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« Final Report on No-List Autofocus | Main | 2nd Day Report on No-List Autofocus »
Thursday
Mar312016

3rd Day Report on No-List Autofocus

Started work at 8.20 am today (Wednesday).

Had routine items out of the way in time for breakfast at 9.30 am. That meant I was up to date with email, Facebook, tidying, comments, journal, calendar, blogging, moderating groups, finance, blog reading, computer housekeeping, Evernote, etc.

One thing I have to be careful of with this system. There’s a tendency - which arrived about mid-morning for me today - to say “Well, I’ve done everything I have to do today” and then to start drifting. I’ve not experienced that with any other systems, probably because I’ve seldom got to that point so early in the day!

I think this could actually be a serious problem if not addressed. Fortunately though I’m fairly confident that I know what’s causing it. It’s the fact that the dismissal rule isn’t stringent enough for this type of list.

So I’m going to change the dismissal rule to a new more activity-orientated one. Accordingly delete the present Rule 5 and insert new rule as follows:

5. At the start of each day’s work all pages which were filled with tasks more than one day ago are dismissed, together with all the tasks remaining on them. This is controlled by dating each page as soon as it has been completely filled with tasks. For example a page which was filled with tasks on March 29th is dismissed at the start of work on March 31st.

I’m also going to introduce a new rule about what happens when entering new tasks:

8. When a new task is entered at the end of the list you are only allowed to move forward and can no longer circulate through the page. This means that entering new tasks becomes a separate phase from working on old tasks. You can enter as many new tasks as you like in accordance with Rule 1, but once you have entered all you want you return to the beginning of the active list.

And a finally a new rule about where to start at the beginning of each day.

9. At the beginning of each day you start by dismissing any pages under Rule 5, then proceed from the beginning of the first remaining page.

The effect of these amendments is that progress through the list consists of three phases:

  • Dismissing pages older than one day (on first pass only)
  • Doing old tasks
  • Entering new tasks 

 

IMPORTANT AFTERNOTE

For those who are trying this out themselves, please remember that I am experimenting here and have no more idea than you have whether the new rules will have the desired effect.

Reader Comments (15)

I'm curious how this new dismissal system would work if you abandoned pages altogether (I've been testing this digitally, where pages are artificial and awkward to set up) and instead simply wrote the current date at the bottom of the list at the start of each day, like this:

1/April:
- Check Email
- Plant corn.
- Paint fence
2April:
- Check Email
- Phone mum
- ...etc

You could then dismiss all tasks more than two days old based upon the entered date. This is probably a bit stricter than page-based dismissal, but it would make implementing this digitally a *lot* easier as you wouldn't need pages any more.

I'm also a little unclear about the new rule #8. I'm guessing that this applies only to new tasks, and not re-entered (unfinished and repeating) tasks? To keep the three phases separate, how does not being able to circulate through the page ensure you keep the "entering new tasks" phase separate, with a distinct switch to "doing old tasks"? Surely at any stage you can simply stop entering (and doing) new tasks, and then cycle back to the start of the first active page to do old tasks -- and then at any stage also switch back to entering and doing a new task whenever you want. Or am I missing some extra restriction on when you start start entering new tasks?

I suspect I'll have to try these new rules out myself to see how they work -- it's just not obvious from reading them.

Thanks for these ongoing experiments!

- Erik.
March 31, 2016 at 9:20 | Unregistered CommenterErik Westra
Erik,

"Surely at any stage you can simply stop entering (and doing) new tasks,..."

Yes, sort of. You do need to get to the last page before switching mode to entering new tasks.

And when you want to work through the list, you have to make a conscious decision NOT to enter a new task but go back to the start of the list of "old" tasks. There are two distinctly different ways of selecting the next task: "what do I need to do to progress my priorities?" vs "which task on this list calls to me?".
March 31, 2016 at 9:29 | Registered CommenterWill
Erik Westra:

<< I'm curious how this new dismissal system would work if you abandoned pages altogether >>

I think it would work fine for dismissal purposes. I did it by page because that's the easiest to implement when you're using pen and paper. However the pages don't just exist for dismissal purposes. The aim is to circulate round each page until there are no more tasks you want to do in it for the time being. This is an important aspect of Autofocus which would be lost if you were just to treat the whole thing as one list.

