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« Acting in One's Own Best Interests | Main | Autofocus after four months »

New system first week stats

Here are the stats for my first week at the new system I referred to in my previous post. Because I was sidetracked a couple of times into trying tweaks (which very quickly didn’t work out), they are probably not quite as good as if I had stuck to exactly the same system throughout.

Total number of tasks on list: 646

Total actioned: 537

Total unactioned: 109 (including current task)

Page by page analysis of unactioned tasks (34 tasks to a page):

Pages 1: 0

Page 2: 0

Page 3: 0

Page 4: 0

Page 5: 0

Page 6: 7

Page 7: 11

Page 8: 15

Page 9: 9

Page 10: 2

Page 11: 5

Page 12: 9

Page 13: 6

Page 14: 4

Page 15: 3

Page 15: 5

Page 17: 10

Page 18: 16 (including current task)

Page 19: 7 (of 7)

The first 170 tasks on the list have all been completed. There is no “dismissal” in this system, so these tasks have all been actioned at least partially.

The comparatively large number of uncompleted tasks on p. 8 is due to task dumping from old to-do lists (a process I don’t recommend!)

Tentative conclusions

There is an even higher volume of work than with Autofocus, due to there being virtually no resistance or system overhead.

Urgent and routine items get done a lot faster and more reliably than with Autofocus.

Higher resistance items get done without a fuss.

The best part of Autofocus for me - that’s it’s enjoyable to work at - is fully preserved.

My only worry with the system so far is that the number of unactioned tasks is still growing. I expect this to level off at some stage, but it’s too early to tell when this will be. However it’s worth pointing out that at the present rate of work (76 tasks per day) the unactioned tasks represent less than a day and a half’s work.

Reader Comments (30)

I am so glad it's working so well for you. Looking forward to the unveiling!
May 5, 2009 at 15:43 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline
do you plan to reveal Af 2.0 as a public beta again or to generate revenue via gutenberg galaxy this time ? I hope AF remains free - I'll click a few ads in the meantime. Thank you!
May 5, 2009 at 18:41 | Unregistered CommenterM_N
If tasks are unactioned it's may be they did nt need to be done !

May be the new system prioritize important things and let down waht is not essential.
In case this will be a revolution.

Hope AF2 remain free. But I understand you wish making money with it.

If you does why dont you write a new book with the method, variances, and example ?
AF1 & AF2 shall needs improovement and adaptation. It will take a certain time. AF method is young what would be interesting in a book would be to create a real method like a GTD light working on paper and making all it works.

Because behind all this forum and question is hidden a real trouble a people. Every thing is goint to far, too fast. The society want us to work faster and faster. Computer are the way of making money. Software too. They all need improovement. But they are not efficient. Paper is.

For me, nobody cares about what real problems people have. What could be formulated by "How can i deal which project, organization"," how can i be efficient", "how can i do it easely what is whis a pen and a sheet of paper".

This is what people would pay for. See how many book sold David allen about GTD.

Mark if you can solve this problem and create a real book about organization with pen & paper i guess you will succeed and make a lot of money with it.

AF 1,2, 3 ... Is just a tool, an intresting one but i remains a simple tool.
May 5, 2009 at 19:37 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Thanks for the post. I just read David Allen's book. has an Outlook plugin called Outlook Track-It, which is my favorite GTD software. You can flag followup email reminders. GTD is used with this.
May 6, 2009 at 2:55 | Unregistered Commentercjw
I have used SuperSimple version of Autofocus, here's brief instructions:

1) Write tasks/things to-do down
2) Scan lists
3) Find task which stands out
4) Think brief & simple step (which takes less than 5 minutes) regarding task
5) Do that simple action (less than 5 min)

This method works well without hassle and overhead

May 6, 2009 at 18:01 | Unregistered CommenterVesa
Amazing number of tasks in a short timeframe Mark - it seems that you are adding tasks at a faster rate than with AF - is that right? If so is that to do with the type of task or the way they are broken down or just that you are getting more done so finding yourself "free" to locate new stuff?
May 7, 2009 at 1:50 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B
stop teasing us! we want to be more productive too. thanks for all the great tools.
May 7, 2009 at 5:30 | Unregistered Commenterslothbear
You're right slothbear!

