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Friday
Feb182011

End of Testing SuperFocus v. 3

Today is the 28th day I have been using v. 3 of SuperFocus. It’s also the day on which I originally intended to release the rules, because today I finished reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace!

When I started the testing I set myself some benchmarks to achieve as quickly as possible. These were:

1. To read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” in its entirety (in English).
2. To blog my promised review of all the AF etc systems.
3. During the time it takes to do 1. and 2., to go for a walk of at least three miles for an average of at least three times a week.
4. To have no backlogs of any description at the end of this time.

At the time I thought these were quite difficult tests. But in the event they proved so easy that I began to wish that I’d set myself something more difficult.

I’d like to say a bit about each of them:

1. I read War and Peace when I was a teenager. It took me well over a year, and I skipped the Epilogue at the end in which Tolstoy explains his theories of history. This time I resolved to read every word without either skipping or skimming. In the English version it is 560,000 words long, so I managed it at an average of 20,000 words a day. By feeding it as a single task into Column 2 of SuperFocus I ensured that I kept constantly at it.

2. I did exactly the same with blogging the review of systems, i.e. treating it as one large task and feeding it into Column 2. I’d originally imagined that reading War and Peace and writing the reviews would take about the same amount of time. But that proved wildly wrong. Having started the tests on January 22nd, I published the last review of the series on January 29th.

3. I kept up the weekly average of three walks of at least 3-miles each for the first three weeks. By the end of that time I was doing walks of more like 9 miles. Then I was struck down by flu and had to abandon them. But I’ve no reason to suppose that I wouldn’t have kept them going otherwise.

4. There is of course no point in doing specific tasks like these if everything else is allowed to lapse, so it was important to show that nothing else was building up. At the beginning of testing I had a small email backlog, a largish paper backlog, and a big need to sort out my office. Using Column 2, by Day 5 I was clear of all of them and they never reappeared. The only other thing I got behind on was as a result of the flu: I ran up a backlog of subscriptions to the Discussion Forum. This I cleared in less than a day, once I was feeling up to tackling it.

Conclusions:

This is one heck of a powerful system - and I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like everything it’s capable of!

Reader Comments (29)

"This is one heck of a powerful system - and I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like everything it’s capable of!" I totally agree. SF is just incredible. It works perfectly with my way of working. I never forget any urgencies, I do what i have to do and dismiss what must be. The system is also addictive and easy. It's indeed a success. Congratulation Mark !.
February 18, 2011 at 18:17 | Registered CommenterJupiter
Yes -- thank you so much for SF. I started with a MASSIVE backlog, and so far I have been dealing with the new things that come up, before they become too urgent, for the most part, while still chipping away at the backlog. It's been great.
February 18, 2011 at 18:22 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Thank you for this - I've been using the system for two days and find it a great approach. I dabbled in AF for a while, a few years ago, but it never really clicked. I have a question about how to make it fit best in my life, though.

I'm a graduate student, with reading assignments due on specific days, and I'm worried that "Read Pages 89-146" will get stuck on my third active page, I spend all my time on pages one and two, and my reading does not make its way into Column 2. Suddenly, it's due in two hours and I haven't read it. When I enter the reading, it's not urgent. so it goes in Column 1. The way I'm handling it now is to put these assignments on a calendar, as well as having my SF notebook. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks so much - watching a system like this evolve is really quite fascinating, and I sense it'll be very good for my long-term projects (like term papers) and tasks without set due dates. I just would love to make it into my full system!

Cheers,
Greg
February 18, 2011 at 18:43 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Engle
True true, I've switched to it from a Closed List implementation and never regreted since! From 5 pages of tasks I'm not at 2 pages and my mind is clearer than ever!
February 18, 2011 at 18:55 | Unregistered Commentervaidab
<<...But that proved wildly wrong.>>

What can you tell us about that Mark? Anything about SF v.3? Or about estimating?
February 18, 2011 at 19:41 | Unregistered CommenterZane
I agree! Congratulations, Mark! SF3 is truly the mother lode of time management. This system is truly remarkable.

-David
February 18, 2011 at 19:49 | Registered CommenterDavid Drake
Greg Engle:

<< I'm worried that "Read Pages 89-146" will get stuck on my third active page >>

In that case I'd put it straight into Column 2 as an urgent task. "Urgent" means what you want it to mean!
February 18, 2011 at 19:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Zane:

<< <<...But that proved wildly wrong.>>

<< What can you tell us about that Mark? Anything about SF v.3? Or about estimating? >>

What I thought was that a task which required thought and effort like writing a series of 12 reviews would take much the same amount of time as a passive task like reading a book. I didn't actually sit down and work out a formal estimate, and if I had I would have realised that the reading was likely to be a longer job than the writing, but probably not by how much.

