My Latest Book

Product Details

Also available on,, and other Amazons and bookshops worldwide! 

To Think About . . .
Within a sequence of decisions, your most hesitant and vague decision will have the greatest effect on the overall consequences. Alexander Cortes
My Other Books

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Click to order other recommended books.

Find Us on Facebook Badge

Search This Site
Latest Comments
« Autofocus compared to DIT | Main | Building the List Organically »

Autofocus Beta testers

The original send of the Beta Testing Instructions last Monday went out to 1,405 people. The number has since risen to 1,958. That means that 553 have joined in less than a week. Thanks to everyone who has been passing on the news about Autofocus to their friends, colleagues and family. And thanks to everyone who is taking part - there has been an enormous buzz generated by this new system which is reflected in the Discussion Forum and Comments.

Reader Comments (31)


I signed up for the newsletter on thursday and clicked on the beta test button, but haven't received anything yet. Did I miss the cut-off point? Would love to test the system.


January 10, 2009 at 17:53 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

You were shown as subscribed to my newsletter, but not to Beta Testers. I have subscribed you manually. The instructions go out daily to new subscribers, so you should receive them sometime tomorrow.
January 10, 2009 at 23:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
January 11, 2009 at 6:52 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
Hi Mark,

I just sent you a .JPG of a flowchart of my understanding of the AutoFocus system. It did not seem appropriate to post it here as it is just my understanding of your system and might be wrong ... and the last thing I want to do is help institutionalize errors. ;-) But you may feel free to use it or modify it (or ask me to do it for you) as you wish.

The flowchart clarified some things for me and might be a good tool for inclusion in your documentation (much as was done with the GtD system). Of course, much of the clarity probably came from the process of creating the chart, but ...

Anyway, FWIW ...
January 11, 2009 at 14:13 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Oh, and while I'm here ...

Have you considered just trashing completed pages? I notice you mention a system of marking pages complete so I'm assuming that you save them for some reason. Care to share the reason? I've been using a 3x5 inch spiral bound vertical format pad I carry around in my pocket and just tear out the pages when completed.


January 11, 2009 at 14:16 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Hi Mark

You asked for comments about how people use the system in "electronic" rather than "hand written" format.

My first reaction to the instructions was one of panic. I saw myself spending huge amounts of time writing and re-writing "to dos" and never getting anything completed. However, one of the things I recognise about how I manage my time is that using "new systems" periodically help to "kick start" me back into action. This is often particularly true after a "holiday period". So, I resolved to make this work, trust it, and find a way to use it in Word or Excel to enable cutting, copying and pasting rather than re-writing.

To that end I created my AF list using Word (in a three column table), with page numbers. I use the highlight text function for completed items and add the date. To begin with I was using it on screen but noticed I was spending too much time on the list itself so I printed it. I then simply highlighted items as they were complete and added by hand any new items to the bottom of the list as they came in.

At the end of the day, I cut and paste to tidy up the Word document AF list and started again the following day.

One of the internal challenges I had was that of allowing things to be discarded from the list so I simply cut them from the main AF list and created a new document called "AF discarded" in which I have added all those discarded items. Now I find myself with a level of comfort around "not forgetting" something "important" for later. It occurs to me that I might review my discarded list periodiocally (perhaps monthly or quarterly) to see if any discarded items now fit within my strategy or plans where they didn't before.

From a productivity point of view, I have completed a huge amount of tasks this week that I suspect would have been shelved in favour of something else so I am delighted with progress so far.

Specifically, I completed 35 tasks on my list, discarded 26 and am starting the new week with a list of 67. I also used the 10 minute rule on incoming work - if it can be done in less than 10 minutes it was done immediately and never made the list at all.

Looking forward to another productive week.

All the best.

January 11, 2009 at 14:29 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Smith

Thanks for the flow chart. I'll have a good look at it and consider how I might use it.

With regard to your question about keeping pages, there are four reasons why I do:

1) I'm using a bound notebook and tearing pages out merely disfigures the notebook without achieving anything.

2) I can keep track of how much I have achieved.

3) It means I have somewhere to keep "dismissed" items for review. They are all easy to identify because they are highlighted.

