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« The Final Version Perfected (FVP) | Main | "Secrets of Productive People" now available for pre-order »

The Perfect Time Management System

For millenia the best minds in the world have been searching for the perfect time management system. Finally, after twenty years of thinking about little else (or at least that’s how it felt), I have at last managed to invent it.

I hope this will be an incalculable boon to humankind. Imagine, no more frustration at not being able to trust yourself to achieve what you want. Imagine, always being able to decide to do something and know that you will do it. Imagine, being able to unfailingly steer the optimum path through all the clashing priorities of daily life.

The system is very simple. Once you know it you will be hard pressed to think why it would take one person five minutes to think up, let alone twenty years. Yet, as far as I know no one else has ever thought of it before.

Here are a few characteristics of the system:

  • It’s a “universal capture” system, i.e. you can enter any task or project without any pre-editing or prioritizing.
  • It’s equally suitable for pen and paper or electronic means.
  • It can deal with any size list, from the smallest to the largest.
  • No matter what order the tasks are written in, it will always give you the optimum path through them.
  • It has no problem with urgent tasks.
  • It encourages “little and often”.
  • You can attend meetings and write down tasks and queries straight into the list.
  • Resistance becomes a thing of the past.
  • You can enter provisional tasks, i.e. ones you haven’t decided definitely whether to do them or not.
  • You can brainstorm straight onto the list
  • It requires no randomizers or other equipment.
  • and so on.

I’ll be writing more about this in a week or so’s time.

Reader Comments (77)

I can't wait!!!
May 8, 2015 at 13:00 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Is this the same system that will feature in your new book?
May 8, 2015 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterM R
I'm agog, too. After the Final Version, the Alternative Final Version, the Ultimate Time Management System, the Improved Ultimate Time Management System and the Simplest and Most Effective Method of All - of course I want to add to my collection!

Seriously - I really can't wait.
May 8, 2015 at 14:26 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
M R:

<< Is this the same system that will feature in your new book? >>

No, this takes a very different approach.
May 8, 2015 at 14:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Chris Cooper:

<< the Final Version, the Alternative Final Version, the Ultimate Time Management System, the Improved Ultimate Time Management System and the Simplest and Most Effective Method of All >>

I think you missed out a few question marks in the titles there, Chris. And the Final Version was supposed to be *my* final version before I turned my mind to other things (which of course I didn't and it wasn't).

But this really is the Perfect System, with no ifs, buts or other qualifications.
May 8, 2015 at 14:38 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wonder what will turn out to be the "transforming idea" that's key to this system. (As 'standing out' and 'dismissal' were for the AF family, Colley's rule and urgency were for FV, etc.)

I echo the others. I can't wait to see it!
May 8, 2015 at 16:05 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
Is this a time management system or a work processing system
May 8, 2015 at 16:57 | Unregistered CommenterD Hill
Almost makes me wish I wasn't completely satisfied with the workflow/worksheet that i've cobbled together.

Still, it's always a pleasure to see what you've got cookin' in that noggin of yours
May 8, 2015 at 18:23 | Unregistered CommenterAvrum
What a tease! Looking forward to the details.

But seriously, Mark, consider a different name. PTMS is unpronounceable. (I won't say it's not Perfect, but doubt that you will be unable to improve on the method, whatever it is.)

Consider that FV wasn't really Final, UTMS wasn't really Ultimate, AF wasn't really Automatic, etc.

We in the geek community like self-referential acronyms, so PERFECT could be a good name, e.g. Perfect Efficient Routine to Facilitate Effective Control of Time. I'll let you trademark that one, if you like it. :-)
May 8, 2015 at 18:33 | Registered Commenterubi
D Hill:

<< Is this a time management system or a work processing system >>

How would you define the difference?
May 8, 2015 at 19:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
D Hill:

<< Is this a time management system or a work processing system >>
How would you define the difference?

I guess he means will you new system will be easely manage projects or tasks ? Is it un acting system or a real method of managing yours work's tasks ?

I can't wait :-)
May 8, 2015 at 21:58 | Unregistered Commenterjupiter
This was the most perfect tease! I can't wait
May 8, 2015 at 23:55 | Unregistered Commenterbrian
If it turns out that all of the characteristics are experienced by most users of the system it will be nobel peace prize worthy.
May 9, 2015 at 0:03 | Unregistered Commenterbrian
Can hardly wait! >,<
May 9, 2015 at 1:42 | Registered Commenternuntym
Great, I am looking forward to it!
May 9, 2015 at 8:00 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb
I am fascinated that people have high expectations. What do you expect will be different for you when using Mark's new system?
May 9, 2015 at 13:28 | Unregistered Commentermichael

The excitement of something new lol.