I'd certainly underestimated the speed at which SF would enable me to crack through these reviews. Notice though that it would have taken me much longer if I had treated each review as a separate task
February 18, 2011 at 20:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

Superfocus rocks!

Seriously, I had been stressing for months over getting all our family photos & videos backed up (4 years' worth) before disaster struck on my PC. They are now all completely backed up, in only 5 days, using column 2, with no real detriment to other tasks.

You have know idea how good this feels!
February 18, 2011 at 20:48 | Registered Commenterleon
I'll let you know after 28 days if I agree with Mark's assessment :-) There's lots to do....
February 18, 2011 at 21:28 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I would have thought reading War & Peace was a recurring task - or at least that's how I would have interpreted the rules. If you put it in Column 2, and the rules say that you can't leave the page until you have completed all tasks in Column 2, that means you are stuck on one page until you finish the whole book. Or did you break it down and put, say, read one chapter in Column 2? Likewise the review of the systems - did you put down a single review at a time in Column 2?

I'm starting to think that I don't understand the rules properly but even so I am finding SuperFocus excellent.
February 18, 2011 at 22:01 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
John:

<< and the rules say that you can't leave the page until you have completed all tasks in Column 2, that means you are stuck on one page until you finish the whole book >>

No, the rule is that you have to take some action on it, not finish it.
February 18, 2011 at 22:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It's possible that John was confused by this sentence in the rules:

"Continue circulating round page 1 until all tasks in column 2 are completed and no more tasks in column 1 feel ready to be done."

Of course, what is meant is not "completed" but "crossed out" or "actioned."
February 19, 2011 at 1:22 | Registered CommenterGeorge G.
Congratulations, Mark, on a brilliant invention!!

Like the other commenters, I started SF and immediately noticed big scary projects "just happening." For me, this has been the key: I do not have to finish a task in order to cross it off! How exciting!! All I have to do is move the task forward by some increment. So, "I'll just get out the folder" becomes "Look, that next part is really easy ... and then all it needs is a little XYZ ... and now I can't really put it away until I finish off these loose ends ..." 45 minutes later, I've really done something.

This is the earliest I have *ever* started my taxes. Before I began SuperFocus, I had already been through several weeks of dread and resistance. I also picked up a creative project that had not moved in over a year.

Another key feature: I do not need to elaborately plan a big project before I can even start. I am allowed to write huge, vague, formless goals on my list, and by the time I've scanned the page a few times, I find myself knowing exactly what the next step ought to be. Quite a contrast to putting that vague thought into an "inbox" which must be "processed" before it is allowed to show up on an "action list." That kind of thinking (before I found SF) resulted in all my most important (non-urgent) projects gathering dust in the inbox until I sheepishly moved them to "Someday/Maybe" and never saw them again.

Thank you for sharing a truly wonderful idea.
February 19, 2011 at 2:38 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
George:

<< It's possible that John was confused by this sentence... >>

I've amended the rules throughout to use "worked on" instead of "done", "actioned", "completed", etc.

You wouldn't believe how difficult it is when writing these rules to anticipate all areas of misunderstanding!
February 19, 2011 at 3:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Bernie:

<< I am allowed to write huge, vague, formless goals on my list >>

Yes, it can be amazing how creative one becomes when one of these huge, vague, formless goals is being worked on many times a day because it's in Column 2.
February 19, 2011 at 3:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<No, the rule is that you have to take some action on it, not finish it.>>

<< << It's possible that John was confused by this sentence... >> >>

<<I've amended the rules throughout to use "worked on" instead of "done", "actioned", "completed", etc.

You wouldn't believe how difficult it is when writing these rules to anticipate all areas of misunderstanding!>>

I asked questions yesterday about C2 bogging down my system. Even though I may have made poor choices as to what to put into C2, I did not understand that items in C2 did not have to be completed before moving on (before or after the answers to my questions). I will have to think this through some more tomorrow. (And re-print the rules I'd printed out.)
February 19, 2011 at 5:42 | Unregistered Commentermalisa
<< I did not understand that items in C2 did not have to be completed before moving on >>

Mailsa, the same thing happened to me, and it took me several re-reads over a few days to fix it. Mark's new wording, looks very nice for future readers.

---

Mark, I have another suggestion for future readers: consider adding to SF the nice section from AutoFocus explaining in detail how to scan the list for that feeling of "release" and how this brings the subconscious mind in line with your conscious choice. This is terribly, terribly important! Had I not already worked AutoFocus, I think I would be forcing myself through my SF pages, trying to be a good boy and get everything done. This would put SF on track to join my junk pile of "failed" systems. I shared SF with my father last week, but I fear this is what happened to him. He is about to visit, and I will be investigating this as gently as I can manage. ;)

---

<< Yes, it can be amazing how creative one becomes when one of these huge, vague, formless goals is being worked on many times a day because it's in Column 2. >>

So true, Mark. But like a star actor, Column Two succeeds by resting squarely on Column One's supporting role. My own version of "little and often," pre-SF, produced only short bouts of progress, because I did not systematically review inactive projects. Anxiety over those other projects led me to switch willy-nilly and never finish much of anything. Column One blunts that anxiety and transforms its remainder into a mounting desire to work through Column Two. The columns form a symbiotic ecosystem.

