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« Rules for SuperFocus | Main | SuperFocus: The Last Page »
Wednesday
Feb092011

Handling Various Tasks in SuperFocus

While testing version 3 of SuperFocus, I used some of the following methods

To read “War and Peace” I wrote the task as one project, which would only be finished when the entire book had been read. Therefore it remained constantly in Column 2, and some of it was read every time I changed pages. I used the same technique for writing the Reviews of the Systems and for clearing backlogs. The whole of each project was one task.

To do the dishes after meals, I did not keep the task on my list. Instead immediately after each meal I added the task to Column 2 as an urgent task.

I was reading several other books at the same time as War and Peace, but these I just put as single tasks in column 1. The task was effectively “Read a bit of X”. The books progressed steadily but much slower than War and Peace.

I kept “Email” and “Paper” as tasks in Column 1. Whenever I left them unfinished, as often happened, I re-entered the task in Column 2. Once I had cleared it all, it went back into Column 1.

I was reading Hokusai’s “100 Famous Views of Edo”, which I wanted to do one picture at a time. So I entered this as “Edo 7” and then “Edo 8” etc. This resulting in my reading approximately one a day.

Finally, writing this blog entry “Handling Various Types of Task in SuperFocus” started today as a Task in Column 1 of the then last page. It was then re-entered in Column 2 of the following page, which was the new last page, and then re-entered again on the next following page, which again was the new last page. Here it was completed and not re-entered again. So the system allowed for three drafts to happen in one afternoon and evening. (I have been writing the Consolidated Rules for AutoFocus at the same time - but they need more drafts!)

Reader Comments (17)

Having using the system for a couple of days now, I have learned to use Column 2 very discriminately. So I would summarize using Column 2 for those items...

(1) Are truly urgent.
(2) Are those you want to be hounded by every time you turn the page.
(3) Are truly urgent!

For example, I am writing a grant application, but the deadline is a ways off. I had the entry "Grant app" in Column 1, worked on it, and then moved it over to Column 2 because it is unfinished. But then I discovered that I HAD to work on it on every page turn, but it really wasn't that urgent. In fact, working on it was getting in the way of other more urgent tasks from Column 1 on each page. I was beginning to resent HAVING to work it, even though the deadline was more than a month away.

I now have learned about the importance of writing tasks thoughtfully. Instead of "Grant app", it perhaps should read "Complete section 1" or something similar that has a definite finish point that will allow me to move it back to Column 1. I have to admit that I simply cheated and rewrote it in Column 1.

SF3 definitely requires a bit more thought than the various versions of AF (all of which I have used for various lengths of time). However, I feel that once I master the nuances, it will be extremely effective.
February 10, 2011 at 1:47 | Unregistered CommenterRobert
Perhaps I missed it-what did you do for exercise?
February 10, 2011 at 4:09 | Unregistered CommenterTK
So how you define a task controls the pace of work. Reentry in column 1 makes for slow progress. Reentry in column two makes rapid progress.

But rather than leave this up to our psyche to choose after we tire of working a bit (guess what bias it would show) we define it in advance, by careful wording,and eliminate the opportunity for indecision or laziness.

A large project can be worked on either at a persistent fast pace, in a series of bursts, or at a leisurely rate, depending on the verbal structure.
A medium task can be completed quick or over time.
A small task can be either now or later.

Add the dismissal rules and you are left with tasks you either do, and at the defined pace, or drop them. AFx never had this flexibility. This is powerful.
February 10, 2011 at 4:22 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Very insightful Alan. That flexibility you mention would also allow you to change the definition of the task as priorities and circumstances change, would it not? Each iteration would be a column 1 task to begin with obviously. A little bit of fine tuning as it were, to change the focus or breath of the task as you go along.
February 10, 2011 at 5:07 | Registered CommenterJD
Hi Mark:

Thank you for this post. I admit to being a little confused with the Superfocus version 3 guidlines and subsequently felt reluctant to engage the system.

However I now feel my understanding of the system is clearer.

