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« Fast FVP - An Example | Main | The Same Old Thing »
Tuesday
Dec272016

How to Do The Same Old Thing

I’ve been working on a simple system to keep myself doing the same old thing(s), and new ones, as mentioned in my previous artice. What I’ve some up with is very simple indeed - almost as simple as you can get - but so far very effective. It’s worked well over the Christmas period when normal routines always get disrupted, with the additional factor that the radio- and chemotherapy has depressed my energy levels.

Basically it’s just a catch-all list which you circulate around from beginning to end over and over again, doing tasks as you feel they are ready to be done. Tasks are entered and re-entered as necessary at the end of the list.

The trouble with a simple scan of the entire list is that it’s only too possible just to skip over the difficult tasks and do only the easy trivial stuff.

To prevent this there is one additional rule:

You can’t pass over more than nine active tasks.

Or to put it another way, if you’ve passed over nine active task you have to do the tenth.  However you do get a chance to re-assess the tasks you’ve passed over.

You achieve this as follows:

  1. When you start scanning, count “one, two, three… ” as you come to each active task.
  2. If you reach “ten” without having selected a task for action, then reverse direction and count back again “one, two, three…” (Make sure Task 10 counts as “one”, or you’ll go back one task too far).
  3. If you reach “ten” on the reverse scan without having selected a task for action, reverse direction again and as before count each active task as you come to it. But this time if you don’t select a task for action you have to delete it. You continue to delete tasks until you have either taken action on a task or reached “ten” again.
  4. Then start scanning again as in 1.

When you reach the end of the list go directly to the beginning of the list without interrupting your count. Don’t add any new tasks while you’re doing this or you’ll confuse the count if you have to do a reverse count.

Reader Comments (15)

Gosh, looks a bit complicated. I think I would prefer using a randomizer to work my way around a list of commitments.

Would you re-create the list every day on no-list principles, Mark?

Hope everybody here had a good Christmas - I certainly did!
December 29, 2016 at 11:19 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
I used this system for a day and found it to be similar in feel to The Random Method. It has that addictive quality to it.
December 30, 2016 at 18:05 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Chris Cooper:

<< Gosh, looks a bit complicated. >>

Have you tried it? It's not actually at all complicated. If it sounds complicated it's only due to my limited powers of description.

<< I think I would prefer using a randomizer to work my way around a list of commitments. >>

It's not at all like a randomizer. You have control over what tasks are selected for action. With a randomizer you have none.

<< Would you re-create the list every day on no-list principles, Mark? >>

It was designed, as I said, to "do the same old thing" so no, I wouldn't.
December 31, 2016 at 0:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This seems to be systematic and fast. But flexible?
December 31, 2016 at 11:34 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
@Mark Forster

No, I haven't tried it yet. Apologies for a rather unconstructive comment.

New Year's resolution: delay before posting!
December 31, 2016 at 12:26 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Love the concept of the double-back loop (or whatever you "TM" it :-).

I can almost hear the Daleks spinning up to say "exterminate! exterminate!" as I prepare for the third time through a block of 10 tasks!
January 2, 2017 at 17:24 | Unregistered Commenterbryane
I started using this system today, it has worked very well! It is simple to do as well. I hope you are doing ok Mark, best wishes.
January 3, 2017 at 14:14 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
Have you considered bringing in time limits to deal with the resistant tasks? It's one of the techniques from Get Everything Done that I often return to. As I move back up through the chain in the two question version of FVP, I've been asking myself: would I be willing to work on this for just five minutes? I can almost always convince myself to make progress.
January 5, 2017 at 14:49 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
So with this, Fast FVP is laid aside? Seemed so promising.

Somebody looking for a simpler description of this one:
1. Scan through the next 10 tasks until you find one you will do now.
a. Stop scanning as soon as you find one.
b. If you didn't find one, go back and forth over these 10 until you find one.
c. If scanning takes you past the end of the list, wrap around counting to include the first.
2. Do that task. Cross it out. Rewrite at end if you intend to repeat later.
3. Go to 1, continuing from the task you finished.

Reminds me of that old post, http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2008/11/17/the-simplest-time-management-method.html , which method morphed into Autofocus. Just this '10' is new.
January 5, 2017 at 15:45 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
I didn't see it like that. I was dotting as usual just making sure there wasn't a 10 task gap. There might be something urgent after the 10th task, so why stop and do 10.
January 6, 2017 at 0:56 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Alan Baljeu:

<< So with this, Fast FVP is laid aside? Seemed so promising.>>

I'm using Fast FVP myself at the moment. So no, it hasn't been laid aside.

<< b. If you didn't find one, go back and forth over these 10 until you find one. >>

You left out the part about deleting tasks in my para. 3.

<< which method morphed into Autofocus. Just this '10' is new. >>

Actually that method is much more like DIT than Autofocus, though later on AF4 was similar. It's not much like this present method.
January 6, 2017 at 6:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Erin:

<< I didn't see it like that. I was dotting as usual just making sure there wasn't a 10 task gap. >>

The method I describe in this blog post is not based on FVP so there's no pre-selection of tasks. You do each selected task immediately.

<< There might be something urgent after the 10th task, so why stop and do 10. >>

The point of the 10 is to put pressure on you to do the more difficult tasks, which you might not otherwise get around to.

If you get an urgent task which can't wait until you reach it in the normal course of scanning the list, then do it immediately.

However if you find that the way you are doing it at the moment works well for you, stick with it.
January 6, 2017 at 7:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks for the clarification Mark. I get it now, just do it!
Good way to clear out my digital catch all list.

My paper list is in a three column format (old Modori calendar). I feel the pull to finish the stragglers in each column with FVP fast.
January 6, 2017 at 16:23 | Unregistered CommenterErin
...An update after 8 days - this system is so far working really well for me. My list is kept short and I'm keeping backlogs down. It is a very simple system to use too.
January 16, 2017 at 16:58 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
Leon:

I'm glad to hear it's working for you. I've been off on other tacks recently but I intend to go back to this for a while.
January 17, 2017 at 15:11 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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