Is SF the first system to suggest that I periodically review inactive projects? Absolutely not! But it is the first one that has worked for me.
February 19, 2011 at 19:05 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Hi guys,

Having read Mark's response to Bernie, I am a little bemused as to whether I should put a project that needs regular work on it each day (for me, an article I am writing for a medical journal - due in two week's time) in column 1 or one of the column 2's Please can someone clarify this for me?


Cheers,

Mike.
February 20, 2011 at 0:24 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Mike:

<< whether I should put a project that needs regular work on it each day (for me, an article I am writing for a medical journal - due in two week's time) in column 1 or one of the column 2's >>

There are several ways you can do this:

1) You put "Medical Journal Article" on your list (initially in Column 1) as one major task. In other words, the task is not finished until you have written and finalised the entire article. Each time you do some work on the article it is re-entered in Column 2 as an unfinished task. The effect of this is that you have to work on the article every time you go onto a new page.

2) You limit the task in some way, such as "Write First Section of Article", or "Write 500 words of article", or "Write Article for 20 minutes", or even "Do some work on Article". In that way, you keep re-entering the task in Column 1. The effect of this is that you probably work on the article about once a day, depending how fast you progress through your list.

3) You put the limited task (as in 2 above) in Column 2 as an "Urgent" task.once a day (or whatever time interval you prefer). The effect of this is similar to 2 except that you *have* to do the task at the selected time interval.

More at http://www.markforster.net/blog/2011/2/9/handling-various-tasks-in-superfocus.html
February 20, 2011 at 0:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I have been (mostly) lurking around here for a long time, and fiddle-faddling around with various attempts to institute Mark's various systems as they have evolved. It has been awesome to witness your on-going process, Mark, of continually striving to find a better way. The release of the rules for SuperFocus v3 has corresponded with me, at long last, determining to follow the rules as accurately as I can. I have been doing so now for a week or so, and, like others here, I am finding it is working! Wow! Thanks a million, Mark.
February 20, 2011 at 9:03 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Schapel
Hi Mark,

Following on from Mike's question and your answer, when you do some work on a C2 task, do you put a line through it and re-enter it at the bottom of your C2 list, or just leave it open?
February 20, 2011 at 9:47 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Hi Mark,

Cheers for the clarification and link. I am going to follow the second scenario and see how I get on.

Regards,

Mike.
February 20, 2011 at 11:02 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Thanks for the followup about my reading assignments.
<<"Urgent" means what you want it to mean!>> and the notion that a task need not be //completed// but merely //worked on// to get off that page are very, very helpful!
February 20, 2011 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Engle
John:

<< when you do some work on a C2 task, do you put a line through it and re-enter it at the bottom of your C2 list, or just leave it open? >>

With a Column 2 task, you cross it out and re-enter it in Column 2 of the next page.
February 20, 2011 at 15:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
John,

<<when you do some work on a C2 task, do you put a line through it and re-enter it at the bottom of your C2 list, or just leave it open?>>

When you take some action on a task in Col2, you cross it off and re-enter it in Col2 of the NEXT (if it's not complete). If it is done for now, and it is recurring you can put it at the end of Col1 on the last page instead.
February 20, 2011 at 15:46 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
First of all congratulations Mark on completing your tasks to test SuperFocus v. 3.

Maybe I missed something, but where are the rules for SuperFocus v. 3? I’ve just spent about half an hour looking through your website.

Is it this page (http://www.markforster.net/blog/2011/2/10/rules-for-superfocus.html ) - Rules for SuperFocus?

Can someone help me out here?

Regards,
Ian
February 20, 2011 at 19:38 | Unregistered CommenterIan
Ian:

<< where are the rules for SuperFocus v. 3? >>

http://www.markforster.net/blog/2011/2/10/rules-for-superfocus.html
February 20, 2011 at 21:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<< John:

<< and the rules say that you can't leave the page until you have completed all tasks in Column 2, that means you are stuck on one page until you finish the whole book >>

No, the rule is that you have to take some action on it, not finish it. >>>

<<< It's possible that John was confused by this sentence in the rules:

"Continue circulating round page 1 until all tasks in column 2 are completed and no more tasks in column 1 feel ready to be done."

Of course, what is meant is not "completed" but "crossed out" or "actioned." >>>

Thank you Mark and George for this essential clarification. It feels like breathing freely again after holding your breath for too long, and will likely make a huge difference in my success with SF.
June 21, 2011 at 1:23 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Kaplan

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