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Impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time-wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home. Christopher Sommer
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« "Do It Tomorrow" revision on its way | Main | Some Reflections on Yesterday's AF4 Demo »

AF4 News

A couple of news items:

The first translation of AF4 is into Chinese (traditional). Many thanks to Catus Lee.

There is a brilliant file by Andreas Hofmann which gives an animated version of my demonstration of AF4. This is an absolute must for quick understanding of the system. Many thanks, Andreas, this was a huge undertaking.

Reader Comments (29)

Hey there,

I must say that the animated version of your demonstration of AF4 is indeed brilliant. With the mousewheel it is extremely easy to follow your day as you work through the tasks and it very clearly demonstrates how AutoFocus works. I had my reservations before when you were still at AF2 or something, but now I'm determined to give AF4 a try.

Thank you Mark, and thank you Andreas for this wonderful demonstration of what really is a simple system, but actually was quite hard to imagine before this animated demonstration.

Tijl from the Netherlands
September 7, 2009 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterTijl Kindt
I totally second Tijl's comments. Thanks to Andreas for an excellent Demo, and to Mark for all his efforts!!
September 7, 2009 at 13:56 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Davis-Wilkie
This was amazingly useful. Thanks for going through the demo day, and thanks to Andreas for putting it all together so clearly. I have to admit that I've been avoiding AF because it seemed too complicated for what I needed, but the demo and this presentation made me look at it in a different light.
September 7, 2009 at 17:13 | Unregistered CommenterKalieris
Nice Document Andreas. It has to be said that the format you used in your document might actually work very nicely as a UI for a computer based implementation...

September 7, 2009 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterDave
Andreas, that demo is amazing. Thank you so much. And, Mark, hats off to you for continually improving AF, which I've thought was wonderful from Day One. (I was an eager beta tester of the original AF.) I can't wait to give AF4 a try (when I return from a long trip) and Andreas's demo is already very helpful.
September 8, 2009 at 9:39 | Unregistered CommenterJanine Adams
Brava to Andreas! Bravo Mark!

I was unable to attend the live day, but the slide show saved me a ton of time and put the principles visually in my brain in a way that words alone cannot do.

Thank you both. And Mark, I still remember when you did AF1 ages ago, thinking that it was "perfect." I appreciate you allowing yourself to grow past and will agree that AF1 was perfect in that it got AF boat moving! Thanks
September 8, 2009 at 13:32 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Yes, thanks much Andreas and Mark!
September 8, 2009 at 19:21 | Unregistered CommenterJason
Thanks Andreas! Very impressive demo.....thanks also to Mark for doing a 'day in the life of' - it is very useful indeed to get an idea of how it works!

Mark - I was wondering you were considering whether or not to charge for AF - are you still considering this? perhaps you could put together an e-book with your 'demo' plus the instructions plus some entertaining news about your AF journey - you could even flesh it out with describing all versions of AF too. Perhaps ask some people to give their experiences and put it in the book as well? I am sure that many people would pay say £10 or £20 or whatever for it.......perhaps even a more expensive version with chapters detailing suggested modifications by people on this forum (as long as they don't mind of course!)
September 8, 2009 at 19:43 | Unregistered CommenterNick
Great demo and excellent process. Tried out your process with a steno notebook for 1 day.
2 issues -
1) what if a task has a due date - do you process it differently?
2) I think incorporating a column for CONTEXT will help. More easily identify all of the phone calls on your list if you can easily run down the list and identify CALLs
September 9, 2009 at 2:43 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Horn
Hi Mark,

Firstly I am getting on very well with AF4 and I would definitely say it's the best version, at least for my circumstances - and I can relate this method to your post on 'Keeping one's markers aligned'. I may actually settle on *this* system without switching again or tweaking!

I liked the little quizzes you included in your book Do It Tomorrow. On reviewing Andreas' animated version of the AF4 Demo I realised that at times I have not followed the AF4 rules properly as I have misinterpreted them. This in turn has made AF4 not as effective as it might be. If you are doing an ebook or something similar I would like to see the inclusion of a similar sort of 'quiz' with the correct answers, I think this would be really helpful in understanding the system better.

