. The long-list systems are interchangeable and can be applied to an existing list. The worst of all possible worlds of course is switching systems and starting a new list both at the same time. You will completely destroy all the momentum you have acquired so far.

4. Master lists

If you need to be working on something at the present time, then it should be on your Long List. If you need to be doing something in the future but not currently, then schedule it in your reminder/calendar/diary. If you have something that you might get round to sometime, then send yourself a Future Self email to be received in a year’s time to remind you of it - chances are you’ll defer it for another year. Until then forget about it. None of these constitutes a Master List, and Master Lists are completely unnecessary. Don’t use them - they are a waste of time and give you the illusion of progress without the reality.

5. Allowing tasks to proliferate

A long list should be able to handle all your work, but it is of course possible to break anything by overusing it. Adding tasks willy-nilly, without any real consideration of whether you are likely to be able to take them to completion, merely wastes time and holds up the real work. How many tasks you can realistically enter on the list depends on how willing you are to dismiss tasks - either according to the rules of the system or because you see they are going nowhere.

6. Backlogs

A Long List system can handle a huge amount provided that you are prepared to weed out stuff which is not progressing. In that case it is working properly by telling you what to concentrate on and what to jettison. But what you cannot afford to do is to build up a huge list which is hardly progressing at all. Taking on more work than you can handle is a problem which can only be solved by reducing your work commitments. If you don’t do this you will build up a huge backlog of work which will negatively affect everything you do.

7. Failure to scan the list properly

The scanning process is essential to the success of any Long List system, and it will only succeed if your intuition is based on a good knowledge of what is on the list. This depends on how well you scan the list. Skimming over the list without really reading it or taking in what is written there will not feed your intuition. The result will be poor selection. It’s often the older tasks on the list that get neglected when scanning because you think you already know what they are. The result is that they not only get neglected while scanning but get neglected in reality.

8. Not writing tasks clearly

There’s only one essential when writing a task on the list - that you can remember what you meant by it. There’s usually not too much problem if you write “Email” or “Paper Backlog”. But how about “John”? It may make perfect sense to you when you write the task - you want to invite John Smith to join the co-ordinating committee for the Christmas Party. But when you get to the task in a couple of days’ time, you’ve forgotten what it’s all about. John who? You know at least ten people called John. Did you want to call him or meet him or check if he’s replied to an email, or even recommend him for promotion? What was the subject? All this uncertainty could have been saved if you’d only written “John S for Xmas Party Cttee”, or similar words. 

9. Restricting the time you use for the list

My experience with Long Lists is that the more things you use one for the better it works. I prefer to combine work and personal in one list, but then i work at home and don’t really make much distinction between tasks - they all require action. You may prefer to separate Home from Work, but I wouldn’t break it down further than that without good cause. 

10. Packing the List

Although Long Lists are on the whole pretty resilient to having a large number of tasks on them (that’s why they are called Long Lists), one of the most effective ways to sabotage the list is to introduce a huge number of tasks at the same time. This is particularly so when you are beginning a new list. By far the best way of starting a new list is to write down about ten tasks to start off with, and then to add new tasks as they occur to you or as they come up. Doing it this way will ensure that what is on the list is relevant and up-to-date. Copying over the contents of a number of old lists onto the new list ensures that the list is neither relevant nor up-up-to date. If you don’t have a good mental grasp of what is on the list, your intuition will suffer. 


Top 10 Things to Remember When Using The Long List

1. Use Little and Often. This is one of the most important principles in all of time management theory. The secret of success in any field is regular, consistent attention - not huge one-off bursts of activity.

2. Resistance Doesn’t Exist. If you tell yourself you’re resisting something, you will resist it. What has happened is that you have created that resistance out of nothing. In fact the feelings we identify as resistance are just your intuition saying “Not yet” or “Not at all”. Accept them as such.

3. Everything Is Equally Easy. What I’m referring to here is not the objective difficulty of the task, but the ease with which we mentally approach a task. This is where “little and often” comes in. The old saying is “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. What the saying omits is that a journey of two hundred yards also starts with a single step. The first step of writing a short blog article is the same as the first step of writing an 80,000 word novel . You just start. 

