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« Yet more testimonials | Main | Oliver's Busy Day »
Tuesday
Jan132009

Reducing Resistance

One effect of the constant cycling through items which is part of the Autofocus system is that this very process reduces resistance to the more difficult tasks.

To obtain this effect it is important that you don’t just look at a page in general and cross a few items off. Instead you need to follow the instructions and move slowly down the page pausing at each item until one “stands out”.

You can actually measure this effect for yourself. As an experiment the next time you put a task on the list that you know you may have trouble doing, mark the task out of 10 for the amount of resistance you feel towards it. Then every time you pass that item again, re-mark it. You will probably find that the resistance gradually lowers.

This is also one of the reasons why items which still have high resistance should be dismissed in Autofocus. There may well be deeper reasons why you are resisting this item. Therefore it’s important to review dismissed items regularly to see if you can identify why each one is causing you to resist it so much.

Reader Comments (6)

This was so familiar! I have an intray for letters that have to be dealt with and there is one that just constantly gets put at the bottom of the pile.The trouble is I know exactly why I am doing it - but it still remains the last thing I want to do.
January 13, 2009 at 14:56 | Unregistered CommenterMel
Ok, I only JUST read and started implementing DIT and now you've got this new "autofocus" business. It being the beginning of a semester of teaching, grad school AND family life I didn't sign up to be a beta tester. But these posts in my feed reader that only give slight clues about the system are driving me bonkers. I know you probably want to finish beta and smooth out the wrinkles before making it public but if you are going to continue blogging about it then at least PLEASE post a general outline/summary of the system so I can figure out what you are talking about. Thanks.
January 13, 2009 at 17:03 | Unregistered Commenterjim
Jim:

I suggest you sign up for the Beta testing. There's no compulsion to do anything about it once you've got it, and the instructions are not very long.

I am not going to post a summary on the website because I want to keep tabs on everyone who has the beta version.
January 13, 2009 at 17:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Ok, thanks, I'll do it.
January 14, 2009 at 0:03 | Unregistered Commenterjim
Resistance to tasks, particularly those 'letter type' tasks that Mel mentions above, has been one of my greatest issues in simply getting things off my plate. In both DIT and AF (as I'm inplementing it at the moment), I found that the most effective way of overcoming this resistance, was to place an estimated time-to-complete in brackets before the task. I started with the time after the task, but the psychological effect is just not the same.

Putting the time first serves 2 immensely useful purposes (at least for me personally). The first is to break down the resistance. By seeing that a task will only take (e.g.) 10 minutes an instant before seeing what that task is makes the task immediately more doable. I've managed to rid my list of stubbornly loitering tasks just by taking a moment to realise it will only take me a short time and noting this before the task itself.

The second purpose is to serve as a check on the phrasing of the task itself, an issue that is raised in DIT and elsewhere on this site. If the task takes any more than (e.g.) 30 minutes, perhaps it needs to be thought of as a 'project' (in MF's terms) and thus reworded. Once again this has helped me to get certain things moving. Depsite being aware of the task/project distinction, I did not see this in some of the 'tasks' on my list. By forcing a time on the task, I found many 'tasks' being broken down...along with the resistance,..and thus great progress was, 'little and often', made.

This perhaps goes against the grain of AF, I'm not sure, but when working with DIT, I found that adding times (before the task, crucially ) helped me to build a better picture of to waht extend I was being realistic with the number of tasks I was adding to the list for the next day.
January 18, 2009 at 22:05 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Just to fill in a few details for you Mark, since I'm one of your beta testers, here's my incarnation of AF that appears to be working for me. I started working with a computer-based version of the system from the start.

- I'm working with an Excel spreadsheet. I label each page 'Active 1', 'Active 2' etc and have approx. 30 items per page (avoiding scrolling).
(Thanks to whoever it was elsewhere in the AF discussion for lighting the spark of this idea. Much better than scrolling through a Word document (an old 'system' of mine) and less pressure than seeing all the red items in Microsoft Outlook's Tasks function.)

- I work with two columns. In the first I date the task (one of your suggestions for AF). In the second I estimate a time for the task and then phrase the tasks themselves. As I mentioned above, forcing a time on the task (even if it ends up taking longer) forces a wording that makes the task a task and not a project (DIT)...and thus ensures that it's doable.

- Regular tasks (email, voicemail and, now, 'Autofocus tasks') still go into Outlook Tasks (this is how I was working DIT until last week). This is also what I will be using to bring tasks for the distant future back into mind - upon which time they will be immediately deleted from Outlook and added to my AF list.

- Dismissed items, I highlight in a different colour and then, periodically, once it's clear I'm not going to do these items any time soon, move these 'to the right' (a soft-version of a sort of Noguchi filing system in reverse...). This means I have 'active' pages to the left (currently only 2, since I'm early in my experimenting) and 'inactive' pages (labelled as such) to the right. I then add 'revisit dismissed AF items' for (e.g.) a week's time into Outlook.

Neat, fast an effective to date. I'm not sure that I've had the kinds of revelations with AF that I've read on these pages (perhaps because I've worked with a somewhat similar idea for one particular, seasonal, aspect of my work in the past), but I'm certainly finding it useful and liberating to be adding everything and anything to the list and letting things take care of themselves.
January 18, 2009 at 22:37 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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