4) I can see at a glance what proportion of items have been dismissed over a period.
January 11, 2009 at 15:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

Just be sure the flowchart is not in error ;-)

I understand your reasons for keeping things now. I'll resist tearing out pages for a while and see how it works. I do get the value of having some kind of record ... especially if items are, at least approximately, dated.

Sunday is my weekly review day and I took the time to organize my pocket notebook to conform to the AutoFocus method. I'll learn a lot more about how it fits with my style next week.

There has been some talk about contexts and multiple lists. When I organized my notebook I utilized tags for some entries, in lieu of multiple notebooks or context lists. I did not go overboard, but some tags I found helpful are: [E(rrand)], [W(aiting)], [T(ickler)], ["name"] (for discussions), etc. If this turns out to be useful, it will probably imply that I should not tear out pages and discard them. Time will tell.

Thanks Again,
January 12, 2009 at 4:29 | Unregistered CommenterMike
I am using and liking Autofocus. For me, the main challenge I was anticipating was losing sight of what needed to be done on any given day : staying on top of time-barred activities. What I am doing is using a page a day diary. I have a vertical line through each day. On the left hand side, I list the things that must be done on that day. That list tends to be quite short (meetings, key deliverables). On the right hand side, I am listing the more fluid things, Autofocus style. I am through more pages on the Autofocus lists, but am not too worried about that. What I really like about the Autofocus approach is that I do not have any other lists (someday, maybe, most important project, etc.). No ideas yet on how to do this all effectively electronically. Will put on my list to think about this more!
January 13, 2009 at 12:40 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Hello Rebecca,
I've been thinking about doing something very similar; Using a page-a-day diary in 'dual-mode', with date-specific entries in addition to the organically growing list containg the majority of my work. I'd be interested to hear how its working for you; the only concern I have would be that adding this extra complexity would be enough to tip me back into resistance mode.

An added wrinkle would be to use the Saturday and Sunday pages as the 'home' list, keeping it separate from the 'work list.


January 13, 2009 at 14:25 | Unregistered CommenterDave
There's lots of posts about electronic solutions on the Discussion Forum if anyone's interested. My personal digital solution is OneNote which is incredibly simple, incredibly flexible and adapts easily to AF. However it really is simplest to just use pen and notepad as suggested. Although I use OneNote I cannot ever see it as replacing pen and paper but merely as an add-on (and with neater print than my handwriting!)
January 14, 2009 at 0:47 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B
Hello Mark,

I signed up for the newsletter last night and clicked on the beta test button, but haven't received anything yet. Did I miss the cut-off point? Would desperately love to test the system.

Thank you,
January 14, 2009 at 14:02 | Unregistered CommenterKarl

The instructions go out on a daily basis to new subscribers. If you haven't received them by tomorrow (15th), please contact me again.
January 14, 2009 at 18:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Good morning,

I tried to sign up for the newsletter and beta testing. However, neither firefox nor internet explorer works. Can you help?

Jacob Chang

The ConstantContact site appears to be down at the moment. I suggest you try again later.
January 15, 2009 at 19:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I think I'm missing something. I signed up to be a beta tester and for the newsletter and have only received one newsletter.

What more do I need to do?

January 19, 2009 at 1:53 | Unregistered CommenterMarti

I signed up for the newsletters and click on the beta test button but haven't received anything but welcome letter. I really want to be a beta tester. Is it too late?

Thank you.
January 21, 2009 at 6:25 | Unregistered CommenterSvetlana

Have you received the instructions about the Autofocus system? If you have, there has been nothing since.

If you haven't, let me know your email address and I will check whether you are correctly subscribed.
January 21, 2009 at 15:37 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I have checked your subscription details and you are correctly subscribed. The instructions are sent out once a day to new subscribers, so you will probably get them today. If you don't, please let me know.
January 21, 2009 at 15:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I signed up to your newsletter and for beta testing a couple of weeks ago but have not had anything yet, apart from the Time Freedom Coach welcome message. I'd be grateful if you could send on the information.


January 23, 2009 at 8:47 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Gledhill

You are show as signed up for the newsletter but not for the Beta Testing. I have added you to the list, and you should get the instructions later today or early tomorrow.
January 23, 2009 at 14:42 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Please add me to the beta tester list for Auto focus.