4. Trust Your Intuition. Get out of your head the idea that intuition is a magic voice from the gods telling you what to do. Intuition is your subconscious mind assessing all the information and experience known to it and producing an answer. The thing to note here is that you can only act intuitively in a situation in which you have knowledge and experience. A fire chief acts intuitively in a major fire. A fighter pilot acts intuitively when faced with a battle situation. Put either of them in the other’s shoes and they would have no idea what to do. In the same way your experience and knowledge of your own life and work enables you to act intuitively. The Long List acts as a vehicle for your intuition to work on. It will give you the best answer that your knowledge and experience can provide.

5. Keep Moving

It’s important not to forget the “often” in “little and often”. This applies to all sizes of projects. Doing a huge amount of work on something and then leaving it for weeks or months is worse than doing nothing at all. You’ve wasted the time you did put in and could have used it for other things. You can keep on top of almost anything by giving it regular focused attention. If you want to be keeping on top of a lot of things then you need to be moving quickly among them.

6. The List Reflects You

You write the list. You work the list. That puts a lot of information on the page about you. This is real information which your intuition can use. The great advantage of The Long List format is that it’s all there - what you want to do, what you have done and what you haven’t done. Just by looking at the list you can see what’s moving and what isn’t.

7. Break Things Down

One way of handling a project is to break it down into every task you can currently do and enter them all onto the list. Don’t put things on the list which cannot be done at the present time - these should be entered in a reminder system to be brought forward at the right time. Once you have done one task, it may open up the way to further tasks which can be entered on the list in their turn.

8. Lump Things Together

Another way of handling a project is just to put the project name on the list without attempting to break it down any further. Then when the project is selected by the scanning process work on it for as long as you wish. This approach suits some projects better than others. I have a mixture of 7. and 8. on my list.

9. Do Lots of Thinking

The first step with almost any project or non-routine task is to think how to proceed with it. You don’t need at this stage to plan the whole thing out to the end, though planning will be part of the process eventually. Rather it’s a time for collecting ideas, some of which will work out and some which won’t. The thinking processes described in my book Secrets of Productive People are excellent for doing this.

10. Quality Equals Quantity

We’re usually told that quality is more important than quantity, but this is misleading. Good quality comes from quantity. This is why your intuition will almost certainly focus at the beginning on getting simple routines established in your work life. Don’t mistake this for resistance to the important stuff (see 2. above). The important stuff will be much easier when you are not constantly fighting your own lack of organization. Consistency is the key here, and consistency involves a lot of practice.


For further reading:

Top Ten Advantages of The Long List


A Simple Vocabulary Memorization Method

In a recent exchange on the Forum I promised to write about a simple method I used to remember tons of French vocabulary. I’m not claiming it’s perfect by any means, but I know it works - I passed two high-level exams using it more years ago than I care to remember!

Unfortunately I didn’t keep it going. The advent of electronic systems such as Anki and its predecessors and contemporaries seduced me away from it. But as I struggled through huge electronic backlogs of everything that I found most difficult, I remembered fondly how much easier my method seemed. 

The reason for its feeling much easier was that easy vocabulary and difficult vocabulary were treated exactly the same. Revisions included all items, not just the difficult ones. This meant that I didn’t get huge blocks of difficult words. They were spread out with the other words learnt at the same time, which had the added advantage that they were revised in context. When you get a word like chouette-effraie it does actually help the memory if it’s in a list of its fellow owls, and not in between barre de défilement and Syndrome de Guillain-Barré.

Anyway here’s how it works.

Although originally I used a bound notebook, these days I find a loose-leaf folder easier. The pages need to be lined and wide enough to include the traditional two-column vocab learning format. When I refer to French, it can of course be applied to any language. I’ve recently started using it for Welsh.

In the first column goes the French and in the second the English meaning. For languages that are written right to left, such as Hebrew and Arabic, you may find it easier to put the target language in the right hand column. It doesn’t make much difference either way.

