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« Dotting Power | Main | The Productive Day Challenge »
Tuesday
Jun092015

Follow Up to the Productive Day Challenge

The purpose of yesterday’s Productive Day Challenge was not to show how superior I am to other people. I am naturally disorganised, lazy and procrastinating - and I have no godlike powers of any sort. Far from it.

The purpose was to show how much one person can achieve in a day using a powerful time management system. And the message is that anyone can do the same if they use exactly the same methods as I did. You can easily verify it for yourself by writing out a similar list and putting the methods to work. But you do need to use exactly the same methods. I’m not claiming that the methods I used are the only methods that can achieve the same sort of results, but what I am saying is that if you use any variation whatsoever on what I did then you are not using the methods I used to achieve the results.

Apart from a couple of items, everything I wanted to achieve during the day was already on my normal everyday list, which has about 60-70 tasks on it. I worked off this list in the normal way. So I did not make any special preparations for the Productive Day, nor did I work in any way different from a normal day.

During the day I did not feel any resistance or sense of pressure. I just carried on working the system according to the rules. When I wrote the definition of what would make me consider the day to have been productive, I had a pretty good idea already of how much I could do in a day. So I had no real doubts that I could get everything on the list done. At the end of the day I didn’t feel tired or exhausted. I felt just the same as I feel at the end of a normal day. In fact this was a normal day.

Things I didn’t do

I didn’t bother to ask the question mentioned in the rules. Experience is showing that it’s quicker and just as effective to select the tasks without asking the question. Just go for what feels ready to be done.

I did not use electronic means. Paper and pen is faster and has less administrative overload.

I did not use any special markings or groupings. These all add to the administrative overload - better off without them.

I didn’t worry about finishing. I knew that the list was within my capability, so I just relaxed and got on with it.

I didn’t let “inbox zero” slip. Building up backlogs is the best way of bogging yourself down. I emptied all “inbox” tasks (email, Evernote, paper, comments, and doing the dishes) multiple times during the day.

I didn’t try to mark up (“dot”) too many tasks at once. The fewer the dots the more flexible the list.

I didn’t confine myself to what was on the Productive Day list. I actually did quite a lot of other tasks as well. I also exceeded my target amount for several tasks which were part of the Productive Day.

Reader Comments (20)

Mark, despite what you say about an ordinary day it does look impressive. My post is to ask a question. By taking out the question you are going back to the "item that stand out" approach, are you not losing the algorithm you have discussed and it is now in effect AF1? Even if you don't ask yourself a question are you not still comparing what stands out next with the previous task with a dot? I say that on the basis that my favourite system is AF1 but modified to deal with urgent items. Happy to share that system but my post is really to get my head round the loss of the algorithm and its benefits by not asking the question (or have I got it wrong?)

Regards
Skeg
June 9, 2015 at 14:12 | Unregistered Commenterskeg
skeg:

<< despite what you say about an ordinary day it does look impressive >>

It is impressive, but that's what an ordinary day is like for me now.

<< By taking out the question you are going back to the "item that stand out" approach, are you not losing the algorithm you have discussed and it is now in effect AF1? >>

I agree it's moved more towards AF1 and away from FV/FVP, but there are still some important differences:

1. Tasks are pre-selected, rather than being selected one by one as in AF1.

2. The selection method operates in a quite different way from AF1. AF1 proceeds page-by-page from beginning to end of the list. The new method is much more flexible.

3. The sequence of selection is exactly the same as in "question" FVP.

<< Even if you don't ask yourself a question are you not still comparing what stands out next with the previous task with a dot? >>

Maybe. The key is that you are not doing it consciously.

<< my favourite system is AF1 but modified to deal with urgent items >>

Because every task done is followed by a scan to the end of the list, the new method can cope with urgent items without any problem at all.

The method feels much less constrained and much faster than AF1.
June 9, 2015 at 14:29 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

I feel that perhaps your ability to not ask the comparative question is because it has become subconscious for you. As some one very new to your work and books, I found that not asking the question completely derailed me yesterday and it turned into a day of overwhelm... until I returned to the question of what do I want to do more than x. Whittling the list down to that single item of what I most wanted to do on the list was the only thing that got me unstuck. Otherwise, everything was jumping out at me screaming for attention. I believe the question is VERY important for a beginner like me
June 9, 2015 at 14:31 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
Brent:

It's difficult to give advice on this without knowing more about how you went about working the list without a question. It may simply be the case that you tried it out with too long a list. I don't know.

You might want to try it again with a fresh list that you build up in the way suggested in the FVP instructions. Overwhelm can be very easily caused if you have a long list and are not too sure what's hiding in it. On the other hand building up the list gradually in an organic way means you have a mental grip on its contents.

And when it comes to dotting tasks, few is definitely better than many. If you pre-select too many tasks the list becomes inflexible and your scans become very short. Try never to have more than 5 dots in the whole list. That's an arbitrary figure but it's a good guide.

As far as the question is concerned, I don't ask it subconsciously. I don't ask it at all. I use the old "standing out" method from AF1 (and many subsequent systems). It can take some people a while to get used to that. When AF1 first came out I spent ages trying to explain what it meant to people who just couldn't "get it". Others had no problem at all understanding it.
June 9, 2015 at 14:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Great post and comments, thanks for writing them, Mark.
June 9, 2015 at 15:38 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Hi Mark, I'm not necessarily looking for advice or challenging what works for you. I was simply commenting that for now, the question works better for me than not asking the question. As the original FVP algorithm relies on the question, I thought the comment I made earlier might be helpful for others to not feel obligated to jump to the newer question-less algorithm before they are ready.

