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Think big and act small. Leslie Koch
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Catch-All Revisited

I’ve spent the last few days revisiting my old catch-all method, Autofocus (more often known as AF1 these days) to see how it feels after having spent quite a while with various no-list systems.

As I expected, the first thing that I experienced was that my list started to expand rapidly. By the third day there were seventy-four tasks and projects on the list with no sign of a slow-down in the expansion. I must admit that it was nice to have everything written down on one list, even though there wasn’t the slightest chance of getting through it all.

I did however make a major change to the rules of Autofocus for my revisit. I decided to do without both the dismissal process and the rule that at least one task must be done on each visit to a page.

These rule changes were accompanied by a big change in mental attitude. Instead of seeing each page as a list of things to be done, I saw it as a list of things from which I could choose what to do, but without any obligation to do anything. The result was that writing something on the list was no longer a commitment to do it, or even to try to do it. It was something I might do. If some tasks languished on the list without ever being done, that was absolutely fine. I refused to be concerned even if something I considered vital got passed by.

This change of attitude makes a huge difference. Strangely enough it makes Autofocus more like a no-list system because you simply have to trust your mind to come up with the right stuff at the right time.

I was expecting to find that Autofocus felt unwieldy and overwhelming after my experiences with no-list, but in fact quite the opposite has been true so far. But it’s only been a few days, and that may change.

I also have the question in my mind of whether I could have made the mental shift to a freer version of Autofocus if I hadn’t had my mind trained by using no-list systems. I don’t know the answer to that.

Reader Comments (13)

I continue no-list, out of curiosity.

I experienced a more or less stressfree AF1 or FVP, if I added the 2 simple points:

First: Dismiss tasks older than 2 weeks (according to DSAF, a tweak from AndreasE). Changing the time range (e.g. from 2 weeks to 1 month) aligns it to your current cirumstances/environment (e.g. vacation, health, laziness, ...). And keeps the list "short".

Second: Don't see your tasklist as a collection of nagging things which struggle for your attention.See it as a menue of the Pizzeria just around the corner. You probably don't want or can't eat every pizza offered. And, if you are not hungry - so what. Enjoy life free of tasks.

I think it could also be combined with 5T. Dot max. 5 tasks. Eat them and if you have enough stop and order a dessert (e.g. walk throug the forest, listen to music, meditate or better: do NOthing)
March 25, 2016 at 8:41 | Unregistered Commenterjens
Is the catch-all system to blame for your missed blogged days?
March 25, 2016 at 9:14 | Unregistered CommenterNico

<< Is the catch-all system to blame for your missed blogged days? >>

There have been ten blog posts in the past nine days. How much more do you want?
March 25, 2016 at 14:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, thanks for yet another timely post! I've been struggling with the no list method since I abandoned my catch all. I just cant seem to develop the confidence that I am capturing all of my commitments without the long list. I really like the changes to the Autofocus rules you mentioned. Autofocus is my go-to system whenever I feel I'm losing control of my tasks. I think I will give this revised version a chance. I look forward to hearing how it works out for you. Thanks again for all of your great information.
March 25, 2016 at 15:40 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
Without those two rules, is Autofocus any different than a simple open list?
March 25, 2016 at 15:51 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< I just cant seem to develop the confidence that I am capturing all of my commitments without the long list. >>

I don't think the fact that you've written your commitments on a long list means that you get any more work done. In other words, writing them on a list is one thing; actually doing them is another.
March 25, 2016 at 17:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< Without those two rules, is Autofocus any different than a simple open list? >>

With an open list you would normally scan from one end of the list to the other, doing any tasks which stood out on the way.

With Autofocus you go to one page at a time and circulate round the page until there are no more tasks you want to do on it for the time being Then you move on to the next page.

It does seem to make quite a difference - for me anyway.
March 25, 2016 at 17:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This describes more or less the way I use my DSAF tweak for a couple of years now.

Scanning the list and being attentive to what task tells me "Here! I am the right one in this moment!" (aka "standing out") is still the core of it all.
March 25, 2016 at 18:27 | Unregistered CommenterAndreasE
Mark, appologies, I was under the impression that it was one of your goals to post a daily blog post to your readers of this forum?
March 25, 2016 at 19:48 | Unregistered CommenterNico

Don't worry... It was.

I was trying to avoid giving you a straight answer!
March 25, 2016 at 21:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
My catch-all list is a safety net. I know that important things will be caught in it and not lost or forgotten

It's also an aging process. It's easier to put things on the list than to let the potentially great, wonderful, shiny, lottery-winning idea disappear. After a few days on the list it's usually banged around a bit, and much easier to put in perspective.

Yes, I'm getting better at making the decision before it goes on the list. But if at all in doubt, it goes into the safety net so it won't be lost before appropriate investigation.

A strict dismissal rule often backfires with me. If the choice is do something or dismiss it, I'm likely to do it.

(Strict dismissal in a DIT-like system is easier for me. It's quite clear that I'm saying Yes to the things that go on the day's list, rather than No to the shiny things.
March 25, 2016 at 23:19 | Registered CommenterCricket
Anytime I try Autofocus 1, I always turn it into Superfocus (Version 3) within the first 3 hours out of necessity. SuperFocus handles urgency quite well with its Column 2. I've begun experimenting here: I'm going to start by using Mark's two rule changes listed above:

• No dismissal process.
• No task must be done on a visit to a page.
March 26, 2016 at 3:52 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
I've been a SuperFocus fan for awhile, especially with new job and moving, I have a lot of urgent things that need to be prioritized. After reading about no list here, and reading the book, on some days, below my urgent list (right hand side) I write at most 5 things I want to achieve that day.
March 26, 2016 at 20:08 | Unregistered CommenterSamir

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