Put the date at the top of the page on the left. Then add vocabulary. After each session of adding vocab, learn the meaning of the French words by using a card to cover up the English column and testing yourself until you have got every word right. Then do it from English to French. 

You may have several sessions during the day or just one. Either way it’s important to test yourself immediately after entering the vocabulary.

At the end of the day, cross out the date at the top of the page and enter tomorrow’s date. This is the date of your first revision.

The following day test yourself again both ways until you know every word and change the date at the top of the page to one week from now.

Same again in one week’s time, then one month later, then three months later, and finally a year later. By that time most of it should be firmly lodged in your long-term memory.

So the intervals are:

Following day
One week
One month
Three months
One year

The shorter the interval the more important it is to get the timing accurate. Revising the following day is essential. But it’s not going to make much difference whether you revise after 12 months or 13 months. This gives you some leeway if the revisions start piling up. Give priority to the shorter intervals.

I leave it up to you to decide how to check off the words six times during the course of the 16 months and 9 days. You could use pencil and erase the marks each time. Or you could do what I do and use the following marks superimposed on each other.

1. —

2. /

3. \

4. |

5. O

6. __



High Volume, High Speed, Low Resistance - Second Test

It’s been a long time since I last mentioned this system - about a year I think - and I never did get to tell you what it actually consisted of. I can’t remember what it was that distracted me.

However it’s still going strong and is still in my opinion the fastest and best of the long list systems. I’ve restarted it today and so far the page results are as follows (page number followed by number of tasks undone, 31 tasks to the page):

1 - 3 (including writing this post)

2-  14

3 - 18

4 - 19

5 - 29

6 - 14 (out of 14)

Still a couple of hours left today!

Please note that the system does not use pages. I am quoting them purely for convenience of tracking how I’m doing.


Lenten Challenge: FFVP - Day 2


I’ve prepared the Welsh Intensive by grouping all the activities I want to do under that heading towards the end of the list so that they will stay reasonably close to each other throughout the day. The activities are: 

  • Welsh Glossika (Normal Speed)
  • Welsh Glossika (Fast Speed)
  • Welsh Dictation
  • “Colloquial Welsh” textbook
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Vocabulary acquisition
  • BBC S4C (Siarad Pedwar Cymraeg) TV Channel 

I also want to keep going on the fitness activity I started yesterday so I’ve added three non-Welsh activities: 

  • Walking
  • Push-ups
  • The Plank 

The rest of my list remains available for essential administrative and other necessary activities (such as keeping my in-boxes at zero, blog updates and so on)


Lenten Challenge: FFVP

Throughout Lent this year I shall be using the FFVP system to make some solid achievements.

Today, the 1st Day of Lent (otherwise known as Ash Wednesday) I made a start on my first achievement goal - to get fit - with 12,052 steps on my Fitbit.

Tomorrow I intend to have a Welsh Language Intensive Day.


An interesting link

Daniel Brownlees has forwarded me a link to his new system Pivotlist.  It’s very much on the same wavelength as some of the methods discussed on this website, but not identical to any!


Change to Fast FVP

As the system I was testing didn’t work out the way I was hoping, I’ve changed to Fast FVP which is proving to be everything I’ve been looking for. A bit of loosening up of the rules has made it much more flexible and seems to have overcome most of the problems I have found with it before and with such systems as Simple Scanning and FVP.

Basically what I’ve done is to stick to what I said in the first paragraph of the Fast FVP article without adding the further complications in that article.

“Whenever a task is dotted which I am ready to do right now I stop scanning and do it. That’s all there is to it - it’s as simple as that, but the effect on the speed of the system is enormous.”

