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« Larger and larger | Main | The Magic Notebook »
Saturday
Aug272011

New System Under Development

Those of you who follow the discussions on the forum will know that I am currently developing a new time management system. In fact I think it would be truer to say that I have been developing this system for ten or more years now and all the other systems I have produced have been nothing more than stages on the way.

I now believe I have succeeded in producing the final version.

The characteristics of this system reflect most of the concerns which have surfaced during these years of development:

  • It is a “universal capture” system into which you can put all your ideas for action without prior editing.
  • Tasks are sifted and filtered by working the system itself.
  • It produces the most productive degree of tension between the intuitive unconscious mind and the rational mind.
  • It removes procrastination by ensuring that you are psychologically ready to do each task.
  • It automatically removes tasks which are going nowhere.
  • It allows one to judge exactly whether one has the right workload and provides automatic adjustment of the workload to fit the time available.
  • It enables you to deal efficiently with both urgent tasks and “must do” tasks without less pressing tasks being ignored.
  • It deals highly effectively with tasks which recur daily or at greater or lesser intervals.
  • It ensures that once you have started a task, however large or small, you work through to completion.
  • It is simple to operate and has minimal overhead.
  • It makes one’s work feel effortless, while being extremely productive.
  • It makes use of available periods of time, however short.
  • It ensures that the important tasks get done so that you are not just processing loads of trivia.
  • Tasks and projects can be put into the system at any level.
  • There is no need for time-consuming reviews or pre-selection of tasks.
  • Although it is designed as a paper-and-pen system it can easily be implemented electronically.

Over the next weeks and months I intend to publish frequent updates on how I am getting on with the system.

Reader Comments (49)

Wow!
Congratulations, Mark!
Cannot wait!
August 28, 2011 at 2:30 | Registered CommenterIL
Sounds wonderful, look forward to the details. Thanks very much for continuing to produce systems that help us live the lives we wish to.
August 28, 2011 at 3:13 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen
I'm glad I saw this before going off to bed. Now I won't waste time tomorrow morning on arrangements for that private island ...

Seriously, Mark, congratulations on this progress—what a feature set!
Your enthusiasm is infectious. I will be pressing Reload often ...
August 28, 2011 at 7:44 | Registered CommenterBernie
Sounds great! Can't wait to see the new system!
August 28, 2011 at 11:51 | Unregistered CommenterRainer
Sounds exciting!
August 28, 2011 at 13:04 | Unregistered CommenterVicenç
I'm getting out my red sweater.
August 28, 2011 at 16:50 | Registered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Mark,

Do you see the new system handling major creative tasks such as writing a book? In your past systems, you have recommended blocking that time separately.
August 28, 2011 at 17:58 | Registered CommenterBernie
And if so final, why not now?
August 28, 2011 at 19:02 | Unregistered Commenterpascal
Pascal:

<< And if so final, why not now? >>

Because I need time to use the system to provide the examples, arrange the publicity, increase the expectation, write and publish the book, organise the seminars and teleconferences and so on.
August 28, 2011 at 19:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
New book? Sign me up!

There has been recent writing in the forums about using one notebook for everything (todos, calendar, notes, etc.). Just curious...does the new system handle non-actions? Ideally I would like to write everything in one place and somehow flag items requiring action. I've never found a really good way to do that though.
August 28, 2011 at 20:07 | Unregistered CommenterScotthutchins
Scotthutchins:

<< Just curious...does the new system handle non-actions? Ideally I would like to write everything in one place and somehow flag items requiring action. I've never found a really good way to do that though. >>

Probably because trying to use the same tool for every job is not usually a good idea.

As the old saying goes: "If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail."
August 28, 2011 at 22:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Bernie:

<< Do you see the new system handling major creative tasks such as writing a book? In your past systems, you have recommended blocking that time separately. >>

I'd do whichever works best for me and the task in question.
August 28, 2011 at 22:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Touché Mark!

