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« My favourite time management system | Main | Now back on-line »

Which of my own systems do I like the best?

As those who follow my blog and forum know, I’ve been trying over the last few months without much success to develop a new time management system which will be better than any of my existing ones.

A major problem for me is that I have to use my own life for the initial testing of new ideas. If these ideas don’t work (which in this case they haven’t) then my life is reduced to chaos. Once I’ve abandoned whatever idea it was I was working on, I then have to use one of my existing systems to get my life under control again. In the course of doing this, I’ve revisited just about all my systems (and few other people’s as well).

I’ve found consistently that one system works better than any of the others, that I always feel “at home” when I come back to it, and that I can keep going with it indefinitely. It has its faults, but these can be overcome with a bit of common sense.

Anyone like to guess which it might be? All will be revealed soon.

Reader Comments (15)

I'd guess AF1. Among its many other benefits, it's the easiest to "start" and "stop" in your situation. :-)
October 23, 2010 at 16:34 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
As written, AF1 is the only one that effectively tackles a huge backlog, though that same backlog will cause trouble in AF1 if you have significant amounts of urgent work.

A single closed list a la AF4 is not very effective when it's huge. There are ways to adapt AF4 to handle a huge backlog better, but no simple approach has emerged yet.

In crisis mode, I might be inclined to DIT with an AF list to round out each day.
October 23, 2010 at 18:39 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Baljeu
My guess is AF1, too. You can easily combine it with the calendar and the project management system of your choice.
October 23, 2010 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterRainer

AF1 of course. You did say it was your favorite among all of them.

Besides, when you said its faults can be overcome with "a bit of common sense" that really clinched it. It's in the instructions, you know. LOL

God bless.
October 23, 2010 at 21:00 | Registered Commenternuntym
Definitely one of the Autofocus systems.

Personally, I've been using AF2 with great results. I find that it automatically stays in sync with my workflow and changing energy levels while not causing any additional stress. The daily review feature allows me to stay current without being tied to a calendar.

I anxiously await to learn the identity of your favorite system!

October 23, 2010 at 22:17 | Unregistered CommenterOwen444
I'm going to say Do It Tomorrow because it's my favorite!
October 23, 2010 at 22:24 | Unregistered CommenterJim Dandy

<<A single closed list a la AF4 is not very effective when it's huge. There are ways to adapt AF4 to handle a huge backlog better, but no simple approach has emerged yet.>>

Too true, Alan. I've never seen a TM system so effective in managing huge backlogs like AF1. AF1's only weakness though is the handling of urgent items, as you said, but, as Mark said, a little bit of common sense may suffice for that.

Hmm, maybe put a "Go to urgent tasks" item for each page of AF1? LOL

God bless.
October 24, 2010 at 7:16 | Registered Commenternuntym
AF1 definitely! I've been back on it for the last 6 months and I find it works more consistently than any of the others. I shall be very surprised if Mark does not agree.
October 24, 2010 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterJim (Melbourne)
I would like to guess DWM, cause it's my favourite and so digital friendly.
But I suspect as others do, AF1 is MF's favourite.
October 25, 2010 at 0:07 | Unregistered Commentersabre23t
The biggest problem with all th time management systems is that they expect you to actually do some work. At times it is tempting to simulate work by "managing" the system instead of actually doing something :)

I tried GTD extensively in OneNote, set of searches, tags, integration to email and browser, etc (not your system, but still), AF4 on paper (with slight tendency to look at pages AF1 style instead of at the whole backlog) and DWM on paper. So far GTD seems to work best if I am in a mood of living in the office and sacrificing everything for projects, AF4 works best when I am more relaxed and just want a bit of "some organization to the mess of things I want/need to do".

DWM was the biggest disappointment compared to my expectations. Somehow putting tasks to many different calendar pages prevents me from seeing the whole picture and encourages focusing on just a piece of whole without much understaning on why exactly I want to focus exactly on this.

Ideal, maybe impossible system for me would allow for both detailed project view when I want it and for just easily maintainable actions when I don't care about the details too much. If I had a secretary, I would have probably tried GTD with "next actions" to appear in my notebook AF4 style + periodic reminders that this or that project was abandoned and it would be good to check if it is still relevant or not.
October 25, 2010 at 0:57 | Unregistered CommenterArtem
AF1 did not work perfectly for me initially. While I got a lot done, the lists grew uncontrollably because I wasn't willing to dismiss things, so I wound up disobeying the AF1 rules. DWM worked because it imposes the dismissal automatically. After running it for a some months, I saw that of every three things I wrote on my list, two got dismissed unactioned.

Now that I have had my sights recalibrated in this way, AF1 works very well for me, because I now understand and accept the need to dismiss tasks at a spirited rate.
October 25, 2010 at 18:31 | Unregistered CommenterDavid C
Artem, I think your ideal is quite achievable in AutoFocus, with linked project pages, both in OneNote and on paper. There's a lot to cover but if you're interested maybe we can start a thread.
November 1, 2010 at 12:42 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Ages ago I followed a project called TreeSheets, which might be worth looking into for this. It was very close to ready last year.

It's like a spreadsheet, but you can put another table inside each cell and zoom in, like a map. You can see a list of all your high-level projects, or you can drill down into them.

Also, MS Word has sophisticated outlining. You can show a series of levels, or drill down on one item. You can drag things around and even have it re-order a group of headings or paragraphs automatically. Well worth looking into.
November 1, 2010 at 15:44 | Registered CommenterCricket
I used to be Into outlining and hierarchies but I changed my mind.

I now think that complex trees really are a hindrance rather than a help to getting organized. You end up spending all your time figuring how to organize and then you forget where things are and how to get there.

I think rather a simple list of projects is all you need. Within a project you have a simple list of tasks. Occasionally you may group or link items but nothing complex.

Yes this could all be managed in Word with the outliner, or Excel with worksheets, or OneNote, or a plain paper notebook. Or I suppose TreeSheets going one level deep could do IF its interface is slick, but it is overkill.

The other part of the equation is managing everything via AF. I find I'm getting pretty good at that now.
November 1, 2010 at 22:47 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu

I had a look at TreeSheets which seems very interesting, though I couldn't get everything to work the way I assume it is supposed to. Although I can think of some things I might use it for I don't think organising myself is one of them!
November 1, 2010 at 23:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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