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« Comments and Emails | Main | Developing One's Vision »


Snow has caused me to abort my trip to Stafford today, so I will be at home to answer all the queries coming out of the launch of the Autofocus system. Quite a few already - must get to work!

Reader Comments (16)

Hi Mark

I thought the snow was a welcome addition this morning - great symbolism of a clean start :-)

I have to say after a couple of hours that you are totally correct about the lack of procrastination, although I can see I will need to practice letting "the system" sort for me as there are a few items with a heavy "must do but don't want to" feeling attached on my list/s.

One question I have is regarding items which cannot be done immediately and I wanted to check whether I have handled these in the best way. For example, my HiFi speaker blew two fuses over the Christmas period so I had a task "Call HiFi shop". First though I want to retest the fuses so need to buy more fuses so added an item "buy fuses". As the first item is dependent on item 2, and I am not going shopping until tomorrow those items are currently "undoable".

Would you (a) leave the items until they are doable and so have that as an "active list" or (b) treat them as done on the initial list (in that they are scheduled) and re-write at the end of the list?

What I have done is to (1) create a new item "make shopping list" (to add this and other items), (2) create a new item "go shopping (& take list!)" and re-added the "call HiFi shop" item to the end of the list, treating the review of the item as a partial completion.

I am sure you will have come up against these sort of scheduling issues and would appreciate your input as to what you have found works best for you ...............

I have to say that the things I have done this morning so far were certainly not in the order I would rationally have chosen but I can see already that they were the "right" things to do - very interesting ............

Thanks Mark - as ever you have not disappointed. My only regret of the day so far is that the snow has now melted!!! :-)

Hope you enjoy your unexpected "free" day!
January 5, 2009 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B
Hi, Christine:

Glad you are finding the system works in much the same way that I have found it does. That's what makes me so enthusiastic about it.

The thing to remember about scheduling is that most pages on the list take several days to be completed. Therefore one can quite safely leave an item like "Buy fuses" on the list for a few days, even if it's currently undoable. This also applies to such things as checking whether someone has replied to an email. This characteristic of the list is very useful as it means you only have to diarise items that are some distance in the future.
January 5, 2009 at 11:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks Mark - that's really helpful.

I can't quite believe that I have already completed 29 items and have not even gotten (Americanism!) to lunch yet. It is interesting how it automatically brings other things to mind and it has already led me to "create" a couple of things to make my life and organisational skills easier, things that I instinctively knew but had not done.

Amazing ........
January 5, 2009 at 12:52 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B
Hello Mark. Looking good so far... I have a couple of questions;

1. If one of the larger projects on my list with a high level description - for example "work on brochure" - results in a number of other more concrete actions being added to the list, like "write 1st draft" and "call the printers", should I additionally add "work on brochure" to the end of the list after a work session? And does it make sense to keep a separate project plan?

2. There is no mention of Current Initiative. To some degree, I can see the sense in that, as you will naturally work on important projects when your brain is in the best state to do so. However, do you think that there is still value in flagging something unambiguously as the first thing of the day?


January 5, 2009 at 15:28 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I don't know that I have all the answers yet to these questions, but my thinking at the moment is:

1. What I'd probably put myself is "Review work on brochure" rather than "Work on brochure". A slight difference in phrasing, but it can make a big difference to how the item is perceived by you.

2. If I had a current initiative at the moment, it would be "Get Autofocus launched". That seems to be progressing quite satisfactorily at the moment without being a current initiative! My brain has just naturally latched on to what is important to me at the moment.
January 5, 2009 at 15:42 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,
After I had completed my list this morning I immediately knew which things on it I had energy for -- and needed to do -- right away but they were not on the first page of my list. Should I ignore these things until I've done my first page items?
January 5, 2009 at 15:46 | Unregistered CommenterGael

Yes, do it page by page in the way I describe. Jumping ahead will negate the system.
January 5, 2009 at 15:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

From reading the instructions and the comments on the blog it seems that either I don't have enough to do or maybe I'm not breaking tasks down small enough as I've only got about 15 items to worry about at the moment! Perhaps I should just count myself lucky!

That aside, I think I'm slightly uncomfortable with this at the moment because it seems a lot like a big open ended to do list. I know there is a nominal 'line' at the end of the page but it seems like you're saying that if you don't fancy doing anything on one page you're ok to go onto the next or am I missing the point somewhere? What makes it different?


January 5, 2009 at 16:17 | Unregistered CommenterChrisH
Maybe another helpful blog article would be about a comparison between DIT and AF. It would be nice to see the evolution of your system and your thoughts in one neatly packaged article.
January 5, 2009 at 16:20 | Unregistered CommenterWilson Ng

I suggest you try it and see.
January 5, 2009 at 17:22 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Wilson Ng:

I've put it on my list! :-)
January 5, 2009 at 17:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Scribble Pad.

Its often useful to have somewhere to work out ideas, jot notes / phone numbers etc when you are in the middle of working on a task. In the past, I have used the right hand page of an open notebook for my to do list and the left hand page as a scribble area. Do you think that would fit with this system? Or will it simply be a distraction?

January 5, 2009 at 17:45 | Unregistered CommenterDave

With an A4 sheet there's room to have the list and the scribbles on the same page. That's what I do.
January 5, 2009 at 18:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark
Thanks you for your generosity in sharing your time management schemes - I graduated from the Open University whilst also running my own business and becoming a granny following your books :-)
I am very interested in WHY the Autofocus system works, as you describe an organic growth which is not fully developed at the outset.
I seem to have signed up in duplicate to the trial of Autofocus, as I received identical emails this morning - it could skew your figures.
My comments late on day one: I found myself actually doing outstanding small tasks, rather than writing them on the list, consequently I achieved more than usual today.
I found myself spotting tasks to be done while doing other tasks (eg. vacuuming, and noticing knocked paintwork I've been meaning to retouch for ages) Problem - my notebook is not nearby, so I scribble on a scrap of paper for later transfer to the list. The end of one task meant several scraps of paper in different rooms. The solution might be to have a small notebook tied to my wrist, waitress style!
Last year I used a similar system to Autofocus, but had different pages for different categories, so when working on the computer, I could also go down my computer action list; when busy gardening, I consulted the gardening list, thereby saving time reading through a much longer general list, and completing tasks according to weather and being already dressed appropriately.
Simply being part of a trial and having the opportunity to communicate with you and others brings its own energy to the process - I have been astonished at what I have accomplished today. I might even learn more about computer terms such as blog postings!
Thanks Mark.
January 5, 2009 at 21:08 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
<<becoming a granny following your books :-) >>

I don't think I remember writing that book!

But seriously, thanks for the feedback. If you are receiving two emails you must be registered under two different email addresses. Can you let me know what they both are?
January 5, 2009 at 21:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark

I would just like to say thanks... I don't remember the last time i have come home without sitting on the tube wondering ,what did i achieve today...

The nature of my job is very reactive so i can spend most days jumping from one crisis to the next, what with routine daily tasks its hard to move any projects forward. Autofocus gave me a sense of control and as most things i started got interupted, crossing off and re listing a project/task kept my focus on what needed to be done.

FYI On a good day i would be happy to have completed 6/7 tasks .. today i completed 11 !
January 5, 2009 at 22:57 | Unregistered CommenterLynda

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