However that’s not going to make much sense to anyone who reads this without being already acquainted with FVP and FV. So here’s a complete set of rules. As always, I’ve written the rules for paper and pen, but it’s easy to implement them electronically if you so wish: 

  1. Fast FVP is intended to be used with a “catch-all” list, i.e. a full list of everything you have to do.
  2. It is better to start off with a few tasks and build the list up gradually rather than attempt to write everything out to begin with. That way the list will build up naturally and you will be more aware of what is on it.
  3. Dot the first task on the list. You can do it straight away if you want to, but if you don’t want to you carry on scanning through the list dotting tasks that you intend to do.
  4. At any stage you can either work on the task you have just dotted or carry on down the list dotting further tasks.
  5. When you have worked on a task you cross it out and re-enter it at the end of the list if further work is needed on it.
  6. You then can either work on the previous dotted task or carrying on dotting further tasks.
  7. That’s basically it, but there are two rules dealing with the beginning and end of the list:
    1. Whenever you delete the first task on the list the new first task must be dotted
    2. Whenever you reach the end of the list you must work on the last dotted task on the list.

To sum up, except where rules 7.1 and 7.2 apply you always have a choice of:

  • Working on the last dotted task on the list OR
  • Adding further dots after the task you have just done.

Speed and Direction

Some recent comments have queried exactly what I mean by Speed and Direction in the context of High Intensity Time Management. So I think it would be a good idea to use a blog post to repeat and amplify my replies to those comments. 

Remember that the main qualifications for an HITM system are: 

  • It uses a catch-all to-do list (“long list”)
  • You only work on what feels ready to be done
  • You only work on that for as long as you feel like it.
  • There is no compulsion to do one task rather than another
  • Every task is available to be the next task you work on 

Subject to these any suitable scanning method may be used. The one I currently recommend is Simple Scanning, but I’m convinced that I can find a better way. I’m currently testing another system which may prove more suitable - or not. However what I’m about to say applies to any qualifying system.


There are two aspects to speed. First, there is the amount of time it takes to scan for the next task. On the one hand there would be a FIFO system in which you just do the tasks in the order they are written on the list. There would be effectively no time spent scanning at all. On the other hand would be a system in which you have to scan the entire list each time before selecting the next task. With a large list scanning would take a long time.

The second aspect is that speed is not just going through the whole list fast, but also doing the work fast. If you are bored and unmotivated your work slows to a crawl. But if you are fired up, you work much faster - and better too.

Unfortunately the two aspects contradict themselves to some extent. If you tried to do your work in a strictly FIFO order, you would probably end up bored to tears and very unmotivated. Any time saved in scanning would be easily outweighed by the slow speed of the actual work.

The ideal system has to be one in which the scanning time is kept as low as possible, but in which the emphasis is on keeping interest and motivation going.


It refers to giving direction to your life - as opposed, at the other extreme, to drifting aimlessly.

The idea behind HITM is that you have a big list which contains everything you might want to do. It’s then by working the list that you discover what you really do want to do. Anything that you decide that you are not going to do gets weeded out. As I think I’ve said before, I think the precise mechanism is less important than the approach. Unlike other approaches where not getting everything on the list done is seen as a failure, with HITM not getting everything done is seen as a success, i.e. it’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s the way you discover what you really want and ride the wave. In short it is what is called “being in the flow”.


Testing an HITM System 3: Bedding In

As I’ve said before, a list needs to become mature before it’s really effective but even on Day 2 there has been some movement.

Basically all the goals I reported on yesterday have remained the same with progress on all of them (except the funny cat videos). But there have been a few additions: 

  • The most important is fitness. I did my 10,000 steps today and intend to keep that going. But I’ve yet to incorporate strength training.
  • French and German have added themselves to Welsh. I know French well and German not so well, but they are both far advanced from where I’ve got to with Welsh. I’ve also got moving again on learning the Armenian alphabet (39 letters compared with 26 for English). 

Remember, these are not goals I’ve committed myself to or New Year resolutions. They are arising directly from what I am actually doing. I expect them to change and develop.


Testing an HITM System 2: Goals I Seem to Have

Looking back this morning on my first day of testing yesterday, it occurred to me to ask the question:

“If I were a stranger looking at the list of what I actually did yesterday, what would I say my goals were?”