Just a thought.
September 9, 2009 at 10:28 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
If something has a due date, you can write the date to the side (but remember to work on it early and often.) If its due date is a week or more in the future, you could put the item in some other calendar program (like Outlook or Google Calendar), and have it remind you to add it to AF (preferably sometime before it is due.)

The question of contexts does come up periodically. If there are moments when you absolutely must make a series of phone calls and you have little discretionary choice in the matter, than you could write "calls" to the side. But if you do have discretion on what you do during the day, I would just leave the "calls" label off. If you go too far down the context road, you will find yourself doing something other than AF. One of the major strengths of AF is that it allows yourself to work through your list item by item and work those tasks that stand out, no matter what they are. I have call tasks interspersed throughout my list. I don't have to make many, maybe one or two every hour or so, but I make them when they stand out.
September 9, 2009 at 13:57 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Leon - I agree - I too found the quizzes in Do It Tomorrow very helpful indeed in helping to see the ideas in action, I would welcome the same for AF4......
September 10, 2009 at 12:48 | Unregistered CommenterNick
Very helpful demonstration, Andreas.
Mark, I don't know how you manage to do so many tasks in one day - I only complete a fraction of the number! Even on good days I get sidetracked or am just not motivated to stick at it.
September 13, 2009 at 22:49 | Unregistered CommenterGiulia B
I don't mean to be a thickee, but I only see a 600+ page PDF file. I've tried using Adobe Reader on Mac and PC and I don't see any animation (my expectation was that it would play automatically). Is it just fast scrolling through the file?
September 19, 2009 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Mike Brown:

It's not an automatic animation. You can put Adobe Reader in fullscreen mode by pressing Strg+L on Windows (I guess it's Command+L in Mac OS), then use the mouse wheel or arrow keys to proceed forward or backwards through the process. Alternative to fullscreen mode just set Adobe Reader to display only one page at a time.
September 20, 2009 at 16:17 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas Hofmann
Amazing! AF4 is easily the easiest to remember/use so far, without sacrificing the core usefulness of the system. I tried really hard to like AFr2, but ended up leaving the to-do list on a shelf never to return after a few weeks of effort.

So far, the last two weeks on AF4 have been effortless, and my wife is noticing that I'm really getting a lot more done. The only real daunting/intimidating factor is, in all that time, I've only closed an open list ONCE... Hate to be so competitive with it, but I feel like the only real issue I have with paper-based AF4 is that I STILL wind up with a LOT of active pages... Though I feel like AF4 can run almost un-modified with most electronic systems, yeah?

Would love to see a new section (run by Andreas? ;) ) called "existing major online/desktop to-do software compatibility with AF4", or something... It would be nice for us (and maybe a developer or two) to know what's missing from Google Tasks, Things, ToodleDo, etc etc.

Anyway, congrats and thanks a lot for the new system!
September 20, 2009 at 19:52 | Unregistered CommenterPanda
The animated version of AF4 is really awesome and work fine. These type of animation are not working automatically if you want to play than you have to install adobe reader and use mouse wheel to play this animation.
September 25, 2009 at 9:00 | Unregistered Commenterdvd r
I know this is awful, but it should be pointed out... on page 571 / 635 of the demo, the note says:
"At the end of the *open* list, Mark returns to the beginning, since he actioned two tasks during this pass."
It should read
"At the end of the *closed* list, Mark returns to the beginning, since he actioned two tasks during this pass."

I don't know what a pain it would be to correct. But the other 634 pages were terrific!

The demo really makes a difference. That was probably a lot of work to put together, but it is genius in the final product!