I'm assuming you handle grocery list/errand type contexts by keeping them in a separate notebook/section...So someone may have work, home and errands lists.
August 29, 2011 at 2:52 | Unregistered CommenterScotthutchins
Mark: Last week I've started keeping everything in one book, and it's been amazing so far. I keep a running calendar, AF1 lists, project lists, daily notes made on the fly, and I even threw in a short list of contact numbers. I love it. I would say that these are all different tools, but they are nicely accessible in one place. Perhaps it's like having a toolbox with all your stuff easily accessible, (including the hammer), rather than having to run hither and yon to get stuff.
August 29, 2011 at 3:51 | Registered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Scotthutchins:

<< I'm assuming you handle grocery list/errand type contexts by keeping them in a separate notebook/section.... >>

No, I don't. But there's a difference between having a notebook with different sections, which I've no objection to at all, and expecting a time management system to cope with all sorts of unrelated things. It reminds me of the type of gadget which used to be advertised in popular magazines "Fantastic invention, a torch with a built in radio and corkscrew - so you need never open bottles of wine in the dark without being entertained again".
August 29, 2011 at 7:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
+JMJ+

<<Tasks and projects can be put into the system at any level.>>

Now THIS got me excited. Are you saying that projects can be rudimentally planned, or at least the component tasks of projects can be entered into the "final system," and the system will tell the user which task to do next?
August 29, 2011 at 11:14 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

<< Are you saying that projects can be rudimentarily planned, or at least the component tasks of projects can be entered into the "final system," and the system will tell the user which task to do next? >>

I'm not quite sure what you're getting excited about here. That's been possible with all my systems.

See http://www.markforster.net/forum/post/639259#post639277 as one example among many.

As you should know by now, I am against over-planning projects (I'm against under-planning projects too but that never seems to be a subject of discussion on this forum!).

My usual method of dealing with a project-type task ("Work on Project X") is to list all the outstanding immediate action I can think of on a separate sheet of paper and start crossing off the items. As I think of new things I add them to the bottom of the list. Many of the tasks may already be on my main list but that doesn't worry me.

For an average sized project this is far more efficient than trying to keep a long list of "project actions". If I was in charge of building a new motorway the project would of course have a huge amount of documentation, but I'd still have most of what I _personally_ needed to do in my head.
August 29, 2011 at 11:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Scott: When I'm taking notes for anything, I put a circle in the margin for any open items.

It's great in meetings which tend to drift to the menu before deciding who will call the caterer, or lectures when I have a question but can't interrupt, or when I think of something totally unrelated to the subject at hand.

I often have reams of notes with only a few circles per page. I don't bother with the circles if it's clearly a list of action items.

When all the circles on a page have been dealt with, I mark the page for archiving or destruction. "Dealt with" includes copying the item to an action list or the calendar, in which case I use an arrow rather than an X to mark it dealt with.

I try to review the entire book weekly and either do what's required or move it to an action list, so I don't have to go through the entire book daily.
August 29, 2011 at 17:35 | Registered CommenterCricket
<< I'm assuming you handle grocery list/errand type contexts by keeping them in a separate notebook/section.... >>

No, I don't.
----------------------
Not to beat a dead horse here, but...Let's say I'm working on a project and realize I need to buy supplies. I write those purchases in my AF list. I realize that I'm running low on toothpaste and add it to AF. This goes on for some time and eventually I find myself in a store/area that carries everything I need. I would have to do quite a bit of scanning through my lists to find all of the items I need to buy. Chances are, I'd miss something at least one thing and not realize until I got home.

The micromanaging around contexts in GDT drove me crazy, but there are times when separating them makes sense (i.e. having a separate notebook for work and home tasks).
August 29, 2011 at 21:53 | Unregistered CommenterScott Hutchins
<<Scott: When I'm taking notes for anything, I put a circle in the margin for any open items.

>>

Thanks Cricket. I like that idea. The downside is the need for multiple notebooks (one for notes, one for tasks) . I'd prefer to only carry one and have everything in it, but I suppose that brings us back to the "fantastic invention" Mark mentions above!
August 29, 2011 at 22:12 | Unregistered CommenterScott Hutchins
Scott Hutchins:

<< Let's say I'm working on a project and realize I need to buy supplies. I write those purchases in my AF list. I realize that I'm running low on toothpaste and add it to AF. >>

Well I'd go:

