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Tuesday
Feb012011

SuperFocus v. 3 Notebook

Here is my notebook for SuperFocus v. 3. The photo shows on the left a completed page and on the right the first active page. Note that I’m using a double column format in a standard ruled Moleskine notebook.

Reader Comments (42)

Thanks for sharing, Mark! All best wishes.

-David
February 1, 2011 at 19:25 | Registered CommenterDavid Drake
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+

Well, the notebook apparently has 32 lines per page...quite narrow. No wonder you can have two columns in a page!

I can easily write that small, but unfortunately it's quite rare to find a notebook with such a narrow rule here.

Back in the Philippines I easily can, but not here...

God bless!
February 1, 2011 at 19:26 | Registered Commenternuntym
Thanks for sharing Marks ! I just wonder
Why is there a kind of parenthesis at the beginning of the task wich finaly makes a continuous line ? how does it work ? The cross with a circle i know it it means all tasks are done on this page.
February 1, 2011 at 19:35 | Registered CommenterJupiter
Mark,

by 'standard', do you mean the 'large' (13 x 21 cm, roughly A5) or the 'pocket' (9 x 14 cm) size?
I can't really tell from the picture. Although I would guess (from the number of lines and the second column) that it's the former. One could hardly cram a second column like that into a pocket Moleskine.

Regards,
Alex
February 1, 2011 at 20:30 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
Oh, I just got the idea that one could probably draw a horizontal line somwhere in the middle of the pages of a pocket notebook, and use the upper/lower part as left/right column. That would make smaller pages usable with this system.

(This idea may be old hat, but I didn't really follow all the SAF/SF threads.)
February 1, 2011 at 20:34 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
I think the true secret to productivity is the red sweater, it is in this photo, the AF video and in the picture to the left. That is holy grail of productivity. Looking forward to the new system.

Gerry
February 1, 2011 at 20:39 | Registered CommenterGerry
By gosh, Gerry....I think you are right! It really IS the red sweater!! :))

-David
February 1, 2011 at 21:13 | Registered CommenterDavid Drake
nuntym:

<< Well, the notebook apparently has 32 lines per page...quite narrow. No wonder you can have two columns in a page! >>

Sorry, I don't follow your reasoning. Why does the narrowness of the rule make it easier to have two columns?

The notebook is a Moleskine. Don't you have them wherever "here" is?
February 1, 2011 at 21:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Jupiter:

<< Why is there a kind of parenthesis at the beginning of the task wich finaly makes a continuous line ? how does it work ? >>

This is something which I have recommended all along - ever since one commenter on this blog said she did it. Whenever two or more contiguous tasks are crossed out, you join the horizontal lines with a vertical line. It makes it easy to see where the unactioned tasks are.
February 1, 2011 at 21:29 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Come on Mark, it's time to own up...just *how many* of those red sweaters do you own?
February 1, 2011 at 21:31 | Registered Commenterleon
Alex:

The large size.
February 1, 2011 at 21:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alex:

<< I just got the idea that one could probably draw a horizontal line somwhere in the middle of the pages of a pocket notebook, and use the upper/lower part as left/right column. That would make smaller pages usable with this system. >>

It would also halve the number of tasks you could have in each column, which coupled with the smaller notebook would mean you would have only about 12 tasks in each "column".
February 1, 2011 at 21:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Gerry:

<< I think the true secret to productivity is the red sweater >>

Oh, no! You've stumbled on the truth. All the pictures were taken at the same time. All this "developing of systems" was just a fake. It was all written out in advance.
February 1, 2011 at 21:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

of course, there's always a tradeoff between space and portability. It probably all depends on one's situation. Personally, I would always lean towards the portability side. The relative bulkyness of A5 (or A4) notebooks has always been a major stumbling block for me when it came to paper-based systems (and a clear disadvantage compared to digital implementations, IMHO), which, for my personal use, need to be mobile.

I think I remember some post from people using Moleskine pocket notebooks for some variants of AF.

Would you say a notebook with only 12 lines per 'column' is unusable for SF/3?

I would relly like to try SF3 for my personal/home tasks.

Regards,
Alex
February 1, 2011 at 22:45 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
If you wanted to use a much smaller notebook, why not make each left hand page the first column and the right hand side the second column? You may have some blank right hand pages in your book, but it would work.