<< Surely at any stage you can simply stop entering (and doing) new tasks, and then cycle back to the start of the first active page to do old tasks -- and then at any stage also switch back to entering and doing a new task whenever you want. >>

Yes, you can do that if you want to. You can also do any task in any order you want to by the same logic. But the question is why would you want to? The aim of the amended rule about entering new tasks is to encourage one to get into a new task frame of mind - which is encouraged by entering new tasks in batches. Under the old rules there was a tendency to enter a new task, then circulate back through the same page and do several old tasks before getting back to entering a new task. If you'd prefer to do it that way, then ignore the new rule.

I'm experimenting myself here, so you're not going to get definite answers yet!
March 31, 2016 at 10:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

I thought I understood the proposal until I read "enter new tasks in batches"

Does this mean:

- "Enter task1, do task1; enter task2, do task 2; ...enter task n, do task n; go back to beginning of list,..." (this would have been my reading in the past) or
- "Enter tasks 1-n; do tasks 1-n; go back to beginning of list" (which seems "batchier")?

Thanks,
March 31, 2016 at 11:53 | Registered CommenterWill
Will:


<< Does this mean: - "Enter task1, do task1; enter task2, do task 2; ...enter task n, do task n; go back to beginning of list,..." (this would have been my reading in the past) >>

Yes.

<< or - "Enter tasks 1-n; do tasks 1-n; go back to beginning of list" (which seems "batchier")? >>

No.
March 31, 2016 at 12:17 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I was a little confused about rule 8: "When a new task is entered at the end of the list you are only allowed to move forward and can no longer circulate through the page." But according rule 1, won't the new task will always be the last task on the list? So "moving forward" actually just means entering new tasks?
March 31, 2016 at 12:30 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Paul MacNeill:

<< So "moving forward" actually just means entering new tasks? >>

Yes. As the rule says you are now entering a separate task entry phase and when you have finished entering new tasks you return to the beginning of the list, not the page.
March 31, 2016 at 12:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

I'm finding this method a tremendously helpful extension of No-List task processing. It has all the benefits of No-List methods, yet by keeping a record of what you've already begun, it helps ensure continued progress. It's full emphasis is on recurring tasks, and unfinished tasks, which should naturally lead to solidifying systematic routines, and finishing what you started. The only other system I've ever tried that put this much emphasis on systems and finishing was AF4R, but it was susceptible to over-commitment just like any other method. I think between this new dismissal rule and the entry rule, this method promises to keep over-commitment in check!

I know this is a work in progress for you, and I appreciate that you've included all of us in the experiment. I notice that between the past few posts, the rules of the system are spreading out, which makes them visually confusing. I hope you don't mind, but I took a crack at consolidating them just to keep them straight in my own head. I thought sharing them here might help others as well. Have a look and tell me what you think. Have I adequately captured all the rules you intended, or am I off the Mark? (yes... I intended that pun. Guilty as charged.)

1. New Task Mode: At any time, go to the end of the list, add a Task, and do it now, per "Doing a Task" below. This is the only way NEW Tasks may be ADDED to the list.

2. Old Task Mode: At any time, go to the beginning of the list, circulate reading through the open Tasks on that page, and do the first Task that stands out, per "Doing a Task" below. If no Tasks stand out, proceed to the next page and repeat this step.

3. Doing a Task: Dot the Task you intend to do. Work on that Task until you feel you’ve worked on it enough for now. Re-enter the Task at the end of the list if you intend to work on it more in the next few days. Cross the dotted Task off the list by striking a line through the dot and the text of the Task itself. Continue progress through the list in the Mode you were in previously, starting from the Task you just crossed off.

4. Dismissal Mode: At the beginning of each day, write a heading for today. Dismiss all Tasks prior to yesterday’s heading.