Order project supplies on Amazon
Order toothpaste on Amazon
etc etc
August 30, 2011 at 1:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I would definitely agree with Mark that my use of one notebook is more about having single book with different sections and less about expecting a time management system to handle all the stuff in the book in a coherent way. It's full of different things. Having said that, since I started keeping everything in my one notebook, for some reason my productivity has skyrocketed by an order of magnitude. I don't know exactly why this is working so well or what's going on, but the change in my level of productivity is making me think that there is some kind of unifying, motivating factor with the one book going on here. But I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it has something to do with David Allen's idea about reducing "psychic Ram." But my response time to people is lower, I'm getting more done, I feel more creative and I'm incredible relaxed. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I honestly think this has something to do with using one book. Any suggestions as to why this is working so well?
August 30, 2011 at 5:49 | Registered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Paul - Gerry would say 80% of the success of any time management system is just capturing everything with one simple, reliable tool == writing everything down in one notebook. I tend to agree with him.
August 30, 2011 at 7:06 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I think that regardless of whether you uses a single repository for all your stuff, the fact of the matter is that different processes are at work.

With AF, you are working a list for unscheduled activity. For all other things, different methods are employed. Scheduled activity goes to a calendar, for example.

For some a single capture tool works, for others it doesn't. I know for sure that it doesn't work for me. I use mind maps for project plans, and measuring progress. For example, I have a major assignment due, and it has to be done around scheduled lectures. I map out the days of the week, and map the time available and progress I wish to make on my assignment around the scheduled activity.

Other tasks go to my regular handwritten AF notebook. Maybe when things change, and I have fewer assignments and lectures, I will default to my AF list since I will have more discretionary time.
August 30, 2011 at 7:59 | Registered CommenterJD
After I submitted my post, I realised that I was probably stating something that was obvious. I guess the point I wanted to make was that productivity, like beauty, is in the eye of beholder.

One size does not fit all, and there's no guarantee a single capture tool will increase productivity dramatically. I fall into this category.
August 30, 2011 at 8:17 | Registered CommenterJD
" 80% of the success of any time management system is just capturing everything with one simple, reliable tool."
"One size does not fit all, and there's no guarantee a single capture tool will increase productivity dramatically. I fall into this category."

I still seek a universal statement. May I suggest:
To be consistently productive, you must know and easily access where your work materials are.

The contrary case is clearly evident in legacy software development. Several variations on a theme exist throughout the code, and much time is wasted deciding which is the best and most current.
JD has several spots, but I suppose the lectures are all in the same tool.
August 30, 2011 at 12:55 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Regarding the question of whether errand-type tasks, that would properly belong on a separate shopping list, should be entered individually into AF, I do it all the time. When I realize I need something, I simply write "buy X" then "buy Y" etc. These will be spread out in the AF list. When I realize I have several, I write "make shopping list" and "shop for stuff" as two separate tasks. The "make shopping list" task consists of scanning the whole list for anything that starts with "buy" and this process only takes a few seconds. Then I add to the dedicated list any other items we need.
August 30, 2011 at 13:32 | Registered Commenterubi
ubi wrote:
<< When I realize I need something, I simply write "buy X" then "buy Y" etc. These will be spread out in the AF list ... >>

For me, "completion" of these AF items equals copying them to my errand list.

Why not enter them directly on my errand list? I don't carry that with me all over the house, but I do usually have my notebook with me.
August 30, 2011 at 14:00 | Registered CommenterBernie
Bernie:

<< Why not enter them directly on my errand list? >>

Because your errand list is yet another piece of paper / notebook / section / computer list which you've got to find/open every time you want to make a note of something to buy.

Doing it ubi's way (and mine) you just grab any scruffy bit of paper, make the list, stuff it in your pocket/purse, do the shopping, and when you've finished throw the list away.
August 30, 2011 at 14:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
+JMJ+

Errands are quite simple to handle in my system. All errand type tasks are entered with the "E" tag, which makes it easier to look for what things I have to buy or do on the go. If I have to do my errands, I have two options on how to use the system. One is to do what ubi and Mark are doing, to make an impromptu shopping list from the "E" tagged items in my list then throw it away after. The other way is to mark with arrows (-->) those items I need to buy in my list and use THAT as my shopping list. The latter way is the way I more often do. This is easy because my notebook is a 3"x5" fliptop spiralbound notebook with a faux-leather protector from Staples, which I carry around in my pocket everywhere I go.

