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« One Thing at a Time | Main | New Developments: Testers Wanted »

Autofocus: The Book Selection

A couple of days ago I posted about how I was going to test the autofocus abilities of the system by deliberately overloading it with a list of 57 books which I hadn’t got round to reading. How did I get on?

I could have posted about this before but I delayed because I didn’t want to distract from the important business of setting up testers for the new system. The reason I could have posted about this before is that the system took less than a day to sift through the books and make a selection of five for me. The weird thing is that the selection (a history of Islam, a textbook about better driving, a novel, a devotional book and a history of the events leading up to World War II) is far better balanced than I would have come up with by myself.

This is the amazing thing I am finding out about this system. Although very simple, it succeeds in balancing the rational conscious parts of my mind with the intuitive and feeling parts to produce results which I could have arrived at no other way. Just about everything I know about time management has gone into this system and the result is something so easy and obvious that it’s difficult to see why it took so long for anyone to think of it.

Reader Comments (39)

A little clue?
December 23, 2008 at 13:45 | Unregistered Commenterjoe jones
It sounds like the only thing this new system can't do is make me a cup of tea...hmmm...then again... <grin>

I found Mark's comment below his last blog posting "New Developments: Testers Wanted" very interesting..."I'm interested in how people actually react to the new system, which includes whether they combine it with something else, or even give up almost immediately."

The "give up almost immediately" comment suggests to me that despite our (as blog readers) perceptions that Mark's new system will automatically run our lives for us while we sun ourselves on the beach counting our lottery winnings, there might well be some hard work involved in keeping it going. I'm sure Mark will correct me if this is really NOT the case in which case I'll shall order my stockbroker to buy Mark Forster PLC shares immediately!

Nevertheless, I am excited!
December 23, 2008 at 14:12 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
Actually it's quite good at making cups of tea - it is a British system after all.

My perception is that the new system is incredibly easy and anyone who starts it will find it hard to stop. Not that I imagine they will want to. However my perception needs testing against the reality of how people actually behave!
December 23, 2008 at 14:29 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
That's splendid news Mark - I shall throw out my (British) tea-maker forthwith.

Thanks for the clarification. I must say that I continue to be truly amazed at what you are going to reveal to us...even without knowing anything about it!
December 23, 2008 at 14:40 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
Just a question, there anything we should do in preparation to get up and running quickly with the new system before the unveiling?

Should we compile, say, a master task list of everything we've ever wanted to do in our life, or a put together a list of goals, or something similar?
December 23, 2008 at 16:05 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
I'm interested, too, especially because I have been using LifeBalance software for the last couple of weeks. It does the same kind of thing in that it tells me what I should be doing now (based on my goals and current priorities). So far I really love it, but I am interested to see if there is another (maybe even better) way of doing the same thing.
December 23, 2008 at 19:01 | Unregistered CommenterMel

There's no harm in doing either of the things you mention of course, but they are not necessary.
December 23, 2008 at 19:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

My new system (I must give it a name soon!) works on a very different principle from LifeBalance and similar software. The problem with LifeBalance etc is that you have to make decisions with your rational mind about what your goals and priorities are. My system is designed to balance the rational and non-rational parts of the mind so that your goals and priorities emerge from working the system itself.
December 23, 2008 at 19:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, 'Autofocus' actually seems to have a ring to it...What do you think?

My current tea maker is very good (although she could be a bit quicker at times) so I don't think I'll need this facility. However, will your system benefit from the use of a Task Diary as DIT does? The reason I ask is that it is time for me to buy another day per page diary and I tend to get a good quality one.
December 24, 2008 at 8:06 | Unregistered CommenterLeon

No, it doesn't use the Task Diary as such, though you will still need some means of scheduling future reminders, such as "Ring Jim when back from holiday" or "Check project X is still on schedule".
December 24, 2008 at 9:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I'm thinking of calling it "The Autofocus Time Management System". Apart from anything else it will distinguish it from all other systems out there.
December 24, 2008 at 12:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, that sounds *rather* sophisticated. Here's hoping it does exactly what it says on the tin!
December 24, 2008 at 14:47 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
Hi Mark,

My level of intrigue for your new system is climbing in an exponential fashion! I can't wait to work with this new system.

Best wishes -- and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! And most importantly...I wish peace and happiness to you and all on this site.

December 24, 2008 at 18:21 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Drake
... if I can just drag this out until April 1st!
December 24, 2008 at 19:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark and all those folks drooling in anticipation

I think Mark read my mind. From all the frantic postings and excitement that his anouncements have caused, I did have to both pinch myself to check I wasn't dreaming and check my calendar to make sure we hadn't fast forwarded to Spring (in the UK) already. But nope, it does seem that there really is something just around the corner that is creating a HUGE buzz!

