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« Review of the Systems: Autofocus 1 | Main | Review of the Systems »
Monday
Jan242011

Review of the Systems: Do It Tomorrow

The full description of this system can be found in my book Do It Tomorrow.

Brief Summary

The book’s basic premise is that we get behind on our work because we don’t pay attention to the basic formula “One day’s outgoing work much on average equal one day’s incoming work”. The idea is that one day’s worth of incoming work is collected for action the following day in a dated “Task Diary”. A line is drawn at the bottom of the day’s list so that each day there is a finite amount of work to do. Tasks which arise during the day and have to be done that day may be added to the list “below the line” but the default is to add tasks to the next day’s list. If one falls more than a few day’s behind, then it is important to audit the outstanding work in order to cut it back so that one can keep up. There is also the concept of the “Current Initiative”, by which one project is focused on first thing every day. This is particularly suitable for backlogs, work on improving systems, and getting major projects up and running.

Advantages

By providing a finite amount of work to be done each day, the system enables you to know when your work for the day is finished. It makes it easy to diagnose what the matter is if you fall behind. It also introduces several important concepts which are made further use of in the subsequent Autofocus systems, such as little and often, recurring tasks, and so on.

Disadvantages

The two main disadvantages are that people are often reluctant to carry out a proper diagnosis when they fall behind. This considerably reduces the effectiveness of the system if it is constantly running behind. There is also a considerable effort needed to push through to completing a day’s work, which can lead to resistance building against the system.

Conclusion

This is still a favourite system of many people. It works well for those who are prepared to work at it in a disciplined manner. However many find it too exacting.

Reader Comments (4)

Thanks, Mark, for starting this series of reviews.

(Nitpicking:)
"One day’s outgoing work much on average.."
-> "... must on average..." ?

My personal opinion is that the weaknesses of DIT (as clearly identified above) should have been met by relaxing the "need to push through" (and less up-front filtering), and installing an easier, more automated way to deal with backlogs/too much work. Shifting the backlog to the future (as per DWM) and/or introducing a dismissal process as per Autofocus (AF) could have done that. Unfortunately (IMHO), AF developed into a completely different, less structured, more intuition-based direction, which makes it difficult for people who need more structure for their work. Otherwise, a revised version of DIT probably would have been perfect.

Just my two cents.

Regards,
Alex
January 25, 2011 at 0:54 | Unregistered CommenterAlex W.
Alex:

<< the weaknesses of DIT (as clearly identified above) should have been met by relaxing the "need to push through" (and less up-front filtering), and installing an easier, more automated way to deal with backlogs/too much work. >>

The same thoughts occurred to me and I spent a lot of time trying to amend DIT in order to achieve these, but couldn't come up with a workable solution.
January 25, 2011 at 10:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<There is also a considerable effort needed to push through to completing a day’s work, which can lead to resistance building against the system>>

I really like the DTM system but, since tasks can be done in any order, I noticed that I had a tendency to procrastinate, looking through the list and "not fancying" any of the tasks. So I added an additional rule that has been working really well and seems to overcome this resistance. I now work through the list in order and don't allow myself to skip any or deviate in any way. This seems to side-step the lizard brain that Mark describes in the DIT book. I do think about order when I'm preparing tomorrow's list, and I will sometimes put numbers against tasks to represent the four main work slots that I have during the day. But then I still have to work through slot 1 tasks in their list order, and similarly for slot 2 etc.
January 25, 2011 at 21:06 | Unregistered CommenterClaire
I keep my active tasks (as opposed to someday/maybe) in a DIT book, but seem to be behind most of the time.

I agree, forcing myself to do the list in order seems to work best, especially if there's a backlog of tasks. If I do them in order, I have faith I'll get to the later ones that are tugging on me, without worrying about skipping the less-attractive ones. That's assuming there are no urgent tasks and I'm capable of doing the first on the list at that time.
January 26, 2011 at 12:43 | Registered CommenterCricket

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