The Final Version Perfected (FVP)
Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 11:58
Mark Forster in Articles, FVP

This is an amended version of the instructions for the Final Version (FV) time management system. It contains an improved algorithm and a new question.

(Chinese Traditional version by Catus Lee - external site)
 
Introduction
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Here are the long-awaited instructions for the Final Version Perfected (FVP) time management system. I don’t know if it’s the best time management system ever devised. What I do know is that it is the best time management system that I have ever used myself. It’s shown itself to be even more resilient, responsive and quick than the Final Version.


FV and now FVP are based on my earlier time management systems, particularly the extensive range of AutoFocus and SuperFocus systems developed over the last five years. These were unique in that they were constantly developing with the assistance of a large band of commenters on my web-site. Anyone who has tried one or more of these systems will recognize the strong family resemblance that they have with FV and FVP. The most striking resemblance is that they are all based on one long list (either paper or electronic) which can be used to capture just about every possible action that springs into one’s mind. There is a minimum of special markings or annotations.Such a list depends on an effective algorithm to process it. There are three main requirements which have to be kept in balance. These are urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Traditional time management systems have tended to concentrate on the first two of these. The neglect of psychological readiness is probably the reason that most people don’t find time management systems particularly effective or congenial.The most distinctive feature of FVP is the way that its algorithm is primarily based on psychological readiness - this then opens the way to keeping urgency and importance in the best achievable balance.
 

The FVP  Algorithm
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The FVP algorithm uses the question “What do I want to do more than x?” to preselect a chain of tasks from the list. What exactly is meant by “want” in this context is deliberately left undefined. There may be a whole variety of reasons why you might want to do one thing more than another thing and all of them are valid.The chain always starts with the first unactioned task on the list. Mark this task with a dot to show that it’s now been preselected. Don’t take any action on the task at this stage.This task then becomes the benchmark from which the next task is selected. For example, if the first task on the list is “Write Report”, the question becomes “What do I want to do more than write the report?” You move through the list in order until you come to a task which you want to do more than write the report. This task is now selected by marking it with a dot and it becomes the benchmark for the next task. If the first task you come to which you want to do before writing the report is “Check Email”, then that becomes the benchmark. The question therefore changes to “What do I want to do more than check email?”As you continue through the list you might come to “Tidy Desk” and decide you want to do that more than checking email. Select this in the same way by marking it with a dot, and change the question to “What do I want to do more than tidying my desk?”. The answer to this is probably “nothing”, so you have now finished your preselection.The preselected tasks in the example are:

Write report
Check email
Tidy desk

At this point “Tidy Desk” represents the task you most want to do at the moment. Do it.
Note that as in all my systems, you don’t have to finish the task - only do some work on it. Of course if you do finish the task that’s great, but if you don’t then all you have to do is re-enter the task at the end of the list.

Now what are you going to do next? “Check email” is the previous task you selected, but that isn’t necessarily the task you most want to do. What you can say though is that it was the task you most wanted to do up until you selected “Tidy Desk”. This means that you only need to check the tasks that come after “Tidy Desk” in the list.

So what you do next is to ask yourself “What do I want to do more than check email?” again, but you check only the tasks which come after the task you have just done (Tidy Desk).

Once you have worked your way back to the first task on the list and done it (this may never happen!), you take the next unactioned task as your root task.

That’s it! You’re now ready to go. Everything else is further examples and explanation.



A Longer Example
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In this example for ease of understanding no new tasks are added while working on the list. This of course is unlikely in real life. Your initial list of tasks:


Email
In-Tray
Voicemail
Project X Report
Tidy Desk
Call Dissatisfied Customer
Make Dental Appointment
File Invoices
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Back Up  
 
Put a dot in front of the first task:  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
  Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do more than Email?”
 