The large moleskin are not particularly thick, so would not be that bulky to carry around - really depends on how you carry it (i.e. if it has to fit into a pcoket or particular bag).

I'm planning to use my filofax with some custom designed pages, and this can also contain other work related items.
February 1, 2011 at 23:43 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
I think what nuntym meant about the narrow ruling is that makes you write smaller. And by writing small, you end up being able to fit two columns on the page.
February 1, 2011 at 23:51 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Alison,

thanks, but I don't have a pocket large enough to accomodate a large Moleskine (or other ~A5 notebook). Nor do I usually carry a bag, and I'd rather not start carrying one around. Women have a clear advantage here, since they carry around handbags anyway :-)

Regarding left and right pages: I'd much rather keep the currently 'interesting' tasks on one page (that's one reason why I'm so vocal about DIT's advantages). Many times, you don't see both page of a notebook at the same time comfortably, which would probably defeat some of the principles of SF (as I understand it).

Plus, I have some ideas about using the opposite side for additional notes.

Regards,
Alex
February 2, 2011 at 0:25 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+

<<Sorry, I don't follow your reasoning. Why does the narrowness of the rule make it easier to have two columns?>>

Narrower line rule = smaller penmanship = more letters & words written in a given space = easier to make columns. I dunno, it seems my penmanship automatically fits to whatever rule it finds itself in.

<<The notebook is a Moleskine. Don't you have them wherever "here" is? >>

Too expensive. And I have tried Moleskine imitations but they fall apart. Aside from those, It's hard to find other narrow-ruled notebooks.

Yeah, yeah, I am a hypocrite for buying a $10 disc-bound notebook + accessories...but at least the filler paper is cheaper ^___^ I now use the "left page=Column 1, right page=Column 2" technique.

God bless!
February 2, 2011 at 4:14 | Registered Commenternuntym
@Mark Thanks I completely forgot this tip and I know you spoke about it somewhere. Yes the tip make easiest the reading of the unfinished tasks.
February 2, 2011 at 7:10 | Registered CommenterJupiter
Sorry Alex I had probably assumed that you were looking to use a smaller version of the moleskin that fitted in your pocket - in my experience many men prefer to do this which is understandable.

It's really interesting how fired up people get about their notebooks - I guess it is because they hold something precious to them, and some people feel it manifasts their taste somehow. However I am the first to admit that writting in a notebook for which you have a connection is a very pleasurable experience.

I spent many years going for the cheapest option. Then I bought a pack of 5 A4 snopake notepads to take notes at work, with a hard cover, and I realised what I had been missing. Sure they were expensive, but they have lasted me ages, they take fountain pen very well when I am in the mood to use it, and they have a very helpful rulling - large enough for my writing with little tabs top and bottom to help you draw nice straight lines.

The point for me is that having a nice tool to do your 'work' makes you feel good, possibly leading to better performance. I am certainly more likely to use a book that I really love than one which I bought because it was 'cheaper'. (Not that I am assuming you all buy cheap notebooks! This is my observation only). Another style of book that is lovely to use are Paperblanks - you can sometimes pick these up in sales and on ebay.

I'm sad to say I am a victim of stationery rather than a user as I love it in all its forms!
February 2, 2011 at 8:48 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
Sorry to be a little off topic here but Mark you have been prolific of late! As another poster noted, there is a new energy here, and its rubbing off on a lot of others too. No doubt the new system is behind all of this renewed vitality, and I appreciate the fact that you have put so much of your past work into context ahead of the release of your latest variation.

I get a sense that things are rising to a crescendo, but personally I wouldn't mind it if it gets a little quiet after that. There is so much of the older gems to pick out from the site to keep me interested for a long time.
February 2, 2011 at 13:30 | Registered CommenterJD
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+

<<Oh, no! You've stumbled on the truth. All the pictures were taken at the same time. All this "developing of systems" was just a fake. It was all written out in advance. >>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHjFxJVeCQs
February 2, 2011 at 17:59 | Registered Commenternuntym
Alex:

<< Would you say a notebook with only 12 lines per 'column' is unusable for SF/3? >>

The problem is with column 2, the length of which relates to the list as a whole not just to the page on which it's on.

But the solution is to use facing pages as Alison says.
February 2, 2011 at 22:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Many thanks.

