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AT LAST: Autofocus - the Video!!

Here’s what you have all been waiting for:

Many thanks to TaraghB for interviewing me and producing and editing the video.

Full instructions

Reader Comments (39)

This is great, Mark! Thanks to you and Taragh for providing it.
February 15, 2009 at 23:24 | Unregistered CommenterMel
Thanks for sharing this video with us! :)
February 15, 2009 at 23:44 | Unregistered CommenterKrewetka
Any chance this could be uploaded to other sites? (Youtube is usually blocked in offices)

I can think of Vimeo, MetaCafe, and DailyMotion as alternative sites.
February 15, 2009 at 23:46 | Unregistered CommenterRoderick
Mark. Thanks for posting the video. It was fun to meet you again and get some of my own questions answered. It was also good to see your list "in the flesh". I love making videos especially about people who inspire me
Best wishes
February 15, 2009 at 23:51 | Unregistered CommenterTaraghB
What an excellent video! Even though I understood all your written instructions, I still found this helpful.

One of the useful things was seeing the speed at which you do the first pass through a page ("Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action"). I'd been wondering if I was doing it too quickly or slowly, although I realised that was a pretty stupid thing to worry about. :)
February 15, 2009 at 23:54 | Unregistered CommenterAlys
Hi Mark

Great video - I'm sure this will answer a lot of questions for people. Thanks Taragh for producing it!
February 15, 2009 at 23:55 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B
Hi Mark

Thanks for this video - it has been really helpful to me. I am a very visual person and so actually seeing your list and how you use it has really made a difference. I love video tuition and as a way if sharing knowledge - thanks also to Taragh.
February 16, 2009 at 0:22 | Unregistered CommenterSue R
So interesting.
It was good to see that your notebook has many active pages. ; )
Thanks a lot.
February 16, 2009 at 1:20 | Unregistered CommenterSilvia
No disrespect intended, but this Autofocus system seems useless at best and anti-productive at worst. For people with a page or two of items, I suppose it could work. But for those of us already doing the GTD thing of getting all our "open loops" into our "trusted system", we probably would have *tens* of pages of items. The time spent simply going through them (including the repetitive one page at a time until everything's done or eliminated) could be significant.

I also don't get the "do what you feel like doing" or "do what's ready to be done" attitude. I only *wish* I could work that way. Unfortunately, my items do not share a priority or urgency. Some things are more important and/or more urgent (often with hard deadlines). So what I "feel" like doing or what's "ready" to be done is not likely to be the item I *should* be doing.

And I don't intend to start a flame war over the "paper vs. electronic" issue, but this paper-based system seems to have several flaws. First, what if you lose it or it gets wet or damaged? (My system is online, backed up in several places, and accessible from anywhere on the planet with an Internet connection (as well as offline on my laptop)). Second, if I've got 10 or 20 pages of tasks, how long would it take me to search for something particular? Third, just the re-writing of repetitive tasks and things I choose to defer could take a lot of time.

I apologize, but I'm just not getting this. Is there really something revolutionary here that I'm just not seeing, or is it perhaps an "Emperor's New Clothes" kind of thing?
February 16, 2009 at 1:51 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Hi Mark
I'm sure I've mentioned this idea to you on a previous occassion, but this delightful video experience compels me to repeat myself. I wish you would either tape one of your DIT seminars or do something similar to this video. Of course, it would need to be longer.....but then you could add a price tag to it. It could either be something downloadable or a DVD. Many of us would gladly pay to have it. Although I can appreciate how Autofocus has helped many people, there are as least as many who still prefer DIT (or a customized hybrid version) to stay current. All of your alternatives are bold, original and helpful to so many people. Thank you!
learning as I go
February 16, 2009 at 1:53 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Hi Scott
I, too, need to plan my week, month, etc via a review and planning process and then use the daily plan as the most granular unit. I need to have a target to aim at. The autofocus method overwhelmed me.
But.......everybody doesn't think and do alike. I tried autofocus and it didn't work for me at all but I am quite happy that Mark offerred up a new idea that helps many, many people. I've learned that it's almost impossible to truly understand the underpinnings of people's thinking and doing styles that are so diametrically different than my own. None is neither superior nor inferior to the others as long as one feels satisfied with their meeting their responsibilities and accomplishing their goals in a timely manner that gives proper satisfaction to their overall quality of life.
We're simply viewing this from a productivity angle. What varied talents and unique abilities spring forth from the many different styles of thinking....that's what leaves me in awe!
learning as I go
February 16, 2009 at 2:14 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Hi Scott - While you sound like a terribly important, busy and productive kind of guy, it might be worth your while reading through all the related material to this system. Mark has already answered many of your questions/comments in his support material.