5. Universal Conventions: If it needs doing immediately (eg: medical emergency), just do it without going into New Task Mode. If you come across a Task that is no longer relevant, you may immediately dismiss it or cross it off and continue through the list from there as normal.

Let me know what you think! Thank you Sir!
March 31, 2016 at 14:33 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Miracle:

Sounds ok to me, though 4 is a bit different from what I described. I think you are dismissing tasks, while I was dismissing pages.
March 31, 2016 at 18:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Ah, right you are! I generally dismiss the individual Tasks, and per the rules, I'll dismiss pages' (or whole days') worth of individual Tasks at a time. In the old days it was a swipe of the highlighter per dismissed task. Nowadays I have a bullet symbol I put in the space where I would otherwise dot the Task, thus visually making it un-dottable.

On that token, I notice I say something similar in Step 5, where I state that you may immediately "dismiss it or cross it off."

Thanks for your feedback! This is what I'll use for my current experiment!
March 31, 2016 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Thanks, folks, for the feedback.

Will:

<< Yes, sort of. You do need to get to the last page before switching mode to entering new tasks. >>

Really? Did I miss the rule which says this? I've been entering new tasks at any stage (switching back to "new task" mode) whenever I wanted to, no matter which "page" I'm on. I must have missed something here...

Mark:

<< However the pages don't just exist for dismissal purposes. The aim is to circulate round each page until there are no more tasks you want to do in it for the time being. This is an important aspect of Autofocus which would be lost if you were just to treat the whole thing as one list. >>

Yes, you're right, I have been treating it as one big list. Do you think it would work to treat each day's tasks as a "page" -- cycling through the tasks for each day before going on to the next day? I'm just trying to figure out how to do this with my text-file based system, where pages don't really exist. Do you think that treating each day as a separate "page" would make the pages too short to get the proper AF1-style cycling effect?

<< Yes, you can do that if you want to. You can also do any task in any order you want to by the same logic. But the question is why would you want to? The aim of the amended rule about entering new tasks is to encourage one to get into a new task frame of mind - which is encouraged by entering new tasks in batches. >>

Ah, yes, I've definitely mis-understood what you were getting at. Thanks -- I'm going to try this exactly as written today and see how it goes.

Miracle:

<< I hope you don't mind, but I took a crack at consolidating them just to keep them straight in my own head.>>

Thank you -- that's most helpful!

- Erik.
March 31, 2016 at 19:31 | Unregistered CommenterErik Westra
What I'm doing has morphed into something slightly different due to the systems I have around this. As a result my list is very focused on what I am doing now.
1) I have a planner that I schedule tasks for particular days in.
2) I have several daily routines
3) I'm very careful to write down what I am currently doing even if it's part of a routine. Although it's somewhat tedious it seems to be a key for me. E.g get coffee. Makes me stop and think is this the best thing right now.
4) I dismiss nearly every task completely once I have finished with it for that time period or day, even if it's recurrent. I'm relying on memory for the familiar routines and my planner if it's something for the future. I sometimes list my current task as "ponder where to put x task".
4) I use checks to my daily planner to ensure there isn't something there I need to do next. I think this may be why I haven't experienced the drift you describe Mark.
5) My day naturally divides into sections so I start a new list for each section of the day. I'm finding virtually everything on the previous list has been dismissed. If not I go back and refer to the matching section of the day. I'm finding the only thing so far that remains on the list are a regular task that I'm still establishing as part of a daily routine. E.g one sentence a day diary. I circle this and find this process is helping me remember, whether or not I refer back.

Overall working with this list approach has been really amazing for me. I think part of it was starting using it carefully, with parts of my day that were already fairly routinised. It's brought a freshness and connection to the present moment, and willingness to adapt to circumstances. This may still be the interest created by a new approach, so need to wait and see if it lasts.

I'd call it Gentle Focus or Flexible Focus.
March 31, 2016 at 21:40 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jane
I regret that i did'nt give a try to Autofocus, when it was introduced years back, I watched the video so many times that I even transcribed Marks every word uttered in his fine British accent, Even the InterviewerTaragb due to my viewing, started to resemble like the actress in a 'Summer of 69 MTV video' now posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF1ngJAyD_s . Even though I was convinced it was 'The System' I needed, I missed it. Reason I mentioned in
http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2579447 .

