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« Does Using SuperFocus Increase Your Brain Power? - My Answer | Main | I am interviewed on the Time Management Success Blog »
Thursday
Mar172011

Does Using SuperFocus Increase Your Brain Power?

This is a guest posting by Seraphim - the winner of the competition for the best answer to this question.

Many tools and techniques can be used to extract greater power from any system. A lever does not change the raw power but can drastically increase the amount of power applied to the purpose at hand. Reorganizing a process for greater efficiency likewise does not change raw power, but an improved process can ensure that less power is wasted in useless work and more is applied toward the desired output. And better engine maintenance and smoother engine operation can actually increase the raw power.

All these principles apply to SuperFocus and its impact on brain power. I have discovered this through my own use of SuperFocus, and will provide a few examples.

Leverage: While using SuperFocus, I found that certain tasks would always get “dismissed” — the system would highlight these tasks as “undesirable” and they’d never get any action. But the problem was, these tasks were *necessary* — I couldn’t just ignore them. So, after trying to figure out why this kept happening, the tasks would get recycled back into the list for another go. But they’d just get dismissed again.

After seeing this happen a few times, I realized why it was happening. I just wasn’t good at those tasks, and HATED doing them — even though they really needed to be done. I tried to think how I could get around this somehow. It occurred to me that one of my co-workers actually LOVED doing that kind of work — so I asked her if she could handle some of those tasks for me. She got to do more work that she really enjoyed, and got recognition for it — and I was able to rid my list of those ugly tasks! It was a win-win, and it worked out great!!

This is an example of leverage — delegating tasks to someone else who is better equiped to get them done. Delegation can drastically increase one’s total output, as I began to find out. I probably wouldn’t have identified this opportunity for leverage without SuperFocus — but now the SF dismissal process is helping me find opportunities like this all over the place.

Improved process efficiency — Looking back over the last month of using SuperFocus, I can see that my total output has increased significantly. And this doesn’t count the things I’ve learned to delegate. My workload has increased significantly over the last three months, and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by it. I was now leading two new project teams while still trying to carry my previous responsibilities. Just managing team logisitics was getting to be a real chore (setting up meetings, tracking minutes and action items, etc.) — let alone trying to make sure we were completing our deliverables and project tasks.

But after a few weeks, the workload hadn’t changed, but I found I was staying on top of it. All the important work was moving forward, I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed any more. I feel this is due mostly to SuperFocus. By its very nature, SuperFocus makes sure that the important work gets done, WHEN it should get done, and allows the less important / less urgent to rest idle for a time, or fall to the wayside. SuperFocus also helps ensure that the important work gets FINISHED, not just started. There were a few things I was doing before, that now seemed like they didn’t really add any value, and they got left behind — and SuperFocus helped me identify which things were OK to drop.

Here are some specific process changes that SuperFocus helped me identify and implement: (1) Simplify and streamline email processing; (2) Automate meeting agendas; (3) Quickly close my own action items that really needed to be done; let the unimportant ones sit till they are no longer relevant; (4) Move *all* my own tasks to SuperFocus, and keep all my project-management work in appropriate files outside of SuperFocus.

Engine Maintenance — If you want to increase an engine’s raw power, you might try changing the oil, cleaning or replacing the spark plugs, replacing the gaskets, checking the fuel lines, etc. In other words, regular basic maintenance and cleaning. And this is my favorite feature of SuperFocus — it keeps me working in a very effective mental state. I like to say it keeps me “in the zone”, where thoughts flow clearly and work gets done almost effortlessly. In this state, my mental energy increases dramatically — my raw engine power is operating at a much higher level.

Ever since the original AutoFocus system, I wondered how it was able to achieve this. But then I realized that it achieves this by allowing you to work ONLY on the things that “stand out” — the things that really feel ready to be done. Mark Forster designed a system that keeps you working “in the zone” BY DEFINITION. If you follow the rules, you’ll get into the zone quickly, and stay there.

The dirty oil of boredom, the soiled spark plugs of demotivation, the cracked gaskets of time wasters, the broken fuel line of procrastination — SuperFocus deals with all of these effectively and automatically. There isn’t any boredom, because the SuperFocus list automatically contains a great variety of tasks. There isn’t any demotivation, because you can work on whatever catches your interest at the time. Time wasters tend to disappear or get dismissed, never to return. And best of all, SuperFocus keeps you in a state of achieving RESULTS THAT MATTER — the very opposite of procrastination.

So, does SuperFocus increase one’s brainpower? Yes, and in many ways! 

Reader Comments (12)

I think you've confused brain power for increased productivity. I've seen the exact same statements regarding the DIT system, AutoFocus v. 1-??, and numerous other systems discussed on the board where the end user experienced productivity increases. I don't recall anyone stating that they felt that their brain power had increased.

The proof is in the pudding though, I'll bookmark this page and we'll see how many are still using SuperFocus in six months.
March 17, 2011 at 17:42 | Registered CommenterTK
In reading carefully the above, Seraphim's argument in fact shows how SuperFocus leverages and amplifies the brain's ability to make decisions. Power is about getting work done faster, and SF helps. "inate capacity to solve problems" is not being discussed here, but that's okay. The definition used in this article is different, but also valid.

Seraphim: Kudos on writing a very useful article. The examples you give are inspiring and give me several ideas on how i can do stuff better with SF.
March 17, 2011 at 17:53 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
In my first post on the competition blog, I wrote something about how brain power = approximately 20 watts and SF isn't going to change that.