Hi Mark - This a truly innovative system. I appreciate the 'flow' element which dove tails so well with current research on brain plasticity. This system is a tool - not a master - and fits well with the way many people in all walks of life are trying to live and work more intuitively. Cheers.
February 16, 2009 at 2:44 | Unregistered CommenterGreer
Youtube is blocked from me as well. I can't even get it at home.
February 16, 2009 at 3:38 | Unregistered CommenterCJ
Hi Scott,

Although I can understand your initial reaction - I had a similar feeling of "Emperor's New Clothes" myself - you should consider 2 very strong benefits of this method:

1) the extreme simplicity of "collecting" tasks - in many other systems there is a threshold of entering new stuff because where you enter it is important. Here you just enter it at the end of the one single list you have, period.

2) the regular review of tasks is done automatically as part of the methodology - in many other systems there will always be "dust gathering in the corners", and by that I mean that there will be legacy tasks that you have entered somewhere smart that just seems to sit there forever. The solution in those systems is to have regular review sessions where you spend time rethinking, reorganizing and deleting dead tasks. In AF you just dismiss them as part of the daily process.

In many other systems you end up spending a lot of time fiddling with the system itself - entering, selecting, and reorganizing where tasks and projects and actions should be, and browsing through dead tasks. The AF method removes those time drainers for you.

Now, I should say that I am myself still in favor of the DIT methodology, but I am beginning to experiment with AF. The reason I still work with DIT is because I feel there it is more goal-driven and AF feels so far to be more activity-driven. My fear is that I will be very busy doing a lot of tasks, but that I am missing doing the things that bring me closer to my goals. With DIT I can select those goal oriented things in the morning and put in my closed list for the day. I would be interested to hear what others have to say about this in AF?
February 16, 2009 at 5:49 | Unregistered CommenterTigerigis
Loved the video! Very reassuring to know that I am doing it just exactly right. All I can say is, well, it works for me. Works amazingly well, and I am an extreme procrastinator. On the whole it works better for me at home (as in superbly) than it does at work, where it ia still very much better than anything I've tried before. But then I don't much like my job,,!

Thanks for all of it Mark. You are a star.
February 16, 2009 at 7:35 | Unregistered CommenterChris Y
I am just embarking on using the AutoFocus system. I have been digesting the instructions and various forum posts raising and answering questions about how to apply the system over the last few days. This clear and concise video demonstration has increased my understanding greatly. Thanks to Taragh and Mark for taking the time to produce this.
February 16, 2009 at 9:18 | Unregistered CommenterIsRobot
Taragh, Mark,

thanks to both of you for the video. This is very helpful.
And YouTube even has miraculously become unblocked in my office. Maybe this is due to some hidden power in AF?
February 16, 2009 at 10:41 | Unregistered CommenterAlex W.

I don't imagine anything I can say would persuade you to give AF a try, but you might be interested in reading the comments at the Lifehacker review
February 16, 2009 at 11:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, I am so enthused by what I've just seen on the video that I want to give the system another try. I did try it when I first got the instructions, and continue to add to the list when something crops up, but I am so disorganised with my work and study that I am constantly putting out fires and can't risk using a system that allows my feelings to dictate what I will do next as that's what leads me astray.

I work in an office in our home, and as well as housework etc., also have other community commitments as well as serious study with regular deadlines. Multi-tasking has me answering the phone with one hand while filling the washing machine with the other. The 'must-be-dones' can't go on an intuitive list.