For me, the most striking aspect of the photo (apart from the red jumper) is the numer of items on Mark's list that seem to be expressed in 1 or 2 words. There must be a skill in that. Looking back through my book, it looks like mine average at about 4 words per item, most needing much more than half the width of the page. So using facing pages for columns 1 and 2 will likely continue to be necessary for me. I have also been using alternate lines, because I don't like clutter - but in the notebook I am using that only gives me 12 items per page, which I am not starting to realise probably doesn't work so well (am I right?), so I think I'd better revise that practice!
February 4, 2011 at 8:22 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Schapel
Steve Schapel:

<< the most striking aspect of the photo ... is the number of items on Mark's list that seem to be expressed in 1 or 2 words. There must be a skill in that. >>

Looking at the page I am currently working on, out of 27 items, 12 have one word, 10 have two words and the remaining 5 have three words.

There's nothing particularly difficult about keeping them short. It's just a question of whether you write:

"Check outstanding emails in In-box" or "Email"

"Phone Bill about Project X" or "Bill: Project X"

"Check whether Richard has replied to my email" or "Bill replied?"

"Watch next episode of Silent Witness" or "Silent Witness"
February 4, 2011 at 11:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I think the long entries come from the advice that every action item should be an action. It should start with a verb.

That's good advice. It turns a list of stalled projects into list of actions that will get done. David Allen explains this well.

However, if it's always the same verb, I don't need to write it down. Most of the time, "email " means deal with urgent items, then work on the backlog. No need to write that out each time.

If I want to do something else about email, I write that down. Maybe I want to get serious about the backlog. Maybe I need to concentrate on emails from Joe. In that case, I'll write the extra details. If the backlog is extremely long and I know I'll keep putting off difficult ones, I might write "email Jan 2010".

If I write a project name with no verb, the verb is either "plan" or "continue to work on". Often, writing the key steps of the plan as separate lines helps break it into doable chunks, but it's not always necessary.

It's an individual choice and changes with the day. The only downside is there's more writing -- a small price to pay if it helps you get everything done.
February 4, 2011 at 14:39 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< I think the long entries come from the advice that every action item should be an action. It should start with a verb. >>

I don't actually agree with that advice. David Allen is talking in the context of stalled projects - in other words it's an emergency measure for a failing situation. It's not advice which applies to the ordinary everyday business of getting on with one's work.
February 4, 2011 at 14:46 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wish we could get a sneak preview of the new rules to implement them this weekend. Your success so far with SuperFocus V3 is extremely motivating! Besides that I'm sure that many of us would be glad to join a beta test for the new system.
May we hope that you consider that?

Best regards

Bjoern
February 4, 2011 at 15:27 | Unregistered CommenterBjoern
The pending arrival of V3 is making further discussion of known systems moot. We just have to get on with doing our thing until then.
February 4, 2011 at 17:15 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Hi Mark

Today you're a total distraction, got your email newsletter and just spent over an hour researching the perfect notebook!

There are so many; the Guildhall pocket notebook comes out well, as does the Habana but I have to admit that the book I've been using (very unsuccessfully) for AF has been an Oxford (brand) 'Meetingbook' A4 detachable 80 sheet notebook. This also comes in A5 size.

What I like most is that being wire bound the pages lay totally flat & Being left handed this seems to help me.

But back to AF, I've failed. I had been putting dates on my pages (would you recommend this?) and found that after adding lots of notes in Outlook I then got so overwhelmed by how many notes I'd made over a short time that I'd then move them over to AF - and then forget about them. This would repeat every once in a while and before I knew it I stopped looking at AF because it was so depressing to see on what a gigantic scale I had failed!

Eeeek! last entry 31.5.10.

Oh and I started using three colours of pen: red = sales (i.e. most important) black = general office stuff and finally blue = home, i.e. low priority when compared to work etc. Needless to say there's more untouched red (sales tasks) than anything else.

My problem is that I do so much on the PC writing anything down (neatly) just doesn't fit in with what I do.

I the bug myself over not letting the system help me. Then remind myself what your seminars cost....good value but wasted if I don't follow your lead.

Oh and then there's the time timer.....bought two, batteries went flat. I've probably got a note in AF to buy new batteries!!