It'd be great to hear new improvements for Autofocus!
(since all of us we have been giving feedback and suggestions)
Even if Mark will monetize this new system (via books or seminars), he should tell us more!
May 7, 2009 at 11:17 | Unregistered CommenterDK

I've been putting just about everything I do into the new system, even very small things. This is easier with the new system than with AF because there's no problem putting in things that need quick action.
May 7, 2009 at 12:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

very small and concrete things help to overcome procrastination, so that's good if your new system supports that kind of thinking.
May 7, 2009 at 13:25 | Unregistered CommenterVesa
So... Only one question Mark When ?
May 7, 2009 at 17:36 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I have addopted the Autofocus system as a good follow up to GTD. With Autofocus I do not only collect and organise my tasks, I also am really doing them. And because of the way the system is set up I am always doing the most pressing tasks first. Because they wil stick out for me. Great system.

But, reading about a folow up to Autofocus has left me very ancious. If there is going to be a system that is even more effective than AF than please come forward with it!

Untill you do, Mark, thank you for your AF system. Brilliant in its simplicity.
May 7, 2009 at 21:29 | Unregistered CommenterHan

as you said so perceptively in your response to my query in

"The real question is not how many tasks you have carried out, but what the overall result is"

However, much of the comparison above is in terms of number of tasks completed. Partly for health reasons, I am trying to reduce the number of tasks I do! I agree this can be accomplished by including tasks such as "Do nothing" regularly into my AF list, but somehow they never stand out! This for me was an advantage of DIT over AF: it provided more natural limits to activity. It would interest me to see aspects of this being incorporated into your new system, rather than just focusing on "an even higher volume of work than with Autofocus" which does set some alarms bells ringing with me. I am sure that with your experience you are good at limiting what you do, but not all of us are as disciplined.
May 8, 2009 at 12:58 | Unregistered CommenterJaroslav

I report on the number of tasks achieved because that is in the early stages the only measure I have. Also, as I said to Christine above, I am basically putting everything I do into the system so perhaps it looks bigger than it actually is.
May 8, 2009 at 13:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Fair enough, I appreciate that, but have noticed that in the forums this often then becomes a measure of success of a system. I hope that as the new system matures, you will emphasize its other advantages over AF or DIT more.

I am also intrigued by the numbers of tasks that you and others are reporting. I have been using AF since the beta came out, and my total number of tasks since 5th Jan is just over 300. Admittedly I have not been well since most of that time (I went into hospital the day after the beta came out), but that sort of number is reasonably consistent with my numbers in DIT last year when I was keeping careful statistics and processed 360 tasks in 3 months. That was during a very busy period and I was pretty conscientious in writing down both home and work tasks in quite a lot of detail. I am puzzled how everyone else seems to have so many more tasks to enter???
May 8, 2009 at 13:39 | Unregistered CommenterJaroslav

You may simply be working on your tasks in larger chunks of time.

As I've often pointed out on this list, everyone basically processes 24 hours worth of something every 24 hours. That applies whether the something is "Watch TV", "Sleep", "Clear Email" or "Design the successor to Google". If you take the number of tasks someone does during a day and multiply it by the average time they take for each task the answer is always 24 hours.
May 8, 2009 at 16:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
As usual, Mark, your analyses are so very clear and to the point! So how is the new system still working? I am so looking forward to seeing your new system!

Take Best Wishes!

May 8, 2009 at 22:06 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Drake
No week 2 stats Mark?