January 24, 2009 at 0:33 | Unregistered CommenterPankaj

Done. You should receive the instructions tomorrow.
January 25, 2009 at 0:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I've just signed up and have my list running already! As a stationery junkie I always have spare notebooks around. It feels as if I will keep it up more than my DIT lists - the problem I had with these was if I was out of the office for 3 days it all went to pot. Now I feel as long as I have my notebook and write everything down I'll keep on top of it.

One question - I have a simple list of items, note numbered, dated or anything. Is this how most other people are using the system?
January 27, 2009 at 22:20 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Hi Mark, I too have signed up for your newsletter, and would like to participate in the beta test. My dear friend Mel Wilson raves about it!! I signed up several weeks ago, but have not received anything to my email. Including newsletters. I may have signed up incorrectly. If you are still adding new testers, I would like to be added. Thank you so much. Deb
February 2, 2009 at 17:30 | Unregistered CommenterDeb
Dear Mark
I’ve been using Autofocus for about a month now and here is what I've found:

It works really well at home with my personal things. I find I am getting through things that I’ve been putting off for ages and also I can select to do enjoyable tasks when I want to, rather than on a scheduled day as with the ‘Do it Tomorrow’ principles. I no longer feel overwhelmed or feel that I need to finish my list – I accept the list is never-ending and that is fine

I have found it does not work at all for the nature of my job. One long list I have found to be completely overwhelming and when I have lots of meetings and only have a short time between them to get things done, looking down the list of things to do paralyses me. I frequently have about 40 things on my list to get done and only by batching them and assigning each task a time (as in your ‘Get everything done’ method) is the only way to make the task manageable. I find this previous method has really worked for me in my busy job as I do not feel overwhelmed.

I hope the feedback is useful and I would intend to keep this dual system going i.e. new system at home and your ‘Get everything done’ system at work.

Best wishes
February 5, 2009 at 21:40 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Dear Mark

I am grateful for Sarah’s entry (5th February) as I found that I was unable to even start the test. I also have a sprawling work life (two jobs), which requires a number of task and appointments that I need to fit in. I love closed lists and the idea of having to return to a long list of never ending tasks was just too overwhelming for me to even begin to use AF.

I also have an additional problem in that I don’t write linear lists. I use mind maps to record my tasks. I know that creating a notebook of linear lists is not going to work for me, this comes from the experience of having a number of abandoned small note books with lists in them. However I have always been able to keep to and use mind maps for list. I can see immediately what tasks I have to do that day and when I have completed a task I put a little tick or cross through the item. With a mind map I can also see what tasks are connected to each other at glance and I am likely to miss this in a linear form. I don’t advocate mind maps over linear lists. I am just saying what works for me. I currently have a large Moleskine notebook, for my lists (mind maps) notes & ideas that I carry this everywhere. I have a small diary for my appointments.

Sarah makes the point that has been bothering me, the need to split between work that is best done with DIT and work that can be done with AF. I also have some personal projects that I struggle to get off the ground or I start and don’t return to. I want to do these but I don’t have to. I am hoping that AF may help so I now intend to apply the method to these tasks.


February 7, 2009 at 7:44 | Unregistered CommenterGrace
Grace and Sarah:

I certainly don't want sound as if I'm trying to stop you using methods which work for you, but I do think I need to pick up on the idea that AF consists of one long list. This is not correct.

AF consists of a series of closed lists (the pages), each of which presents you with a gradually reducing series of choices.

I have 111 tasks in AF at the moment, but I am never presented with a choice of more than 32 of them - and very rarely as many as that. The page on which I am working at the moment has 22 tasks on it (including this one), and the next page has 19. So as I progress through the notebook I am presented with a series of restricted menus from which to choose.

This actually gets the advantages of both open and closed lists.
February 7, 2009 at 12:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hello Mark,

I, too, am eager to be a beta tester for Autofocus. A good friend just raved about it to me. Is it too late? I have already signed up for the newsletters.

thanks, julica
February 11, 2009 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterJulica Hermann
I'm another who has heard of the beta testing for AutoFocus and would love to be a part of it. Any chance?
February 11, 2009 at 21:27 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn
Julica and Carolyn:

The Beta testing has finished. You will find the instructions for Autofocus by going to the Autofocus System link on the Menu Bar at the top of the page.
February 11, 2009 at 21:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.