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« An Experiment | Main | End of Break »

SF Tips - #5: Unfinished Tasks

According to the rules, tasks which are unfinished are re-entered in Column 2 on the next page. This is designed to keep tasks moving to completion by using the little and often principle.

It’s important not to overload Column 2 because the SuperFocus rules make it compulsory to work on all Column 2 tasks before you can leave a page. Having too many Column 2 tasks results in an indigestible mass of tasks which have to be worked on every time you move from one page to another.

The way to control the number of tasks in Column 2 is to be careful to define exactly what is meant by “finished” and “unfinished” in connection with each individual task.

For example a task called “Email” could mean 1) “Do some work on my In-Box” or 2) “Clear all Email”.

Usually it’s not necessary to write out either in full, but it is important to be clear in one’s mind which it is. If you work on the “Email” task for as long as you want to and there are still unactioned emails left in the In-Box, the way you’ve defined the task affects what happens next.

If “Do some work on my In-Box” is the definition then you have done some work on your In-Box and therefore the task is finished. You would re-enter it at the end of the list in Column 1.

If “Clear all Email” is the definition then the task has not been finished. Therefore you re-enter it in Column 2 of the next active page. You may need to re-enter it several times in this way before the task is finally completed.

In the next Tip, I will look at the way that Column 2 is used for urgent tasks, and then in a future Tip how the two columns can be used together to get what you want done.

Reader Comments (4)

Welcome back Mark. How did you know about the change I made yesterday to the wording of my email related task? I successfully emptied my work email inbox this week. It felt GREAT. And now it's time to start on my personal email. I've had it on my list and have passed it by again and again. I realized that the wording was repelling me. So I changed it to "Do some work on my inbox" and I've gotten it moving. It can properly be crossed off and re-written again in C1. Thanks.
March 13, 2011 at 15:56 | Registered Commentermalisa
At present I don't see how the strict formal approach would work out in practice. I'm much more into doing what makes sense at the time, than doing exactly what's written.

I'll be waiting to see those other articles. Maybe they will explain.
March 13, 2011 at 15:59 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I agree Alan. What made sense at time #1 was, in my head 'get personal email inbox emptied', so that's what I wrote. When I noticed resistance to it, I realized that it wasn't an urgent task, so I did a bit knew that I wanted to re-write it in C1, not C2. So I did some, then when I re-wrote it at time #2 I did so in a way that reflected that it was going to be a slow, do it when you can, don't anticipate it ending up in C2 (but maybe if it drags on long enough that it's still there when I'm on spring break it will) type of task.

I agree that I don't want to agonize over the way I initial task, I just want it out of my head. When I reach it on my list, I don't want to be tied to that initial brain-dump version. And while I know that, I still resisted that task for some time BECAUSE of the way it was written.

I'm about a month into using SF (no AF before either) so it's a learning process to me and I'm now happy with the arrangement described above (just a little slow on the pickup).
March 13, 2011 at 16:26 | Registered Commentermalisa
I don't like the overly formal approach either. The main thing I don't like is being forced to consider exactly what I mean by each task, when perhaps the task is still just an idea or a vague sense of what needs to be done next.

So, I write things in a general, vague way at first. And if it's not clear exactly what I mean, then by default I consider the task as a "do a little work on..." kind of task.

But after repeated exposure to those tasks, maybe repeated action also, eventually I may realize more precisely what needs to be done. At that point I will write something more definite, more specific, which DOES end up becoming a C2 task, and stays in C2 till it's done.

This works very well for me.
March 13, 2011 at 19:54 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

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