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« Two Interesting Articles | Main | Willpower and Time Management - I »

Testing the New System - Update

Although the latest version of the new system worked splendidly over most of last week, it was beginning to falter by Friday. What I really mean of course is that I was beginning to falter. I can’t blame it all on the system!

It may be that I was just ignoring my own advice, repeated many times over the years, that there will come a time with every system when you get heartily sick of it. The remedy is to stop hammering away at it and instead take a short break.

But I think that at least part of the problem is that I haven’t yet quite achieved the right balance in the system. By balance I mean that the system must both process the easy routine tasks (which are often easy precisely because they are routine) with the new more challenging tasks that haven’t yet been made into routines (and in some cases never will be).

When the balance goes wrong, both of these are impacted adversly. For example my established routine for exercise collapsed as did my not-as-yet-routined plans for marketing a local association.

Today I’ve been picking up the pieces. I’ve made a few adjustments to the way the system works and will continue testing. But I think I won’t tempt fate by making it public again for a while yet!

Reader Comments (15)

Thanks for the update, Mark. We continue to wait with bated breath the productivity system that will solve all our productivity problems. (That was your promise, was it not?)
March 14, 2016 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterTom

You already have that, in the shape of my book "Secrets of Productive People". The time management system I'm working on is merely the icing on the cake!
March 15, 2016 at 1:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hey, Mark, how did you know I was reading "Secrets of Productive People"?!
Great book! I am loving it!
March 15, 2016 at 1:47 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Thanks for the update Mark. I will be buying your book as I have sampled the preview from Play Books
March 15, 2016 at 6:03 | Unregistered CommenterChino
Could it be that the system will just work best on a kind of rotation. i.e. 4 days On 2 days Off; 3 days On 1 day Off. ?

I'm not sure there ever could be a system which works all every day without hitting various humps in the road. I would LOVE to be proved wrong on that, however!
March 15, 2016 at 12:03 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

<< Could it be that the system will just work best on a kind of rotation? >>

Try it and see with whatever system you are using at the moment. Let us know the result!
March 15, 2016 at 13:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
When I first read Do it Tomorrow, I thought I found the Socrates of time management. Concepts like replacing open to-do lists with closed will-do lists,"little and often" to make sure that projects get done on time, defining what a day's work is, and making sure you can do today's work before attempting to clear the backlog all these sounded so revolutionary. And yet, inexplicably, you seemed to have abandoned most of these concepts (ok, maybe you haven't, but your more recent methods appear to have ignored them). What the new systems have is an open list that is neither a to-do list nor a will-do list. Little and often? Only if you build it in your list. A day's worth of work is no longer defined. In short, whatever I thought was revolutionary and helpful is all gone in the post-Do-it-tomorrow systems. Pity. I still keep checking hoping that perhaps one day you would go back to your earlier system and strengthen your unique contributions to time management.

I can't be too critical though. After all,it seems that I am the only person who is less than happy with the new systems. If the new systems work for others, it's great. As for me, I still hope that one day you will come back to DIT system, refine it and extend it. How many time management systems does one really need anyway?
March 15, 2016 at 18:45 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
Chuck - I for one still use a form of the Do it Tomorrow closed list system along with the 5T list. So I have ignored the advice to not have a bigger list feeding the 5Ts - except that often I don't put a whole task from the bigger list on the 5T list, but a smaller component. Like you, I still find the closed list great for getting a better sense of a day's work and not becoming overloaded. I don't see them as being incompatible.

The point of the 5T list is just as a bit of an aid in maintaining the flow of tasks during the day, and I often play around with different ways of feeding it from the bigger list, which helps to keep it fresh. You can use ideas from the various Focus/Final Version systems, choose at random, or whatever. Since the bigger list is itself closed (on a particular day) and I aim to get through it all, the order is ultimately not that important - just whatever helps you through it.

From time to time the closed list starts to grow from day to day as I fail to get through it all in one day - and I take that as a signal to stop taking on any more work until I have got it back to a day's work. That, it seems to me, is the main point of Do It Tomorrow.
March 15, 2016 at 23:04 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Neil: << Could it be that the system will just work best on a kind of rotation? >>

Mark: "Try it and see with whatever system you are using at the moment. Let us know the result!"

Good thinking. Actually, in a way that's been what's happening with me. I'm using 5T (which incidentally is so far the best of all systems I've tried) and it seems every, say, four days I hit the skids a little bit. I've found that just stepping back for a few hours or up to a day leaves me feeling nicely primed to re-engage.
March 16, 2016 at 9:45 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

<< How many time management systems does one really need anyway? >>


Just like you need one car. But do you object to other models of car being available?
March 16, 2016 at 15:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I agree with Chuck that I found the methods outlined in Do It Tomorrow to be the most useful for time management - it's a brilliant book that I keep coming back to!

I've adapted some of the methods a little- sometimes I use 'Do It Next Week' and tell people "I won't be able to do that until next Tuesday". This is because I've been working on theming my days, so if the thing being asked about is what I do on Tuesdays, then, unless it's really urgent then I'll do it the next time Tuesday rolls around.

I'm also not as strict with keeping the lists closed - I just like to manage them so that I have a zero task list at the end of each day. Usually I will build some slack into what I plan to do so that I can fit odd jobs in throughout the day.
March 16, 2016 at 21:55 | Unregistered CommenterDAZ

<<But do you object to other models of car being available?>>

Good question Mark. It’s just that I think different thought processes lead to different systems. In my view, your thought processes on time management led to one of the most brilliant systems of all time: “Do it Tomorrow”. I think of time management as car and thinkers such as yourself as models of car. To continue your analogy, I don’t object to different models (thinkers) of cars (time management). I am somewhat confused about the same model coming in different shapes and sizes when they don't even resemble the first one.

In any case, I don't object to anything. As I said in my initial post, if it works for others, so be it.
March 17, 2016 at 15:14 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

How do you think that Do It Tomorrow got developed? By ceaseless experimentation.

That's basically what I'm doing on this website - only nowadays I like to keep those who are interested updated with what I'm up to. It also gives me a lot of feedback which I no longer get from running courses and seminars.
March 17, 2016 at 15:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Mark Forster
> I’ve made a few adjustments to the way the system works and will continue testing. But I think I won’t tempt fate by making it public again for a while yet!

I've lost track a bit, Mark. Should we expect a report on this system, or has it been superseded by your experiments with No-list Autofocus?
April 8, 2016 at 21:50 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Chris Cooper:

<< Should we expect a report on this system >>

I'm getting there!
April 9, 2016 at 8:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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