You work down the list and come to Voicemail. You decide you want to do Voicemail more than Email. Put a dot in front of it.  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do more than Voicemail?” You decide you want to tidy your desk.  
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
There are no tasks you want to do more than tidying your desk, so you have the following dotted tasks:
 
Email
Voicemail
Tidy Desk
 
Do the Tidy Desk task.
 
Your list will now look like this:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up
 
Now start again from Tidy Desk (i.e. the last task you did). and ask yourself “What do I want to do more than Voicemail?”  The only task you want to do more than Voicemail is Back Up. Do it.
 
The list now reads:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
There are no further tasks beyond Back Up, so there is no need to check whether you want to do any tasks more than you want to do Voicemail. You just do it.


The list now reads:


· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
 
There is only one dotted task left on the list and that is Email. You now need to check whether you want to do any of the tasks more than Email. So ask the question “What do I want to do more than Email?” You already know that you want to do Email more than In-tray, so you start scanning from the first task after the task you have just done (Voicemail).
 
You decide you want to do Make Dental Appointment more than you want to do Email, so you dot it and change the question to “What do I want to do more than Make Dental Appointment”. The answer is “Discuss Project Y”. As this is the last task on the list you do it immediately, and then do Make Dental Appointment immediately too. There’s no need to scan because you already know that you want to make the dental appoinment more than you want to file invoices.
 
The list now reads:
 
· Email
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
· Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
· Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
 
So the tasks on the original list have been done in the following order so far:
 
Tidy Desk
Back Up
Voicemail
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Make Dental Appointment
 
These tasks have been done in the exact order of what you want to do most at the time. There may be a huge number of factors affecting what you want to do most, but you can allow your brain to sort them out for you below the level of consciousness simply by asking the question “What do I want to do more than x?” and applying it in the way shown above.
 
 If you are having trouble following the example above, then I suggest you write the list out on paper and work through it by hand.
 

Additional Tips  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The best way to sink any time management system is to overload it right at the beginning. FVP is pretty resilient, but at this stage you aren’t. So build up the list gradually. My advice is to start off with the tasks and projects that are of immediate concern to you right now, and then add more as they come up in the natural course of things.Tasks can be added at any level, e.g. Project X, Plan Restructuring, Call Pete, Tidy Desk.


If at any stage you find that a task on the list is no longer relevant, then delete it. If you find that your preselected list is no longer relevant (e.g. if you have had a long break away from the list or some new factor has come into play), then scrap the preselection and reselect from the beginning. [Afternote July 3rd - I now don’t do this. I simply cross out any tasks which need re-prioritizing and re-enter them at the end of the  list.]


If one or more very urgent things come up, just write them at the end of the list and the algorithm will automatically select them next (assuming you do actually want to do them of course). Similarly if something already on the list becomes very urgent, then just cross it out and move it to the end of the list.Remember that the aim of any time management system is to help you to get your work done, not get in the way of doing your work. So don’t be afraid to adjust priorities as and when you need to. However don’t overdo this - stick to the rules when possible as they will ensure you deal with your work in a systematic way.
 
Why It Works
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At the beginning of this article I said there were three factors which every time management system needs to address: urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Let’s see how FVP deals with each of these.


Urgency. Because of the nature of the preselection process, urgent tasks tend to get selected because generally speaking the human brain wants to do things that it knows are urgent. If things come up that are particularly urgent they can be added to the preselected list at any time.

Importance. Generally speaking the human brain is a bit less keen on doing important stuff than it is on doing urgent stuff. This is particularly the case when the important stuff is difficult. However the FVP preselection process ensures that the entire list is kept under continuous review and your brain will start to flag up that it wants you to get on with stuff it thinks you might be neglecting. If this doesn’t happen, then it’s likely to be because you would be better off getting rid of it altogether.

Psychological Readiness. This is where FVP really enters new dimensions. By using a pre-selection process, the brain is softened up towards the selected tasks. But this isn’t all. The selection process is based on what you want to do. This colours the whole preselected list so that even tasks which seem like chores get affected.

Article originally appeared on Get Everything Done (http://markforster.net/).
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