Are you re-visiting the approach?
May 13, 2009 at 16:22 | Unregistered CommenterEd C

As I said on the Forum I am trying to see if the new system can be combined with AF rather than be a rival to it. That has thrown all my statistics out for the time being.
May 13, 2009 at 16:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hello Mark - I'm still a HUGE fan of AF. would AF 2.0 work better/easier with Palm Pilot/electronic software do you think?
May 13, 2009 at 17:20 | Unregistered CommenterMark From Florida

Since I never use electronic stuff for time management, it's difficult for me to say. I don't think it would be any more difficult.
May 13, 2009 at 19:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hello Mark,

could you little bit elaborate your new system? is it dramatically different from AF?

May 14, 2009 at 18:08 | Unregistered CommenterTomas

in reply to your May 8 post, you may be right that "working on tasks in larger chunks of time is the cause".

Certainly the statement that "If you take the number of tasks someone does during a day and multiply it by the average time they take for each task the answer is always 24 hours" is self evident.

However, I bet (and I believe that there is considerable experimental evidence from psychologists, though that is not my field) that the distribution of times spent on different tasks is very skewed with a few tasks occupying long periods (eg sleep) and many brief tasks (probably a Pareto type distribution, using statistical parlance, or as used by Koch in his 80/20 books). This makes the concept of average time spent on a task a poor one in this case. Most tasks will be much shorter than the average, and only a few longer.

Furthermore, I imagine everyone has a lower limit on tasks that are too brief to be processed or recorded by the system, so I would guess that if people timed all the tasks entered in their AF list processed in 24 hours (and included sleep etc), the total would be quite a lot less than 24, because of the sum of a large number of short unrecorded tasks.

I thus wonder if my cut off is in a different place, and wonder how people sub-consciously set this cut off as I think this choice affects the functioning of the system.
May 14, 2009 at 20:07 | Unregistered CommenterJaroslav
For years I have used lists in spiral notebooks where I crossed off items, made some notes, and moved undone items to a new page. I would put a long diagonal line across a completed/done page. I loved my little system. But, somehow I moved away from this system to a "TO DO" list where items must get completed, etc. I was not able to really stick to these lists. I tried paper, electronic, etc. It was sort of defeating.

Your autofocus system has reminded me of this easy (and forgiving approach). You have synthesized the critical points and added some thoughtful insights which make sense. In less than 2 hours I have become more aware of how small my mountain of to do items really is, and I am sticking with the system easily.

What also helps me is I that I use a kitchen timer to set limits for a task, when I feel this is needed. It does two things: (1) limits how long I spend on something because I tend to loose track of time easily; and (2) the timer allows me to relax about time passing so I can focus more deeply knowing that I won't miss an appointment or forget to make a call or pick my son up from school.

Of interest, my husband understands its usefulness and is implementing the system also. I think our family will be more coordinated as well.

I look forward to tracking this project (on my list of course). Really useful, simple, and well done. Thanks.

May 15, 2009 at 13:04 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Hi Mark

Same as the comment from Tomas, can you elaborate more about the new system? I am also working good with the original AF system, but I have the same difficulties of dealing with urgent and high-resistent tasks, so could you give more guidelines or procedures about the new system (especially the procedures of dealing with urgent & high-resistent tasks), thanks for your help.
May 17, 2009 at 8:51 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

I'm not ready to give further details at this stage.
May 17, 2009 at 16:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Since Mark keeps offering us hints at how good his new system is, can we be blamed for asking him "when will you share it with the world?"
May 18, 2009 at 16:28 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

No one's blaming you for asking.
May 19, 2009 at 14:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Another punter keen to see what AF 2.0 can deliver. I've dabbled with AF for several months, but have struggled to commit fully as my work predominately consists of urgent tasks (clinical psychiatric work) and this has always appeared the chink in AF's armour.

Today was going to be my last glance at AF (several months on) to see if I could glean any gems from fellow AF travellers, and low and behold ... I find myself tempted back with the promise of a revamped version which deals more efficiently with urgent tasks.

I'll pay handsomely and sign a confidentiality clause ... will that do?
May 20, 2009 at 22:37 | Unregistered CommenterNeumatist
We are ready! thanks.
May 26, 2009 at 16:35 | Unregistered CommenterTurtlesAllTheWayDown

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