But then, I reflected, that obviously isn't what Mark is asking about.

The brain's innate energy consumption isn't the only possible meaning of the phrase "brain power". Power also equals the ability to get things done. Power = influence. Power = work. Power = leveraging one's basic capabilities to achieve their greatest effectiveness.

And "brain" doesn't necessarily mean only "the pile of neurons in the skull". It refers to one's intellectual, mental, and intuitive powers, among other things.

Thus "brain power" can mean the ability of one's intellectual, mental, and intuitive powers to get things done, to have influence, to have impact, to be effective. I think it's pretty clear this is the meaning that Mark had in mind.

Does SF increase that, amplify that, help with that? For those who have tried it and are using it effectively, is there really any question?

(And Alan, thanks for the kudos!)
March 17, 2011 at 18:28 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Alan, it's not a matter of careful reading, there are big issues that simply aren't addressed. It's more than the "inate capacity to solve problems" shortfall. By this definition of "brain power" all systems that increase ability to get work done increase brain power. That would be DIT, GTD, AF, etc. In fact, you wouldn't even multi-step system, the system could merely be "keep email cleared" and in so doing, if you create capacity to do more work and become less cluttered/more organized then you have increased brain power.
March 17, 2011 at 18:32 | Registered CommenterTK
"if you create capacity to do more work and become less cluttered/more organized then you have increased brain power. " That's my perspective.
March 17, 2011 at 19:10 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Dear Seraphim,

Thank you for your great comment. I really enjoyed reading it. I'm using SF since two weeks and would be interested in details about the following:

"Here are some specific process changes that SuperFocus helped me identify and implement: (1) Simplify and streamline email processing; (2) Automate meeting agendas; (3) Quickly close my own action items that really needed to be done; let the unimportant ones sit till they are no longer relevant; (4) Move *all* my own tasks to SuperFocus, and keep all my project-management work in appropriate files outside of SuperFocus."

I'm also responsible for projects and you put it in a nutshell: Staying on top of the workload is the challenge. How did you for example simplify and streamline email processing? 2 and 4 sound also very interesting. Maybe we can put it in the discussion forum? Others could also be interested? What do you think?

BR
Carsten
March 17, 2011 at 19:10 | Unregistered CommenterCarsten
Congratulations and well done, Seraphim!

There is no need to shrink from this idea of "brain power." Real, actual brain power is indeed increased by SuperFocus. The same is true of any mental organizing system that an individual finds effective.

That's right, merely organizing a system affects its power, for real, in actual physical terms. The only difference between a laser and a flashlight is that the laser's photons are organized, synchronized in phase. If they were a team playing tug-of-war, the laser's photons would all be pulling at the same time, whereas the flashlight's would be pulling and stopping and pushing at random, blocking each other's power. Same photons, same wavelength, same power individually, but the system has more power, for real, in physical terms. Metal is cut, corneas reshaped, pixels printed.

Whether we discuss people rowing a boat, spark plugs firing in sequence, steam forced from a boiler, electrons in transmission through a power line, algorithms followed by a computer, or even—yes—algorithms followed by a brain, the story does not change.

Of course, another way to increase a system's power is to put more powerful components into it, or use a more powerful mechanism altogether. But that is an entirely different topic.

Our topic here concerns the simple fact that for a given set of components, system power truly increases, for real, when you organize or synchronize the components better—increasing power by reducing entropy. Designers (Mark Forster) who eke more power out of an existing system (our brains), working cleverly with the components that are already in place (our human traits), have a special skill that is widely admired in engineering and physics.

I see no reason for this to be any different in the field of time management.
March 17, 2011 at 19:10 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Based on Alan's perspective, my question is - are we actually increasing brain power, or are we merely making the brain more efficient.

How do we measure brain power? I guess that would depend on one's definition of brain power.

I think SF certainly provides a framework for increased productivity, increased creativity, increased organization. However, again, do all those things constitute an increase in brain power?
March 17, 2011 at 19:32 | Unregistered CommenterOmar
Great job Seraphim!

I really like your writing style. It's clear, concise and very visual. One cannot go astray in trying to figure out what you are talking about and that part of the "essay competition" is as if not more important then the contents. As for the contents, I think as you do.
March 17, 2011 at 22:59 | Unregistered CommenterErik
I was about to say the question of whether it increases brain power is a red herring. The important question, at least to me, is whether it helps me get more done. More specifically, more of the important things done.

Then I got to thinking.

What happens after we use the system for several days or weeks -- until we're past the learning curve and are truly using it -- then remove it. Does the brain retain the training? Does the important things continue to get done at the same rate (allowing a time for adjustment)? If so, then yes, the brain has increased in power.

On the other hand, the system is so light on overhead, so simple to start and maintain, that it's unlikely we'd ever need to test ourselves without it. Even before SF I, would make a list whenever life was overwhelming. From there it's a very short step (probably automatic) to doing what stands out more and using a second column.

Regardless of my meandering, Seraphim has it right.
March 18, 2011 at 1:40 | Registered CommenterCricket
Thanks everyone for the kind words!

Carsten, I'll address your questions on the discussion board.
March 18, 2011 at 2:12 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Thanks for the excellent and interesting post, Bernie.
April 5, 2011 at 12:24 | Unregistered CommenterFel

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