Now bearing in mind that yesterday was not only a Sunday but New Year’s Eve as well, here’s the list I came up with (in no particular order): 

  • Learn Welsh
  • Develop the ideal HITM system
  • Keep up my One Line A Day diary
  • Keep Popular Content on my website up-to-date
  • Read Books and Magazines
  • Watch Funny Cat Videos on Youtube
  • Maintain zero inbox in:
    • Paper
    • Email
    • Messenger
    • Facebook
    • Voicemail
    • Doing the Dishes
    • Finance
    • Blog Comments 

There are two huge omissions from that list: Exercise and Writing Blog Posts. But, hey, it was supposed to be a day off!

Now if I take this HITM thing seriously I should see my goals change and develop in ways which would be inaccessible otherwise.

Blwydden newydd dda!


Testing an HITM System - 1

I’m starting to test a new HITM (High Intensity Time Management) system today. This is designed to improve some of the problems I’ve been having with “Simple Scanning”. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I made Simple Scanning the standard for HITM after the failure of another system for which I had high hopes. So Simple Scanning was always in default of a better system.

The main problem with all “catch all” lists is that as the list gets longer so it becomes more and more difficult to control the timing of tasks. The whole point of a “catch all” list is that it is long. That is because the idea is that the list will filter all the ideas that you have been having and make coherent sense of them in your life. If this sounds like a tall order, it is!

Another problem is that the longer the list the longer it takes to scan it. For instance FVP will scan a long list very thoroughly and effectively but takes a lot of scanning time to do so.

And yet another problem is that if you lose either speed or direction, or both, you lose momentum and eventually will get bored with the list.

What I have been working on for months now is the question of how to improve both speed and direction. I think I have now found an answer to this problem, but of course I won’t really know until I’ve tested it thoroughly. The testing started first thing this morning.


Physician, heal thyself

Rule 5 of the Simple Scanning Rules states:

There are no rules about how you write the task - just as long as you can understand what you meant when you come back to it.

I’ve just come across this task on my list which I wrote earlier today:

Weed “British”

I have not got the faintest idea what I meant by it.



Addition to Simple Scanning Rules

I’ve added a couple of suggestions to the rules for Simple Scanning:
  • Draw a line across the page at the beginning of each day. This helps to remind you whether you’ve done a daily task that day and enables you to see how long any task has been on the list.
  • When re-entering a task, do it in the following order: 1) Re-write the task at the end of the list 2) Cross out the old one. This will prevent you from failing to remember to re-enter a task, and also from losing your place.

Simple Scanning - Clumping, Attenuation and Maturity

If you haven’t already read the previous article on Simple Scanning then you need to do so before reading this.

My original intention was to write a separate blog post about each of these characteristics of Simple Scanning. However it seems easier to write one post and cover all three in one go. They are by no means confined to Simple Scanning, but that seems to be the system which best combines them  - the best I’ve been able to discover so far anyway.


In Simple Scanning tasks are written on the list when you think of them, without any attempt to classify or order them. But as one works the list, so the tasks which get done together will be re-entered on the list together. So the very action of using the system tends to mean that, as you progress, the amount of scanning time becomes progressively shorter and the speed at which you select tasks off the list gets faster. This particularly applies to routine tasks which need to be done at a particular time of day, such as a morning routine or an evening routine.


Attenuation is almost the opposite effect to clumping. It is what happens to tasks on the list that don’t get done quickly. As other tasks around them get done so they get surrounded by deleted tasks. This has the effect of drawing attention to those undone tasks. The more the list gets attenuated the more the undone tasks stand out physically. This gives important information to your intuition. You can increase the contrast between tasks by joining contiguous deleted tasks by joining them together with a vertical line in the left margin. This gives you a very good picture at a glance of how many tasks remain on any given page.


When you start a new list, you can’t expect to leap into full-ahead productivity immediately. It takes time for the list to mature.  You usually find that you start off by working on easy, routine tasks. This is entirely how it should be because you need to get these routines well established before you can start on more challenging work. Gradually you will find that more and more of the “real work” gets incorporated in your routines. Routines are the basis of all good work. You will find it very difficult to keep up to date with your work if you only work on it by fits and starts.