Ok, so tonight I'm going to take another look at AF maybe some housekeeping before you release your new version....this will involve adding to a very old list. Maybe I should detach my detachable pages, rewrite and start again?

Any advice?
February 4, 2011 at 18:40 | Unregistered CommenterAlanJ
Start a new list. The old list is a backlog. One of your new list's items could be "check if that old list has anything useful". Occasionally do that item, and kill stuff off that backlog.

If you're always with PC, it works well to use the PC to track the list. Outlook has been used successfully by some. Or use a notebook. Your choice. But keep it simple.

And if you sign up for an account here, we can discuss details in a forum thread.
February 4, 2011 at 19:50 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
My notebook is a legal pad, and I use the entire page. The difference between our lists is striking. It's obvious I need to write much shorter actions if I decide to try super focus.

From the comments, it looks like I'm not the only one using the entire page. Thanks so much for posting this picture.

I'll have to experiment with shorter entries and see how they work.
February 4, 2011 at 20:17 | Registered CommenterCory
Cory:

Shorter task descriptions have several advantages, among which are:

They take less time to write
They take less time to read
You can use two columns a page

However it's not the end of the world if you find it difficult to fit two columns onto a page. The solution is to use facing pages. "Column 1" becomes the left hand page, and "column 2" the right hand page.
February 5, 2011 at 1:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks for your comments, Mark, concerning shorter task descriptions. I agree with the advantages you mentioned. The major disadvantage is the amount of time I would spend with my head in my hands staring glumly at an entry of "Bill: Project X" with questions churning through my mind, such as "Did I tell Bill I would phone or email? Or was it that I was to send him some stuff?" and "What was the date again when he was to be back from his holiday?" Maybe it's a memory thing?
February 5, 2011 at 2:20 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Schapel
Alan Baljeu wrote:
> The pending arrival of V3 is making further discussion of known systems moot.

I hope that this is intended to be a joke and thinking like that never becomes a general consensus on this site.

What works well for one person, may be completely unsuitable for someone else's work and life. So I can see a place for AF1, 2, 3, 4 or 4R or DIT or whatever system, including personal adaptions. Narrowing discussion to Mark's 'system du jour' would be short-sighted. I doubt that there is such a thing as a 'perfect' (for everybody) time management system.

Different strokes for different folks.
February 5, 2011 at 16:26 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
BTW, why is this version of SuperFocus refered to as "v. 3" instead of just "SuperFocus 3" or "SF3" like with AF1-AF4?
February 5, 2011 at 16:29 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
Re joke: kinda. Lately the answer to "this is a problem with X" is now "wait Til you see Y".

Since SFv3 seems to solve all problems, there's no reason to fix X to sort of solve problems.

Seriously though, i'm currently getting along okay with what I have. I'm inclined to stick with it and know intimately it good and bad sides. Then when this new thing comes and we see how good the new recipe tastes, I'll have a sound basis to compare. That means I put the brakes on adjustments and consolidate.
February 5, 2011 at 17:19 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alex:

<< why is this version of SuperFocus refered to as "v. 3" instead of just "SuperFocus 3" or "SF3" like with AF1-AF4? >>

Because I don't see it as a being a separate system from SuperFocus, in the way that AF2 is different from AF1 for example, but simply the latest amendment to the instructions for SuperFocus.
February 6, 2011 at 11:59 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I am following this with interest! Do you think that it would be possible to combine your 2 column system with an A4 page a day diary in an attempt to get everything in one place?
February 6, 2011 at 14:57 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
John:

I'm sure it would be possible. But you do have to remember that the pages in SuperFocus are not related to any one particular day.
February 6, 2011 at 15:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<I'm sure it would be possible. But you do have to remember that the pages in SuperFocus are not related to any one particular day.>>

Yes, I do understand that, but I like the idea of being able to enter tasks in certain days in advance, more like DIT, which I really liked, and I don't seem to generate the horrific number of tasks that other posters - and you! - seem to do. I guess the answer is to stress test SF once you release the instructions rather than trying to alter it before I have even tried it!
February 6, 2011 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+

Oh, I just remembered, I bought a few days ago grid-ruled filler paper for my notebook that has a narrower gauge than what I used. Now I can write two columns in one page. And it's relatively cheap, $1.99 per 50 leaves ^___^

God bless!
February 7, 2011 at 17:46 | Registered Commenternuntym

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