Also a note about the "calls" concept. This system seems to really put pressure on me to do my active list - I only get one shot at it before I have to go on the merry-go-round of the closed list. I guess it depends on your personality, but this is a great motivator for me! You don't have to put a date by those calls you need to make, you'll make them because who knows when you'll get back to them on the list when following the system :)

Mark, the thing I love about you is that you're a tinkerer. You tinker so I don't have to. I just have to remain consistent (consistency is no mean task!) and I can evaluate your options and take and leave what works for me. I would just like to shake your hand from 1/3 of the world away.
September 30, 2009 at 13:13 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Hi Mark,

Love your system somuch. But one issue is I often have tasks which are similar to the GTD "Someday/Maybe" tasks. They often get highlighted for review or get re-entered many times back to the list without being done. What would be your advice on that?

"If its due date is a week or more in the future, you could put the item in some other calendar program (like Outlook or Google Calendar)" - How about when there is no due date or the due date is not yet determined (This happens often at my workplace)?
October 6, 2009 at 6:38 | Unregistered CommenterClaudio
I've been following Mark's system since right before AF3 and after watching the demo, I'm looking forward to implementing AF4. I'm expecting great things!

Also, Andreas, the demo was VERY helpful! Thanks.
October 6, 2009 at 19:24 | Unregistered CommenterSteve in Mexico
Claudio - I have the same problem with items with no due date - I still put them into Outlook with a reminder perhaps every month to review them - the review when it comes up becomes an A4 item - Following the review I put them into A4, extend the timescale for a further month, or decide to delete if they are never going to happen!
October 13, 2009 at 7:22 | Unregistered CommenterJohn (Stourbridge)

Old in the GTD world and new to the AF world.
I will give a try to this paper system after leaving my Iphone for todos.

The Demo was very useful.

Thanks to Andreas for a perfect Demo, and to Mark for all his efforts!!

Metatraderea alias Meta. from Sweden.
October 14, 2009 at 22:02 | Unregistered Commentermetatraderea
Brilliant illustration, Andreas. Lots of work to interpret Mark's original working day, and then display it step by step, like time-lapse photography with notations!

Thanks so much for a brilliant tool.

I can't wait to try it out.
October 22, 2009 at 22:58 | Unregistered CommenterWelsh By Choice
AF4 is really indeed brilliant now. I can say after visiting demo that it will be easy understandable, work fine and amazingly useful. Thank you so much for sharing such an excellent process.
October 28, 2009 at 3:31 | Unregistered Commenterjeux wii
Dear Mark,

I've been a huge fan/evangelist of your DIT/GED books for years and have recently discovered AF4 which seems to be brilliant in its effectiveness through building your methods into a simple system.

Andreas thanks for the fantastic animation.

I have a favour to ask - I appreciate you are really busy but I would find it really useful, and I believe so would many others, to have your perspective (and detailed instructions) on how best to use Outlook to implement AF4.

Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

November 7, 2009 at 12:02 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

My method is not perfect, but works for me.

I use the outlook task list, sorted by last modified time. Here's a picture:

You need to remember the time and date of the current task, as if you mark it in any way, the modified date changes and it drops to the bottom of the list.

I used to religiously copy and delete tasks whenever I worked on them. Now I just modify them and they drop to the bottom of the list.

I do not expect Mark to bless any particular implementation. He has always been clear that a simple pad of paper works for him, but his principles can be applied any number of ways.

Mark, I would be delighted to be wrong about this. If there is a One True Way of using Outlook, please do reveal it!!
November 15, 2009 at 21:30 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Hey Marc, where are you, whats up? As far as I can see you have not been around your site or blog for more than 2 months! I hope all is well. Or could it be somehow your system has a bug that has allowed you foget to stay in touch with your fans!

PS: I dont twitter, incase that is where you are...
November 20, 2009 at 7:13 | Unregistered CommenterReInventingMyselfAt52
I add my thanks to Andreas for putting this together. A great idewa of Mark's to do the live demo, but Andreas's recording of it really helps understand the AF system.
January 1, 2010 at 22:33 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Schapel
Hi Mark,

Quick question, do you read through your list at the start of the day? I like to review all the tasks I have, as in AF2 where you read the list before actioning any items?
January 22, 2010 at 12:59 | Unregistered CommenterTom

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