In my last post, I asked commenters to guess which of my own time management systems I prefer myself. The majority guessed correctly that my favourite is the original Autofocus (AF1) which I introduced in January 2008. I’m not claiming that it is perfect, but for me there is nothing to beat it.
In order for AF1 to work well, there are three important things in the rules which need to be taken seriously. I think a lot of the trouble that people have had with AF1 has been due to neglect of these.
- Tasks which need to be done now, should be done now regardless of where they are in the system (or whether they are in it at all). This applies to both urgent tasks and tasks that need to be done at a specific time of day. However it’s important to realise that the system will cope with most fairly urgent tasks without needing to invoke this rule, just so long as one trusts the system.
- One must not be afraid to dismiss tasks. The rules are quite clear about when tasks should be dismissed and what the consequences of dismissal are. Dismissal and the threat of dismissal are at the heart of the “autofocus” aspect of the system. If you resist dismissing tasks, then the whole system will be thrown out of kilter.
- As a general rule, one should be aiming to cycle through your entire list at least once a day. To do this, you should pay attention to the “little and often” principle. There are two aspects of this. The first is the number of tasks you work on when you visit a page, and the second is the length of time you work on a task before moving on to another. By adjusting these two, you can avoid the twin evils of getting bogged down in the early pages of the list or chasing the end of the list.
I intend to write more about AF1 and the advantages of using it over the next few weeks. Your own experiences as always are welcome in the Comments or on the Discussion Forum.