Although I am very satisfied with how my system is right now (it does for me what Mark's Perfect system promises---universal capture, works with pen and paper or electronic, cuts through resistance, able to brainstorm, able to plan, able to handle projects, works with big or small lists, etc.) I am also curious to what Mark has cooked up and I want to see if I can incorporate some ideas into my system, or maybe even replace it totally if it really is good.
May 9, 2015 at 14:35 | Registered Commenternuntym
An "incalculable boon to humankind"? Yes, please! Very intrigued.
May 9, 2015 at 18:16 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Wofford
It's always fun when this time comes around. It's like we're all camping outside the store for the latest smartphone. I brought some S'mores but Mark can't have any unless he reveals!
May 10, 2015 at 10:25 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

"What do you expect will be different for you when using Mark's new system?"

I'm deliberately keeping my expectations low. I don't believe any system can live my life for me. But these caught my eye because of current problems in my life:

◾It can deal with any size list, from the smallest to the largest.
◾No matter what order the tasks are written in, it will always give you the optimum path through them.
◾It has no problem with urgent tasks.
◾Resistance becomes a thing of the past.
May 10, 2015 at 11:52 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
I actually had to check if it was April 1 next week :-) - and since it isn't, I'm intrigued.
May 10, 2015 at 13:26 | Registered CommenterFrank
Like Frank, I checked the date to see if it was posted on 1st April. I've just been back on the site after being away for a few weeks. Great news, Mark.
May 11, 2015 at 10:17 | Registered CommenterMargaret1
I'm interested in seeing the inevitable pattern of reactions from the denizens of the forum to any new system Mark introduces. There is critique, there are field tests, there are the tweaks, there are the anti-tweakers and the pro-tweakers, there is the cooling off period after the flurry of posts, there are cool reasoned explanations of philosophy and daily practicality, and then everything settles down and we go back to what we were doing before :)
May 11, 2015 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
How long has this been working for you, Mark?
May 11, 2015 at 16:52 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I was thinking that it's been about a week now, so Mark should be writing the next installment soon. I just checked the timestamp, and can't believe it's only been three days since he posted this! Must've refreshed the page 100+ times so far, anxious for new wisdom from the master . . .
May 11, 2015 at 17:40 | Registered Commenterubi
Wow! That's quite a list of advantages Mark. I love the anticipation of something new. Looking forward to reading about it. It doesn't even have to turn out to be perfect for me - if it's even better than the various other systems of yours I've used that would in itself be well worth diving into.

Can't wait!

May 12, 2015 at 5:36 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Gregory
I've never found anything that worked better than FV for me (though I've tried to find something that cut down on resistance). I do find that as the list grows it becomes more tedious to create a new chain. By the way, FV is a blast with Wunderlist, now that syncing works beautifully.

I'm intrigued and hopeful your new system it isn't radically different from FV.
May 12, 2015 at 6:28 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Mills
@Mike Brown:

Good point but what you describe is not anything what would be special only for Mark`s forum, but what is universal experience when dealing with anything new: testing, enthusiasm, excessive using, reactive abandoning ("anti-movement") and in the end appropriate use (or not, depending on the usability of the concept); including becoming fans, anti-fans... (e.g. Alfred Korzybski wrote about these exact stages when describing acquisition of any new meaning). But I would say that what you forgot is that this process did not end in

>>and then everything settles down and we go back to what we were doing before :)<<

but in USING the (method, advice, Mark`s tip or new meaning in Korzybski`s sense) - maybe sometimes, maybe when appropriate, maybe in individualized way, maybe integrated with previous experiences. In the end, our views and approaches how to deal with tasks/work ARE definitely CHANGED. And for me, it is the meaning of all our discussions, ideas we share, tweaks. We are not unchanged by them.
May 12, 2015 at 14:29 | Unregistered CommenterDaneb
Hope this new method helps me to be more patient while eagerly awaiting new methods!
Checking this page throughout the day isn't doing wonders for my productivity :)
May 12, 2015 at 14:43 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
This sounds exciting... I cannot wait!
May 12, 2015 at 18:50 | Unregistered CommenterNenad Ristic
New AF-list:

1. decide what goes on new AF-list
2. ummmm
May 12, 2015 at 19:32 | Unregistered Commentermichael
For those of you building up obsessive-compulsive habits by checking this site lots of times during the day, a more relaxing option is to use a web page monitor.

If you are using Google Chrome, something like this might suit you:

If you monitor this particular page: then you'll be notified also when Mark next does a new blog post
May 13, 2015 at 10:19 | Registered CommenterFrank
@Frank. Doesn't work. I have google alerts ( ) but am still here, again.
May 13, 2015 at 17:28 | Unregistered Commentermichael
Hey, some of us still use RSS feed readers...

On Monday, I was just about to plunge into GTD when I happened upon AF. I thought AF looked more promising.