This is, incidentally, how I do my projects and context-bound tasks also. Almost all of my tasks in the list have one to four letter tags at the beginning. If I am going to do a project, then I look for the items in the list with the tag of the project, decide which one/s I am ready to do, then mark it/them with arrows and do it/them.

I love my system right now, it is really flexible yet portable. Combine that with my calendar and notes at the back of the notebook, and I have the best time management system for my own use so far.

http://www.markforster.net/forum/post/1581007

Godspeed.
August 30, 2011 at 20:46 | Registered Commenternuntym
That scan, mark, collect seems to be the simplest AF solution.

I'm glad your system is working for you nuntym. Im jealous of your 3x5 footprint. I'm 2 days happy with my latest, and expect that to continue. Ultimately I wish there was a common approach that serves many, so I hope Mark's project pans out even though I feel successful as is.
August 30, 2011 at 21:09 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
The one book idea is not a new one. Many people are going back to using binders like Filofax which allows you to keep everything in one place.
August 30, 2011 at 22:06 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
Paul MacNeil:

I am using one notebook, and I like you thought yesterday that a single notebook is like a toolbox. Instead of having separate books or locations, you put all the tools in one location.
August 31, 2011 at 14:24 | Registered Commentermarkhedm
Might I offer my thoughts on these systems?

Some time ago I abandoned GTD, because it became too unwieldy, and switched to AF/SF3. I had some success with those initially (and posted in the forums) but again the lists soon became too unwieldly and disjointed, with related tasks scattered across pages because that's where I happened to be when I thought of them.

In retrospect I can see why. When a task pops into my head both GTD and AF/SF want me to capture it for later processing (with GTD this is the inbox review, with AF/SF this is reaching the task in the list). But by that time I've often lost the context of why that thought came to me. Having to keep re-tracing my steps to work out what I was thinking and what was related became too energy sapping and demotivating.

The way that tasks get dismissed in SF/AF, and the trouble people have in dealing with this, seems to bear this out. Having to manage an idea through capture, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now ... dismissing, reviewing involves too many touch points for my liking.

So my question is this. All the AF/SF systems involve capture of ideas so you can dump and continue with the task in hand. Don't you think this methodology itself might be flawed? This new system has yet to be revealed, but if it continues to demand capture and later processing it will force users to go through a similar set of touch points. This is all time that could be spent actually getting stuff done.

I now use a variant of a very simple setup which focuses on the goals of what you are doing. This works because it keeps relevant tasks together and means you take a few seconds to process ideas as they come to you. I've been using it successfully at home and and work for around 4 months. It's described here:

http://www.erica.biz/2010/getting-things-done/

In my book I have some pages at the start for the next few months. I have a page for 'Waiting for'. With it being Sunday I'll make a page for 'End of week Mon 5th Sep - Sun 11th Sep' and a page for 'Today Mon 5th Sep'. I'll think about the things I want to get done by the end of next week and write them down. Could be anything from "Fetch chair from shed" to "Finish garden".

Now I know what I want to do next week, I pull together some tasks from these items and write them on the Monday page. I might decide to write "Re-pot tomato plant 30" and, since I'm in the garden doing that, "Fetch chair from shed 5". See how related tasks are easily grouped together? The number at the end is an educated guess at how long it will take so I can better choose the order I do them in on Monday. I also scan my waiting for list now and again, and look at my month list to get ideas for tasks to go in the weekly lists.

And that's it. It's very simple but structured in a way that I don't think the capture/process methodology is in AF/SF/GTD. In the same way that I write a shopping list before going to the shops, this lets me structure and plan my tasks before I get started. AF/SF would be more like going to shop to buy something, coming home, then shortly after seeing another related task and going back to the shop, wasting time revisiting the whole shop experience.

If an idea pops into my head I just think for a moment what to do about it. I'll know if I need to add it to today's list, add it to the weekly list or look at it later this month or a later month. Or disregard it.

At the end of each day I spend a few moments doing tomorrow's list. I pull over any tasks that didn't get done for whatever reason. If that happens for more than a couple of days I ask myself why - does it really matter, does it need breaking down, etc. The time guesstimates help here, anything too long can be a clue.

I've learned a lot from GTD and AF/SF have moved me even further forward, but I do not get on with these capture now, process later setups because they cause me stress and lost energy as described above. I'll be interested to see Mark's new system and I hope this post is taken as I intend it - food for thought!