When you add a new project it too takes time to get established. Unless it’s urgent, your intuition will probably allow it to lie fallow for a bit, but once you start working on it it will become easier and easier to keep working on it.


The effect of these three working together provides a high-speed high-volume method of tackling your work which requires no more than writing down what you have to do on a list, scanning it and working on the tasks which stand out. The method itself require an absolute minimum of overhead.


Simple Scanning - The Rules

As I said in an earlier blog post, I was using Simple Scanning as far back as twenty years ago. But at the time I did not realise its potential. I may say more about that in future posts.

Up to now I’ve never written any formal rules for Simple Scanning preferring to describe it as “going round and round the list, doing tasks which stand out”.

There are several concepts there which need explanation, particularly if you haven’t used any of my systems before.

Simple Scanning is what I call a “long list” system. In long list systems the aim is to write everything down that you have to do, want to do or think you might do in one long list in no particular order. There should be no attempt to categorise, prioritise, or emphasise particular tasks in any way. There are no rules about what size individual tasks have to be or how they should be worded. 

Since this is an intuitive system it is recommended (but not essential) that you use paper and pen rather than electronic means. A lined notebook is ideal.

If you use electronic means, be wary of time management apps which try to make you categorise and/or prioritise. These will work against the effective use of the system.

The second concept which needs explanation is what I call “standing out”. This basically consists of scanning through the list, doing tasks which you feel you want to do now. Don’t ask yourself “Do I want to do this task now?”. Just let the tasks stand out of their own accord.

For some people this comes easily and naturally, for others it takes longer to grasp.

Don’t get too worried about it. There’s no right number of tasks to select per pass. Assume you are doing it right unless you either find yourself selecting every single task or alternatively none at all. Allow it to find its own level naturally.

Another concept is that you should work on a task only for as long as you feel you want to. It is better to work “little and often” on tasks, than to work in huge bursts of activity - specially if the thought of a huge burst of activity puts you off from ever starting.

So however long your list is, you should be doing only tasks which you feel you want to do now and only for as long as you want to do them. 

Now for the actual rules for simple scanning:


  1. Write a list of things you have to do, would like to do or think you might do. One task per line.
  2. If you are not sure about a task write it with a query (?) after it. 
  3. There is no need to make the list comprehensive because you can keep adding to it as you go along.
  4. Don’t make any additional markings to indicate category or priority. 
  5. There are no rules about how you write the task - just as long as you can understand what you meant when you come back to it.
  6. Tasks can be as large or as small as you like.
  7. When you have finished writing your initial list, read it through quickly once to remind yourself of what is on it and where.
  8. Scan down the list until a task stands out as being ready to do.
  9. Work on it for as long as you like. 
  10. When you have finished working on it for the time being, re-enter it at the end of the list if there is still work to be done on it. 
  11. Cross out the task you have been working on.
  12. Continue scanning down the list and repeat 8-12 until it is time to stop working. 
  13. When you reach the end of the list, circle round to the beginning of the list.
  14. At the beginning of the next work period, start again from where you got to.

A couple of suggestions: 

  • Draw a line across the page at the beginning of each day. This helps to remind you whether you’ve done a daily task that day, and enables you to see how long any task has been on the list.
  • When re-entering a task, do it in the following order: 1) Re-write the task at the end of the list 2) Cross out the old one. This will prevent you from failing to remember to re-enter a task, and also from losing your place.




High Intensity Use of Time - A Decision

After a lot more experimenting, I haven’t been able to find a system which works consistently better than Simple Scanning. So I taken the decision that I’m going to be concentrating on that from now on.

At the same time I’ve found out lots more about how Simple Scanning works and about what makes it suitable as the vehicle for High Intensity Use of Time.

Here are three characteristics which make it faster and more effective than any other long-list system: 

  • Clumping
  • Attenuation
  • Maturity 

Over the next few days I shall be writing about each of these (not necessarily in that order) to show how they work together to produce the high intensity.