Yesterday, I was ready to plunge into AF, but then I discovered FV and thought it might work a little better for me.

(I also ordered a copy of DIT to read, because the windmill of my mind demands constant grist.)

Today, I was all set to start FV, but now I see PTMS on the horizon.

What to do?
This is not helping with my procrastination habits at all! ;-)

Seriously, though, I'm starting some system this weekend, if not sooner. I have to do it while I'm still in the mood to do it. If I wait too long, I'll cool off, get distracted, and forget all about it.
May 13, 2015 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
Or just use a RSS feed reader like Reeder, feedly or whichever you prefer, and subscribe to - instant notification when the new post hits.
May 13, 2015 at 19:38 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas
JulieBulie, just pick one and start. It's easy and there's no risk: AF and FV are both better than whatever you were doing up till now. If something better comes later, it's not hard to switch.
May 14, 2015 at 17:39 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Another great one that can be started with no preparation at all is SMEMA – see

for the original instructions and FAQ.
May 14, 2015 at 18:32 | Registered Commenterubi
Thanks, Alan and ubi. I decided to go ahead with AF last night and had a usable list in no time. It's way too soon to tell how well it will work for me, but I had to start somewhere.

I did check out SMEMA, but I don't think that's the right solution for me. I really need to write everything down. I don't need to act on all of it, but keeping a list of just three things at a time virtually guarantees that I will find three other things to do instead, no matter what they are.

I have some other "systems" in place for specific situations, but I'll post about those over on the poll discussion page.
May 14, 2015 at 22:35 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
Michael wrote: "I am fascinated that people have high expectations. What do you expect will be different for you when using Mark's new system?"

When Mark introduced the original AutoFocus back in 2009 it really changed the way I approached my work. I was an enthusiastic user of AutoFocus during the spring and summer of 2009. Since then I have backed off somewhat as I have learned the pros and cons of AutoFocus for my particular circumstances. But I still come back to the system regularly, and have a list going right now actually (those timeless words: "2. Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you...").

I don't really have high expectations but Mark always seems to come up with clever and original ideas. I'm sure that at least some aspect of Mark's new system will find its way into my own workflow in some shape or form.
May 15, 2015 at 1:47 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
I have been away from this site for ages, only come back to it after I got an update about Jupiter's progress and experiences.

For the past couple of years I have been using Todoist. It has a few problems now and again, but it has an optional built-in incentive feature which encourages me often.

The recently I saw a video demo of using GTD using Todoist. Next thing I find myself reading a Kindle version of the latest edition of David Allen's book, updated and only released in the last couple of months.

Yet again I am tantalised by what Mark has up his sleeve in the next few days or so.

A luta continua.
May 15, 2015 at 12:18 | Unregistered CommenterRoger J
“I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.”

— Albert Einstein
May 16, 2015 at 9:58 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
when do you plan realease you new system ? kind regards
May 16, 2015 at 10:49 | Unregistered Commenterjupiter

The wait is unbearable. When is the keys of unlocking our productivity going to be unveiled. It seems like the new iPhone release. We are willing to wait anxiously in the iMark store.

May 18, 2015 at 2:51 | Unregistered CommenterHyagrev
For those asking "When?":

Mark said he'd write more about this in a week or so's time. This can be anywhere from a week to two weeks. Also, bear in mind, Mark did not say he was releasing the system in a week or so's time. He said he'd "write more about this", but that's all he committed to publicly.
May 18, 2015 at 3:20 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
If you look closely, you can almost read the worn button on my keyboard that used to say "F5".

But yeah, I hope he takes the time he needs to refine his new system and express it fully and clearly. I'm sure he would also prefer to post it during a time he's available (and willing, lol) to answer the initial onslaught of questions after release.
May 18, 2015 at 7:48 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel T.
> He said he'd "write more about this", but that's all he committed to publicly

I think it's a point worth emphasizing. All Mark has said is he would write more about it. That's not the same as disclosing the system. I'm sure he must have used that particular unusual wording for a reason.
May 18, 2015 at 9:04 | Registered CommenterFrank
I've only been using AF for a few days, but I'm already so happy with it (compared to anything I've ever tried before) that I feel sort of greedy for hoping that the next system will be even better.

Well, now everybody knows: I'm greedy.
May 18, 2015 at 17:59 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
Surely I'm not the only one who has considered the possibility that Mark is pulling out legs? A system that achieves all that might be too good to be true...:-)
May 19, 2015 at 2:06 | Unregistered Commenterbrett
My fear is that Mark's blog was hacked and the hacker decided to post this and will never post anything else. I don't think this is true, the post has too much detail from other systems. I do wish Mark would come along along and save me from procrastination, lethargy, laziness....
May 19, 2015 at 2:32 | Unregistered CommenterEric

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