BTW I'm using an extra large Moleskine Cashiers and it seems the ideal size for Superfocus V 3.
February 10, 2011 at 9:44 | Registered Commenterleon
Robert:

<< I now have learned about the importance of writing tasks thoughtfully.>>

Yes, this is very important when using this system.
February 10, 2011 at 9:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
TK:

<< Perhaps I missed it-what did you do for exercise? >>

One of my original goals was to go for a 3-mile (or more) walk for an average of three days a week. So far I've kept to that goal.

I treated this very much like doing the dishes. When the task was due, I would put it in Column 2 as an urgent task.
February 10, 2011 at 9:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alan:

That's a very good summary.
February 10, 2011 at 9:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<<Robert:

<< I now have learned about the importance of writing tasks thoughtfully.>>

Yes, this is very important when using this system.>>>

I am also finding that each re-write of a task becomes more specific. Some of the very vague tasks from my original list are now delineated in very specific task-detailed lists. So instead of 'call villages'; 'call customers'; I now have 3 specific goals each divided into steps, and the steps are what are on the list for completion.
February 11, 2011 at 6:57 | Registered Commenterwairererose
Can you help clairfy what to do with tasks that should be done by a spefic date - it might be a bigger project - so it will require work over a number of sessions to get it completed...but it might not be urgent when it's first recorded...but becomes more urgent over time...should I be recording the due date so this helps prompt me to move it to column 2 as it begins to become more urgent?
February 20, 2011 at 23:57 | Unregistered CommenterColin
Colin:

<< Can you help clairfy what to do with tasks that should be done by a spefic date >>

I sometimes put the due date in brackets after a task - only when necessary though.
February 21, 2011 at 2:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<I sometimes put the due date in brackets after a task - only when necessary though.>>

I do the same. It helps me to quickly see what really does need some attention.

Speaking of which, I sometimes find myself on a page and realize that something I have in Column 1 on a later page really needs to be actioned. I enter it in Column 2 on the current page and simply cross it off the other. I can't see any drawbacks to do doing that. The other option would be to try to get to that other page as quickly as possible, making feeble "progress" on the intervening pages. That seems more "dishonest" that simply reentering the item.
February 21, 2011 at 3:11 | Unregistered CommenterRobert
Robert:

<< I sometimes find myself on a page and realize that something I have in Column 1 on a later page really needs to be actioned. I enter it in Column 2 on the current page and simply cross it off the other. >>

That's exactly what you're supposed to do - only don't get too worried about whether you crossed off the duplicate entry or not.
February 21, 2011 at 3:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
JD: Presumably, if you were working on something that had been urgent (Column 2) but circumstances changed and suddenly it wasn't so urgent (but still needed to be done) you could just re-enter it in Column 1 as the "next step" in the project - in other words treating what you had done so far as a number of *completed* steps, so the project didn't have to stay in Column 2.

So the flexibility goes both ways: you can raise or lower the urgency of tasks/projects by rephrasing them if necessary, splitting them into smaller "independent" lower-priority steps that can be entered into Column 1, or combining them into single urgent projects that stay in Column 2.
February 22, 2011 at 15:37 | Unregistered CommenterRich
hi all,

I'm perhaps a bit confused on the use of c2 in SF. Do you have to FINISH all tasks in C2 before moving to the next page or just WORK on them? Perhaps it depends on the type of task. I struggle with feeling stuck on C2 while other pages are neglected. So much so that I started using a sticky note that I move to the next page and which contains my 'c2' items.

Help me understand how best to handle urgent items. I am an HR director and have multitudes of fires each day. For example, 'call bob re sexual harassment allegations'. This MUST be done today but I can't do it while I'm on the plane. But I can turn the page and work on some other items.

thanks again,

brett
July 9, 2011 at 16:30 | Unregistered Commenterbrettypooh
brettypooh:

You have to work on C2 tasks, not finish them. Once you have done some work on a C2 task, you can move it to the next page's C2 as an unfinished task.

If you have an Urgent task that you can't do now, then it's permissible to delete it and move it to the next page's C2. You can continue doing that until you are able to do it.
July 11, 2011 at 14:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
excellent! That makes perfect sense.

I'm loving sf so far. I feel so much freer to actually be productive. No tagging, sorting, etc. Just doing.

Less Planning, More Doing. That's the power of Superfocus....:-)
July 15, 2011 at 18:12 | Unregistered Commenterbrettypooh

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