I've just remembered that you said to keep a seperate list for business and home. I forgot that. Would that mean that you keep a seperate list if you have a lot of study with deadlines, too? I am beginning to see that the answer is to stay in one role, and go through the list for that role for the allotted time. Is that right?
Would you keep all the roles seperate, but in one notebook?
February 16, 2009 at 12:21 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
Thanks for the video Mark. I actually see that I was doing it slightly wrong and I'm excited to start a new work week with a better handle on how to go down the lists.
February 16, 2009 at 15:20 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Having just tried the system for the first time last week I found the video great for confirming that I had got it about right. Have looked at discussions but still have not found a simple answer to the question of timed activities i.e must be done by Wed pm - if I add them at the end of a long list how do I ensure that I get to them in time - have I missed something?
February 16, 2009 at 15:53 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Not so much a comment about the system (though I'm starting it up -- after multiple failures with GTD, I think I need something like this with a lower bar to entry) I've got to say that I am impressed with the politeness with which opposing viewpoints (Scott) and responses are made. I'm really impressed with the community here. Thank you Mark for offering and facilitating this.
February 16, 2009 at 17:43 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
One of the beauties of Autofocus is that it is self-maintaining. I have always been troubled by David Allen's dictum that (paraphrased) "you need to think about your work more than you do now but not as much as you fear", because that leads to a lot of people doing a lot of fiddling with "the system" and not going their actual work. I don't get paid to do weekly reviews or move items from list A to list B. For my work and my style and my particular set of tasks, something like Autofocus provides sufficient structure to make sure important things aren't being overlooked or forgotten without the unnecessary labor-intensive overhead.

This video was actually very useful to me, if only to reinforce that yes, it really is that simple. There is no advanced set of tricks to Autofocus: you just start your list, start skimming pages and then do the work. I'm not missing something; it really is as elegant as the instructions made it out to be. Nice work, Mark.
February 16, 2009 at 18:51 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
I really like the video Mark. I think the system is very helpful. I think the structured calm approach to looking at tasks really does help to clarify which are the important ones and does provide the small extra amount of impetous sometimes needed to get started.
February 16, 2009 at 19:44 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

The reason you don't get it, is that you haven't tried it. You are mixing up many concepts in your argument, all of which are addressed by the system.

As Einstein said: In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.
February 16, 2009 at 20:57 | Unregistered CommenterSimon C
Hi Mark,
I am so glad I stopped by and watched the video. I tend to work on many projects at once and need a system to keep track of the tasks. I have given up on most systems foe a couple of reasons 1) I spend too much time organising the system that it becomes unproductive 2) My motivation is fleeting. If I work on a task when I am motivated then I get into a 'flow' state and both my productivity and quality improve. I hate working a task "just 'cause its on the list" when I really feel like doing somthing else.

I will start tomorrow and post back next week with how I find it.
February 16, 2009 at 21:03 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

How long did you try the system for when you first signed up? Most people find that it is better at getting us to meet deadlines than our rationalising about priorities. The system is not "intuitive" versus "rational". It is intuitive in balance with rational, and delivers better results than either on their own.

If you are working at home, my advice would generally be to have one list for everything. But if you are doing serious study, then you might experiment with blocking off time for study only and having a separate list for that.

At the end of the day, the best answer is what works for you.
February 16, 2009 at 21:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Remember the system encourages "little and often" working. If you are spending a lot of time on one page, then I suggest you loosen off a bit and don't feel you have to finish tasks or do nearly everything on the page. If you are moving fairly rapidly round the list, everything works much better, and you are unlikely to get caught out by items with a hard deadline.