Chris L
September 4, 2011 at 16:11 | Unregistered CommenterChris L
Chris L:

<< Having to manage an idea through capture, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now ... dismissing, reviewing involves too many touch points for my liking. >>

You seem to be making rather heavy weather of this. My experience of the universal capture aspect of these systems doesn't equate with your description at all.
September 4, 2011 at 20:42 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It's not the universal capture, it's the capture, get back to the task in hand and process later that's the problem. I'd find it hard to believe that there hasn't been occasion when you've looked at an item, wondered what on earth you meant by it and eventually deleted it. I certainly have in GTD, SF3 and AF. It's wasted time and energy revisiting a thought, trying to get the original context, etc, instead of getting it worked out there and then. In many cases there won't be much difference, but in some cases it was a tangent of a thought that will be lost. The book system I use now is also a universal capture tool but it puts things where they need to be straight away, not just on the random page I happened to be at. It also works great as a general tickler due to the way ideas can be parked in the months pages.

I'm not labouring any points in my previous post. Simply describing accurately the process of capturing an idea, touching it up to perhaps twenty+ times (depends on page length) with it not "standing out" and having to think for a moment each time what it is, touching it again as it's dismissed, and touching it again as it's re-inserted or deleted. Too many touch points, too much fiddling, not enough doing.

I've also seen posts from people who have struggled with the idea that an item they want now is on another page but they're not officially there yet, so do they buck the system or grit their teeth and follow the rules. Either way leads to a sense of stress hanging around, and a sense that the system is not managing everything by itself after all. Which was kind of the point in the first place.

The less time you spend batting tasks around a system the more time you have to actually do them. Simplicity with context, focus on goals and frequent reviews of where you are with those goals is the key to getting them done and moving on. That's as true as it is when I'm working on a complex project at work as it is when I'm sorting out the garden.

Like I said this is my experience with the capture/process later method which I offer as food for thought. Not a mandate. Your new system sounds interesting and I'll be sure to check it out when you launch it.

Cheers,
Chris
September 4, 2011 at 22:50 | Unregistered CommenterChris L
Chris L,

<<Having to manage an idea through capture, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now, revisiting, thinking about, leaving for now ... dismissing, reviewing involves too many touch points for my liking.>>

My trajectory has been just the opposite: I went from scoffing at lists to making simple daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists much like the girl in the video, to diving into GTD out of what seemed like necessity ... I went through that "handle everything only once" phase too, and at one point I was convinced that GTD's multi-stage processing was *THE* problem, only to find that forcing myself to sort/define each item in a single gulp was an even bigger disaster.

I only tried Mark's SF out of desperation, because, frankly, it seemed at first glance like a gimmicked to-do list. It was only the intuitive "standing out" thing that got my attention, the promise of processing stuff as needed, but not *thinking* so much about it. Well, SF wasn't magic, but it sure worked better than anything else. Its highs were much higher and its lows not too bad.

As for the incremental processing, I'm finding it essential, as well as the "psychologically ready" concept. Much of what I write down needs to sit for a while before I know what to do with it, and in some cases it's suddenly done! There's no formula for when it will become clear, and forcing myself to "clarify" a bundle of arbitrary stuff in a GTD "bucket" just because I've reached the "Clarify" stage again is a recipe for prolonged unclarity and thus resistance. I even found myself resisting those accidental clarifications that come in the shower or while driving, etc., because I didn't have all my official Clarify tools out in front of me or any of my Organizing buckets to put the ideas into. Meanwhile, pre-sorting a bunch of stuff into next week just makes me pretend that I wish I were doing it now instead of the stupider-looking things on this week's list. ;->

Well, clearly, different things work for different people. I'd say your 4-month track record is impressive and a very good sign that you've found your system. Congratulations! I mean that sincerely, as I would be very happy to find something that works for 4 months, whether it uses notebooks or buckets or enchanted red shoes.