Had you thought of calling it Mark's Magic Management Method? or is that a little too silly for everyone ;-) Sorry, but it is Christmas after all...
December 24, 2008 at 19:33 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Drag this out until April 1st?

December 24, 2008 at 19:55 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Drake
Of course April 1st: FOOLS DAY !!
December 24, 2008 at 20:57 | Unregistered CommenterWerner
And the connection of this new system with April Fool's Day is....?

December 24, 2008 at 21:41 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Drake
David, it was a joke, that's all.
December 24, 2008 at 22:21 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
Okay -- got it. Thanks.

December 24, 2008 at 22:29 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Drake
I just hope the new system does not involve a lot of list-making. I really love the simplicity of DIT and can't imagine anything as easy as DIT with more lists.
December 26, 2008 at 17:21 | Unregistered CommenterM. Roemer
M. Roemer:

Only one list!
December 26, 2008 at 18:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark
I was wondering if you could reveal a "teaser" preview of at least one aspect of it. I've suspended setting up my 2009 system. This is the time of year where I set up my system framework to integrate my mail goals and responsibilities. Should I wait?
December 26, 2008 at 18:25 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
*blush* (note to self: don't type when medicated! LOL!) change could to would and change mail to main......sorry! *blush*
December 26, 2008 at 18:27 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Just regard it as if it were a faster and more powerful version of DIT.
December 26, 2008 at 20:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,
Will do! I guess changing from my current tools (a calendar and a steno pad) shouldn't
be too difficult nor necessary! Thanks
December 27, 2008 at 17:25 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Good choice for a name! "Autofocus Time Management System" abbreviates to "ATM", just like the wonderful bank machines that dispense cash.

Thanks for giving us something fun to look forward to, and Happy New Year.
December 27, 2008 at 17:26 | Unregistered CommenterTom Derwin
And for that reason, maybe AFTM might be a better choice of acronym.

Certainly in the UK, a group focused around ATM discussions might attract an unhealthy interest from the fraud police. <grin>
December 27, 2008 at 21:16 | Unregistered CommenterFrank
I just knew you wouldn't be able to retire yet, Mark! When I read that you had retired I was just so shocked. I was hoping we would hear more from you. I've signed up for beta testing and I was wondering whether you will be writing a book about this system. Maybe you could use the beta testers' experiences in the book - retaining our anonymity of course!
December 29, 2008 at 21:01 | Unregistered CommenterSandy
Mark, I am with everyone else in that I am quite intrigued! I know it's a paper and pencil system which I like in general, BUT my problem with my ADD tendencies is that I need to have my list on my person at all times. I constantly misplace my notebook and I am in all different levels of my house all day. If I leave it in one place, I forget what it was I needed to write down by the time I get to it! That is why my IPhone (that I wear in a holster) has been such a huge step forward for me. I will be interested in determining if paper really can work for me or if not, if there is any way to make the system IPhone-friendly. I'm very willing to keep an open mind (wait, maybe that's my problem in the first place - LOL). Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. It's contagious. Happy New Year!
December 31, 2008 at 19:00 | Unregistered CommenterMel

I don't have all the answers yet, this being quite new. But one suggestion. I don't have an IPhone but my mobile phone has a voice recorder facility which I find useful for recording all those thoughts that come into my mind when I'm away from my desk. I can then copy any tasks onto my list when I get back to the desk.
January 1, 2009 at 18:16 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks, Mark. I will consider Reqall or Evernote for this purpose and will be glad to let you know how it comes together for me as I go.
January 1, 2009 at 18:48 | Unregistered CommenterMel
Thank you, Mel
January 1, 2009 at 20:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark

A question re your books - once Autofocus had selected your five books did you leave the remaining books on the list or allow them to be rejected? Whilst I would assume that, as you presumably want to read them at some point, most would stay on the list, they could be there for a long time .......... Just curious :-)
January 5, 2009 at 23:52 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B

I highlighted the books in accordance with the instructions. That means I can review them easily.
January 6, 2009 at 9:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Ah, so the system "rejected" them (for now :-) )

Thanks Mark
January 6, 2009 at 12:52 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B

January 6, 2009 at 17:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, I would be interested in reading more details of how you sifted your stack of 57 books through your system. Perhaps something like that would make a good topic for a future blog post.

I just discovered your web site and I'm having a great time exploring it.
February 12, 2009 at 20:32 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I don't think there are any more details. I just wrote the titles of all the books into AF as individual tasks and followed the standard rules for the system.
February 13, 2009 at 11:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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