In the last month or so, I purchased and read your two latest books on my Kindle and along with this blog have enjoyed very much learning some new ways to think about managing my work.

Keep the thoughts and ideas coming and thank you very much for your writings.

Brent
June 9, 2015 at 15:53 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
Brent:

<< I'm not necessarily looking for advice or challenging what works for you. >>

In that case I'll make it generic advice for anyone trying out the system:

1. Start a new list and build it up gradually.

2. Don't select too many tasks in one go. Few is better than many.

3. Give yourself time to get used to it. You don't learn to ride a bicycle in one day.
June 9, 2015 at 16:14 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks Mark it is very interesting. I think you got something like you did with AF1. As Einstein said "simplicity is the ultimate degrate of sophistication"

I like reading this forum and experimenting too. I noticed that each time I tried to organize things with groups or contexts or color or ... :-) as you saw I have a lot of imagination LOL :-) it was... a desaster.

Organization is crucial. A good system can lead us to success or failure. After years of reading you 2 systems were fine with me. One was AF1 the secont was AF4 the new AFP (if you call it like this) may be the perfect time management system. But I will have to build a perfect simple organizational system around !
June 9, 2015 at 21:41 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Thank you, Mark! I started this no-question version of FVP (AFFVP?) during the weekend, and it worked very well for me - except that I'd like it to exert more pressure on the items near the beginning of my list.

(By "more," I mean "more pressure than it exerts now," not "more pressure than it exerts on the items at the end." I just want to even it out a little. AF1 is better for that. But no-question FVP really is perfect for those times when it's logistically impossible to act on something from every active page.)
June 9, 2015 at 22:55 | Unregistered CommenterJulieBulie
Brent/Mark

I am also still asking the question. Too many tasks stands out and I think it adds admin overhead to think if you have now marked too many items.

I do use the new algorithm of Mark, by doing the last dotted item and then scanning down for other items. My scanning down is just based on the want question rather than trying too see what is standing out. Worked very good for me today!

Mark, I have also broken my items down quite a bit and touched a large number of items today. Almost the same as I did in a week last week.
June 10, 2015 at 10:57 | Unregistered CommenterNico
JulieBulie:

<< it worked very well for me - except that I'd like it to exert more pressure on the items near the beginning of my list. >>

I've not found this to be a problem. I've done the first 262 items on my list without any resistance.

Two tips:

1) Don't pack your list with all the stuff you failed to do with previous methods. Start a new list and build it up gradually as stuff comes up or occurs to you.

2) Don't dot too many items at a time.

You can exert pressure on the earlier tasks simply by not dotting any more tasks when you scan.
June 10, 2015 at 11:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Nico:

<< Too many tasks stands out and I think it adds admin overhead to think if you have now marked too many items. >>

Your mind already knows it's dotting too many tasks. Just tell it to dot less tasks. You don't need to think about it while you're doing it. It's incredibly easy.

Take this list:

23
46
24
90
94
66
12
56
00
02
87
23
24
06
53

I want you to choose a lot of numbers from it. Write down the ones you've chosen.


Now take this list:

12
16
06
09
93
56
01
43
60
34
87
23
21
69
11

I want you to choose a few numbers from it. Write down the ones you've chosen.

Are there less numbers on your second selection? I hope so.

It's as easy as that!
June 10, 2015 at 11:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, I get your point. Will give it a go..
June 10, 2015 at 12:17 | Unregistered CommenterNico
Nico:

<< Mark, I get your point. Will give it a go..>>

Good luck!
June 10, 2015 at 12:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
One thing I've learned from looking at Mark's lists is to list repeating daily cleaning tasks explicitly. I formerly had a bunch of stuff hived off in a separate list, with tasks such as "do cleaning" in my main to-do list.

That would work for many people, but it wasn't working for me.
June 10, 2015 at 13:38 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Hello Mark,

many thanks for your new system. I've been trying to use it and I really like the idea of one daily list with everything on it, where I can dot things according to preference. I've tried it and it works for me (at least what I've understood of it!) so I want to continue using this system & become more familiar with it. ut I'm afraid I'm confused about the following aspect. If I move through my dots (not many) and down to the end of the list, I can't really understand--despite having read your instructions a few times--how I go back up the list again. So let's say I finish the last dotted item on my list (or part of it). How then do I go back up? Do I go right at the start of the list & create new dots or just work upwards on the dots already marked? Am hoping for some clarification on this, if possible!

best wishes
Maria
June 22, 2015 at 7:23 | Unregistered CommenterMaria
After doing the last selected task, you scan down. If you don't find anything to do now among those, then you go UP to the next-last dotted task. Also, read Mark's article on dotting power.
June 22, 2015 at 17:23 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Maria:

It's actually very simple. Just keep circulating through these two steps:

1) ACTION STEP: You always do the last dotted task on the list. Cross it out when you've finished working on it. Then do Step 2).

2) SCAN STEP: Scan forward from the task you've just crossed out and dot any tasks that stand out between it and the end of the list. There may of course be none. Then go back to Step 1).
June 22, 2015 at 22:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

After step 1, do you glance at the next dotted step to "set" your mind for the scan step?
June 26, 2015 at 10:26 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Will:

Usually I don't. But there's nothing to stop anyone doing so if they feel it works better for them.
June 26, 2015 at 10:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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