Remember too the common sense rule that if something needs to be done now, then do it now. If you know that you aren't going to reach a task before its deadline, then just do it. However my experience is that the more experience you get with AF, the less this will happen.
February 16, 2009 at 21:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, you wrote in this thread: "If you are spending a lot of time on one page, then I suggest you loosen off a bit and don't feel you have to finish tasks or do nearly everything on the page. If you are moving fairly rapidly round the list, everything works much better, and you are unlikely to get caught out by items with a hard deadline."
That really rang a bell in my head. I've been paying almost all my attention to my first page and hardly ever looking at the later pages, and it's been worrying me. May I suggest that you add those sentences or something similar to the main instructions? Perhaps in the Do/Don't section? I know it should be obvious if one really thinks about the process, but I've just realised it's really helped me to have it spelled out explicitly. Your words are gold. :)
February 17, 2009 at 8:22 | Unregistered CommenterAlys
Great video. Thanks.
When I have finished a page, I cut the corner off at the top - making it really quick to find the last active page.
February 17, 2009 at 10:42 | Unregistered CommenterPam
PS but then I only write on one side of each page - it's less alarming that way.
February 17, 2009 at 11:09 | Unregistered CommenterPam
Seeing the video – everything became a lot clearer!! To be honest I am still a little bit dumbstruck. What I was reading ‘into’ the instructions I have no idea. I can understand now why Mark thought I had not understood the concept of AF, because quite frankly I hadn’t. This video let me understand the concept, thank you very much.

I have always been able to learn better when I have been shown how something is supposed to work. Seems to transfix it in my mind.

Looking at it now I could easily apply as much, or as little, structure around Autofocus as is required. Keeping some of my Task Diary elements for items that require being done on a certain day and my Unschedule for just keeping me generally grounded.

I am looking forward now to giving it another go. I admit I think I got it very wrong before.
February 17, 2009 at 11:55 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Wynn
Two things that I've noticed that might be problematic:
Unlike Alys, I tend to put most of my attention on the last page and feel a bit resistant to going back through the old ones.
And I also found the system a bit difficult to get started with, as I had several deadlines coming up. I guess the commonsense rule a couple of messages up takes care of that in a way, but it might be worth noting that nothing will have had much chance of being filtered through the system at the beginning.
Also, is this actually a new system, or a method that fits into systems such as DIT?
February 17, 2009 at 12:16 | Unregistered Commenterrick
I'm only a minute and a half in and something became amazingly clear - you pick one item that sticks out, do it, and MOVE ON to the next page. Some how I missed that part and was wondering how I'd ever get to the stuff at the end of my list. Thanks for the video.
February 17, 2009 at 18:41 | Unregistered CommenterSqril

You are right that it does get easier as you go on and more of your work has been filtered by the system. At the moment I almost never have to invoke the commonsense rule because the system delivers things on time without fuss.

Yes, this is a new system though many of the principles of DIT can also be applied to it.
February 18, 2009 at 22:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

That's not quite right. You pick one item that stands out, do it and then carry on round the same page until no items stand out. Then you move on to the next page. Of course it's quite possible that only one item will stand out -especially if you've already visited the page several times.
February 18, 2009 at 22:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
An Aha! moment:

Dismissing an item by highlighting it makes it stand out, not disappear. The highlighted tasks become Someday/Maybe items.

I have resisting dismissing items because I hate losing the ideas and dreams they represent. But that's not what Mark intends. These items get highlighted and made special. They're easy to find again -- all I have to do is look for the highlighted rows.

Yes, I might be fooling myself about ever getting back to those things, and it's possible to go too far the other way (highlighting becomes procrastination), but I'm going to play around with the new (to me) insight for a while.
November 8, 2010 at 17:48 | Registered CommenterCricket
Mark, good stuff here. Please, a couple of question.
1. What are the major points from DIT that you would still emphasize?
2. If I have a project with, let's say, 12 individual items, would I list each item in the list or just the name of the project with the steps located elsewhere?
3. Is there still a daily closed list component written out (as well as the list for tomorrow) or does the system work from the major list?

Thank you for your time.
February 17, 2011 at 16:40 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

1. You might find this interview with me useful

2. You can do it either way.

3. No, this new system is entirely different from DIT. That doesn't mean you can't still use DIT of course.
February 17, 2011 at 18:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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