I am not sure what to think of my AF notebook right now. The page turning has slowed very much lately, and I have a stale feeling about it, although I have admittedly been in a stretch of less discretionary time, and now it is a three-day weekend. Extenuating factors, perhaps. The nice thing about it is that there won't be any trouble picking it up again, no massive review or re-syncing multiple lists and such, and I'm still writing on the open page ... so we're still in "better than pre-AF" territory. Perhaps all I need is to "start again" per nuntym's latest advice. On the other hand, a few things have happened on their own lately that make me wonder whether I got too absorbed in list-making and stifled the Pull that had been underway with the "Dreams" exercises. If so, it crept up gradually and I didn't notice until now. The jury is still out, and I will giddily dismiss them anyway when Mark's Final Version appears.

In any case, we are going to need two schools of thought here: incremental processing vs. pre-filtering. May each of us discover our better fit, as quickly as possible!
September 5, 2011 at 7:55 | Registered CommenterBernie
There's room for both, Bernie. In your situation of a stale list, I suggest creating a task to quickly scan through it for stuff that matters. Having identified those and moved them forward (effectively prefiltering) you can now continue the normal process (incremental processing), relaxed that you have the important stuff covered.
September 5, 2011 at 20:00 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Chris L:

<< I'd find it hard to believe that there hasn't been occasion when you've looked at an item, wondered what on earth you meant by it and eventually deleted it. >>

I can't say that it's never happened to me, but certainly it hasn't happened often enough for it to be any sort of problem. The trick is to write it down clearly in the first place.

I haven't looked in detail at your system, but your description of it doesn't make me think that you spend any less time thinking about tasks before doing them.
September 5, 2011 at 22:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Bernie:

<< incremental processing vs. pre-filtering >>

There is of course no conflict between the two. You can both incrementally process and pre-filter.

The problem I personally have with pre-filtering is that when one is applying the pre-filter there is a tendency to go for what one feels one _ought_ to be doing rather than what one is psychologically ready to do.
September 5, 2011 at 22:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
+JMJ+

@Chris L: <<I'd find it hard to believe that there hasn't been occasion when you've looked at an item, wondered what on earth you meant by it and eventually deleted it. >>

That has happened to me more than a few times actually, but I see that as an _advantage_, not as a disadvantage. I know myself as an intuitive person, and whatever I write in my AF, if I can remember what I meant when I read it, then I KNOW it is important enough to be remembered. On the other hand, if I cannot remember what I meant by what I wrote, then I KNOW it wasn't important anyways.

-----

@Bernie: <<In any case, we are going to need two schools of thought here: incremental processing vs. pre-filtering. May each of us discover our better fit, as quickly as possible! >>

Filtering/pre-filtering for AF systems as described by Mike and as I explained it here,

http://www.markforster.net/forum/post/1262814#item1265787

incorporates both incremental processing AND pre-filtering. It uses the observation that if you are using a paper system, then whatever you dismiss normally isn't deleted but can always be read at a later time (unless you blot it out). Here are the steps:

(1) Determine how you can distinguish individually deleted items from individually dismissed items without using a highlighter. This can be by using tags or brackets or whatever for dismissed items, and do what you usually do for deleting items.

(2) Upon writing down a task on your AF system, ask yourself if you are going to do this task in the near future or not. If yes, then leave it as it is; if not, dismiss it.

(3) Later, do regular reviews on your dismissed items (around once a week is the minimum frequency, in my experience). If you find items that you feel you can or should do within the near futre, delete the item and re-write it on your AF list.

-----

Godspeed.
September 5, 2011 at 23:08 | Registered Commenternuntym
How long do you keep dismissed items?
September 6, 2011 at 1:55 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
+JMJ+

@Alan: <<How long do you keep dismissed items? >>

Me? Usually for a month; I found that there is no practical use to let them linger for longer than that.

Godspeed.
September 6, 2011 at 6:36 | Registered Commenternuntym
+JMJ+

Hmmmm, is there a problem with editing comments in the blog? I can't seem to do it for my above post.

Anyways, Alan, I have to revise my answer above. I actually am not sure how long I let my dismissed tasks linger, probably for a few weeks. The weekly reviews, you see, are also good times to prune the dismissed tasks ruthlessly ^___^

Godspeed.
September 6, 2011 at 6:45 | Registered Commenternuntym
Mark F: "I haven't looked in detail at your system, but your description of it doesn't make me think that you spend any less time thinking about tasks before doing them."

Correct, I never claimed that I do. By doing this thinking straight away, however, I ensure that they are tickled or turned into actionable tasks to do this week and/or today, or ignored, as required. I avoid looking at an item much later (even a clearly articulated one) and wondering "What on earth was this about?"

