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« Any special recommendations for teachers? (Reader's query) | Main | An Effective "No List" System? Yes! »
Monday
Feb082016

Setting up systems (Reader's Query)

Kenny writes:

If you’re up for another article my next question would be the idea of systems and how you go about setting them up and their power. At the moment I’m working on creating systems in my life to make me more effective and efficient in my life.

There’s a good example of how to set up a new system in my earlier post What stops me from finding things quickly?

If you’re having problems with an existing system, then the first step is to examine it to see where it’s going wrong. So for instance to stop yourself from losing things the first step would be to look at what you are doing at the moment when you put things down.

My speciality is losing my glasses. When I look at what’s happening, what am I doing? I put them down anywhere without really thinking about it, And they frequently get covered by clothing, papers or files so that they can’t be seen.

This is a very simple example and more complicated systems will of course take longer. Nevertheless the basic procedure remains the same.

Ideally you should have systems ready before you need them, rather than try to put them right after they are causing problems.

As far as daily routines are concerned a “no list” system will naturally lead you into effective routines because your mind will naturally follow paths that have proved successful. For instance my routine for writing blog posts evolved effortlessly just by making small amendments to the same repealed sequence of actions each day.

Reader Comments (2)

In terms of setting up my daily systems, nothing has helped me more than Mark's 3-step "Backlog Method," first presented in his book, "Do It Tomorrow," (pg 28-30) and later posted on this site: http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2009/8/31/backlog-method.html and his "Manana Principle" ("Do It Tomorrow" Chapter 8).

It was in that second step of the Backlog Method that I applied the Manana Principle to setting up systems for routine processing of email, paper, voicemail, and work packages (of which I action many throughout my work day). Backlogs in any of these systems can utterly ruin my productivity at work. My final, overall system basically consists of a checklist of tasks I do in order, starting at the beginning of every work day.

It took me months of experimentation (read "trying and failing, and trying better, and still failing but not as bad, and trying even harder, and failing still but by a smaller margin, and on, and on..."), to develop my current systematic checklist. During that time I would come out with a revised checklist about every other week so. My backlogs would only get halfway eaten before accruing again, and I spent nearly all of my 8 working hours each day on the above routine processing.

But as of about November of last year, I've finally settled into the best routine system I've ever had at my job. Since November I've systematically slayed backlogs, and kept pace with my work in the above areas, even through the crazy pace of holiday madness! I still accrue the occasional backlog when I take a sick day from work, but again, systematically slay all such backlogs within a day upon returning to work! It usually takes me until lunchtime to complete the daily checklist, and that leaves me the second half of the day to pursue, as Mark stated in http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2016/2/6/why-no-list-systems-work.html "Tasks which I know how to do, and Questions." By freeing up this second half of the day to work on things which actually progress day to day (rather than spinning my wheels trying to keep pace with routine), I have made more progress on work projects in the past few months than I had in the previous year.

I'll stress though, that even with Mark's ideas as my Silver Bullets, the systems I now have could not have ever been "set up." They had to evolve from extended experimentation. They say that "Learning is Trial and Error. That's 1 part Trying, 1 part Erring, and 1 part Learning from it." It took me several months of Trial and Error and Learning From It to get to this point, but I haven't had to revise my routine checklist since November.

So to sum up my recommendation:
(The Backlog Method + Manana Principle) + (Trial + Error)^10 = Sturdy Systems
At least in my life.

My personal take on Mark's "No List" System ideas, is that "No List" Systems provide a record during that Trial and Error process, so as to aid in effective Learning and therefore Adaptation of your systems. Theoretically speeding up the process of evolving Sturdy Systems. In retrospect, I can certainly see how it would have helped speed up my system evolution.
February 8, 2016 at 15:29 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
In terms of setting up my daily systems, nothing has helped me more than Mark's 3-step "Backlog Method," (first presented in his book, "Do It Tomorrow," pg 28-30 and later posted on this site: http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2009/8/31/backlog-method.html ), his "Manana Principle" ("Do It Tomorrow" Chapter 8), and regular application of the DIT Audit (“Do It Tomorrow” pg 175-176 for the procedure, pg 154-157 for a deeper explanation).

It was in that second step of the Backlog Method that I applied the Manana Principle to setting up systems for routine processing of email, paper, voicemail, and work packages (of which I action many throughout my work day). Backlogs in any of these systems can utterly ruin my productivity at work. My final, overall system basically consists of a checklist of tasks I do in order, starting at the beginning of every work day.

It took me months of experimentation (read "trying and failing, and trying better, and still failing but not as bad, and trying even harder, and failing still but by a smaller margin, and on, and on..."), to develop my current systematic checklist. During that time I would apply the DIT Audit almost twice weekly, and come out with a revised checklist about every other week so. My backlogs would only get halfway eaten before accruing again, and I spent nearly all of my 8 working hours each day on processing the aforementioned routine items.

But as of about December of last year, (as I was reading "Secrets of Productive People") I've finally settled into the best systematic checklist I've ever had at my job. Since December I've systematically slayed backlogs, and kept pace with my work in the above routine processing areas, even through the crazy pace of holiday madness! I still accrue the occasional backlog when I take a sick day from work, but again, systematically slay all such backlogs within a day upon returning to work! It usually only takes me until lunchtime to complete the daily checklist, and that leaves me the second half of the day to pursue, as Mark stated in ( http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2016/2/6/why-no-list-systems-work.html ) "Tasks which I know how to do, and Questions." By freeing up this second half of the day to work on larger projects and inquiries which actually progress day to day (rather than spinning my wheels trying to keep pace with routine), I have made more progress on work projects in the past couple months than I had in the previous year.

I'll stress though, that even with Mark's ideas as my Silver Bullets, the system I now have could never have been "set up." It had to evolve from extended experimentation. They say that "Learning is Trial and Error." I say that means: 1 part Trying, 1 part Erring, and 1 part Learning from it. It took me several months of Trying and Erring and Learning-From-It to get to this point, but I haven't had to revise my routine checklist since December.

So to sum up my recommendation:
(The Backlog Method + Manana Principle) + (Trial + Error + DIT Audit)^10 = Sturdy Systems
At least in my experience.

My personal take on Mark's "No List" System ideas, is that "No List" Systems NATURALLY provide a record of what you do daily. This shows how frequently you do it, the order you do it in, how much non-routine things you fit in some days vs others – all of which allude to efficiencies that aren’t apparent when mucking through it all. This contextual perspective, applied during the Trial and Error process I mentioned above, should greatly help the Learning-From-It, and therefore the overall Adaptation of your systems. Theoretically this would increase the speed and ease of evolving Sturdy Systems. In retrospect, I can certainly see how having such a record would have aided the DIT Audit immensely, and so sped up the evolution of my system.
February 11, 2016 at 14:24 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle

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