I have used AF1 for 16 days today is the 2nd day in AF1Nolist, I was having very good results with AF1 and with AF1Nolist I simply I expect no more. Knowingly or else I added a new task to the end regardless on which Page I was and restarted back from the start.

With Today's Dismissal and New Task and Day Start related amendments, I appreciate Mark's far-sighted vision and agree how prone are we to the achievement-fever. I am sure the changes would keep the system in check,

Miracle, Thank you, your words bring clarity, you reassured mr that I am on the right track, I am sure, many neo-af1's will benefit.

Above All, Thanks Mark, 'Autofocus One No List' is a work of a creativity. You are a Genius.

Glen
April 1, 2016 at 0:18 | Unregistered CommenterGlenC
One day on this system so far for me. Got a lot of small repetitive tasks done and some big things done and some ongoing projects moved forward. I like it so far.

I came of with mnemonic (using the "peg" memorization scheme) for memorizing each of the rules by number.

1 - gun. The bullet point next to the task that you do right away. Imaging creating the bullet point (dot) by shooting the page.
2 - shoe. Rewriting recurring tasks. The same task rewritten over and over down the
list is like little shoe shaped footprints down the page.
3 - tree. Doing the tasks in any order as you circulate on the page. Imaging picking up a tree (bonsai tree maybe) and touching the page. It will first touch one task and then another.
4 - door. Keeping items on the list until they are dismissed (or done). I picture closing a plastic door which is clear so you can see what is on the list but not remove it.
5 - hive. When you write the date on the top of the page, bees will start building a nest on that spot on the page and you'll have to dismiss it when it is more than one day old. More on that later.
6 - sticks. The line(s) drawn on dismissed pages are sticks. Picture drawing a realistic stick instead of just a line (or two lines).
7 - heaven. Tasks can come back from heaven (dismissed tasks) by being written as new tasks and done right away. Picture a little beam of light from heaven as the task comes down and the sound of angels.
8 - gate. When you are adding tasks, an iron gate with spikes goes up preventing you from moving back on the page.
9 - vine. Let's see... Every morning you see a vine has grown into your notebook and choked off all the bee hives so you dismiss those that need it and then the end of the vine wraps back to the first active page. Or something.
April 1, 2016 at 3:36 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Don R
Wow, "peg" memorization works, Man, I know the rules by heart, a word here & there but clear enough, story imagination is personal to everyone, what I have made up is ...

' I along with a friend who is hallucinating now and then, tuck my hand gun in my gum boots. We cross a water stream leaping on to a branch of dense tree grown on a steep eleveted cliff on the other side which is on the opposite side, we transverse the branches , plugging twigs(leaves) to clear , to reach the cliff face, a dead end, we encounter this transparent acrylic door no access just can see through it, we find a way which going steeply downwards through bushes and small trees on which is the honey hive, hungry we loot the honey hive using sticks, enjoying the honey collected, we encounter a shaman , who breaks his fast with our honey and changes our sticks to power swords which can summon the heavens for magical rays which can revive even the dead, He also fly's us to enchanted places, after enjoying we long for home and leave him, On the way back a big iron gate with spikes is between us and our world, avoiding the spikes we climb the gate to encounter devilish fast moving vines trying to stop us, over which we use our swords (sticks) to shrink them but their touch vaporise our belongings and swords. Safe back my hallucinating friend narrates his version of the happenings e.g he fantasies the gun tucking as making a dot on a task, and unplugging twigs as selecting tasks on the page and the transparent door , hive ( the tasks) which can last only two days, heavenly rays , etc .

Hope someone takes a leap into fantasy. and a makes a vivid story to make permanent Mark's New System still to be baptised in our memory
Thanks again Don and Mark, the wonderful writer,

Glen
April 1, 2016 at 8:35 | Unregistered CommenterGlenc

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