And it's not really a system as such (and certainly not mine), it's simply a single place of capture for everything with simple lists of things that need to be done that will have the biggest payback. Sorted with a contextual slant on things that need to be done together in space or time. That alone saves a load of time because if I'm in gardening mode then there are all the gardening jobs I can get stuck into, and if I'm in very tired evening mode, there are things that only take a few minutes I can knock off.

My intuition tells me what they are; I know what will bring the greatest relief/achievement and do them. The bottom line is that if you have to complete a task you can't get started on, you have to start it. Letting it dither and "not stand out" and get dimissed and wait around a while and then get re-inserted, to repeat all over again (because it still has to be done but I don't want to do it), is not at all productive. That was my ultimate experience with AF/SF3, and less so with GTD, which became a really well-organised sea of all those things I really should get started on any time now.

GTD, AF and SF3 did teach me that I can spend as long as I want playing games with myself but if something needs doing that I need to knuckle down and get doing it, end of story. I saw the light. As a result the only "system" I now need is a cheap notebook containing a list of things that need doing, and some mental grit to do them when they're not that pleasant.

It reminds me of losing weight. In the end if you up your exercise and consume fewer calories than you use you lose weight. But despite this simple truth people have all manner of systems and diets which they think they need. They don't. They just need to knuckle down and start taking responsibility for their choices. Getting stuff done is no different.
September 8, 2011 at 20:43 | Unregistered CommenterChris L
Chris L

<< Correct, I never claimed that I do.>>

Sorry, mea culpa. Somehow I got the idea that was the entire point of your post.

<< if you up your exercise and consume fewer calories than you use you lose weight >>

The key word here of course is "if".

<< They just need to knuckle down and start taking responsibility for their choices. >>

That's a bit like saying "All alcoholics need to do is stop drinking".

Anyway you will be relieved to hear that my new system avoids all the traps which you experienced with AF etc.
September 8, 2011 at 21:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Me: if you up your exercise and consume fewer calories than you use you lose weight
Mark F: The key word here of course is "if".

Nevertheless that's the bottom line and there's no getting away from it. Things get done if you start doing them. They don't get done if they exist being pushed around in a system in lieu of getting started. I speak from experience having done just that for a long time while telling myself that I was being super productive. You allude to the action vs activity trap yourself.

I could have spent months doing the Atkins diet, or the tomato diet or WeightWatchers Points, or any diet system you can think of. While these systems might help support someone initially, in the end they mask the very simple truth of that above equation.

Me: They just need to knuckle down and start taking responsibility for their choices.
Mark F: That's a bit like saying "All alcoholics need to do is stop drinking".

Alcoholics do need to stop drinking or they will experience ongoing problems and/or die. And yes, they must take responsibility for their choices. Alcoholism is a complex addiction driven by a number of lifestyle and chemical factors and the ability for someone with this illness to recognise their problem and take responsibility is variously impaired.

Similarly with getting your stuff done some people may experience resistance due to various personality factors and their ability to recognise their problem and take responsibility is impaired. I was in that position.

GTD, SF3, AF and any other system can act as scaffolding to support someone through this process of dealing with their own goals on productivity, but as with the various diet systems above, in the end I think they cloud the issue and get in the way of the simple truths mentioned in my previous post.

That's why I've finally found peace with simple lists, loosely organised, and everything captured in that one book. It deals perfectly with around 95% of what I need. I think that's also why so many people eventually burn out with all the various systems and go ultra-simple and get on with doing stuff.

I'll be interested to read about your latest system when it's launched. I think a lot of very good ideas are batted around this site by you and the members and I'm always interested to read them.
September 8, 2011 at 23:36 | Unregistered CommenterChris L
Chris L:

Forgive me for sounding sceptical about your method. I sincerely hope it continues to work for you.

However this is a road I have often been down myself. I would love to be able to live like that, but my experience time and time again has been that it works well for a while and then descends into frustration and chaos.
September 9, 2011 at 11:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This page is a goldmine for good ideas and thinks. Starting with Mark's characteristics of an ideal system, and through various discussions of approaches to the ideal. Bookmarked.
September 15, 2011 at 12:52 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu

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