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« Doing Everything? | Main | My Current No-list System »
Tuesday
May102016

A Variation on My Current No-List System

This is a variation on the system I wrote about yesterday. It’s what I use when I’m not using the other. I’ve never been able to decide which is better, so I tend to switch between them when I feel like it. As I’ve said before there is no real penalty in switching from one no-list system to another.

This system works in very much the same way as yesterday’s but has a rather more rigid structure.

Like the other it’s also fast, effective, flexible and thorough but in a slightly different way. You really have to try both to appreciate the differences - so I’m not even going to try to describe them!

Just as in the other system entry for new tasks is without a buffer, ie. a task is done immediately after it is entered on the list.

The differences in the rules are as follows:

  1. There is an entry phase and a follow-up phase.
  2. In the entry phase you can enter as many new tasks as you like in succession, re-entering them  as necessary at the end of the list. During the entry phase this will always be on the following line.
  3. Tasks are re-entered if they are likely to be required again the same day, regardless of whether there is any work to be done on them at the moment.
  4. In the follow-up phase all open tasks above the last crossed out task are worked on again in the order they are written and re-entered at the end of the list if necessary. When all the tasks have been worked on you go back to the entry phase.
  5. If there is no work to be done in a task (e.g. no more email has arrived) it is crossed out and re-entered.

The list should be started afresh each day.

Reader Comments (24)

Mark, good to see you are back to a new system being published every day! Used the other system yesterday, worked well (I posted on it) and planned to use today until I saw this variation. I am a little confused re entry and follow up etc. Would it be possible to do a little list on how it works as you did for the system yesterday ie

email
write report
tidy up
phone calls etc etc

This would make it clearer in my mind at least and would be very much appreciated.
May 11, 2016 at 8:44 | Unregistered Commenterskeg
Mark, Skeg

I find that writing down my best guess is the best way to learn so here's my take on how to address skeg's task list. This doesn't start with the list, but assumes that when each decision point comes, the next decision is the one he gives,

Entry phase:

email

Do email:

<s>email</s>
email

Decide to work on report

<s>email</s>
email
write report

Work on report

<s>email</s>
email
<s>write report</s>
write report

Decide to tidy up

<s>email</s>
email
<s>write report</s>
write report
tidy up

Tidy up

<s>email</s>
email
<s>write report</s>
write report
<s>tidy up</s>

Decide to enter follow up mode (can do this at any time)

Work on email (whether or not there is any mail)

<s>email</s>
<s>email</s>
<s>write report</s>
write report
<s>tidy up</s>
email

Work on report

<s>email</s>
<s>email</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>tidy up</s>
email
write report

Follow ups complete: back to Entry mode

Decide to make phone calls

<s>email</s>
<s>email</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>tidy up</s>
email
write report
phone calls

Make some phone calls

<s>email</s>
<s>email</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>write report</s>
<s>tidy up</s>
email
write report
<s>phone calls</s>
phone calls

At this point you can decide to enter a new task or to switch back to follow up mode, in which case you work through email and write report before going back to entry mode.

Is that close?

:0)
May 11, 2016 at 10:33 | Registered CommenterWill
Will,
I don't know if that's correct or not, we will let Mark comment but it was a lot of work just to do it so thanks very much for that!
May 11, 2016 at 11:04 | Unregistered Commenterskeg
skeg,

You're welcome! It helped me too.
May 11, 2016 at 12:13 | Registered CommenterWill
I was thinking the tasks in the follow-up phase example should be reversed, if the rule is to do the tasks above the *last* crossed-out task.
May 11, 2016 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterDan H
@ Will - that's my understanding.

Entry Mode
1. Enter a new task, work it, cross it out, and re-enter if you intend to get back to it today.
2. Repeat Step 1 as many times as you'd like.

Follow Up Mode
1. Work each and every task written prior to the most recent crossed out task, cross it out, and re-enter if you intend to get back to it today
2. Return to Entry Mode

This means that when in Entry Mode, you cannot go back to a task you already have on the list. The only work you will do is on new tasks. Follow Up Mode is the opposite. In Follow-Up Mode, you can only work on tasks that you've already started for today and you cannot begin work on anything new until you advance (or clean up) what you've already started.

Sounds like the same system as Mark first described, only loaded and worked in batches rather than individually.
May 11, 2016 at 14:18 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Hmm. I'm still thinking that in the example's follow-up phase, if I understand the relevant rule, the report should be worked on before the email.
May 11, 2016 at 14:35 | Unregistered CommenterDan H
The link to the previous day's post appears to be broken.
May 11, 2016 at 14:38 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Will:

<< Is that close? >>

Yes, spot on.

Except that I would have thought you would probably want to tidy up again today, so you should have left it on the list.
May 11, 2016 at 14:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Dan H:

<< I was thinking the tasks in the follow-up phase example should be reversed, if the rule is to do the tasks above the *last* crossed-out task. >>

No, Will's example is correct. The "last crossed-out" task refers to position, not time. It's "the last deleted-task", not the "last-deleted task".
May 11, 2016 at 14:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mike Brown:

<< The link to the previous day's post appears to be broken. >>

Thanks for pointing that out. Now corrected.
May 11, 2016 at 14:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark: Thank you for the clarification, though I think it means I'm not seeing the distinction between the position of a crossed-out task and the time it was crossed out. The "last" such task in either case looks the same to me. But I'm assuming I'll sort myself out on this once I have more hands-on experience with the variation.
May 11, 2016 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterDan H
Hmm. I guess I'll leave this last post before dropping the matter, in case anyone else is having the same difficulty I still am with Will's example.

So far as I can tell, "tidy up" is the last-in-position crossed-out task when you shift to the follow-up phase. (I assume this is where I've gone wrong; but I'm still not sure how.) And this would mean, according to the relevant rule, that you'd then do the first open task above it, "write report", first. And then, after crossing that task out, you'd proceed to "email" as the only open task left above "tidy up" (which remains the last-in-position crossed-out task).

I suppose it doesn't really matter in which order you do the open tasks in the follow-up phase; for you'll be working on all of them in turn. But if there is a correct order according to the rules, I guess I'm still not seeing why it would be top down, as Will has it, rather than bottom up.
May 11, 2016 at 16:14 | Unregistered CommenterDan H
Will, thanks again for the list
Miracle, your description of both modes is excellent
May 11, 2016 at 16:41 | Unregistered Commenterskeg
Dan H:

<< And this would mean, according to the relevant rule, that you'd then do the first open task above it >>

No, the rule doesn't say you do the FIRST open task above it. It says you do ALL tasks above it.

However for the sake of clarity I have amended it from

"In the follow-up phase all tasks above the last crossed out task are worked on again and re-entered at the end of the list if necessary."

to

"In the follow-up phase all open tasks above the last crossed out task are worked on again in the order they are written and re-entered at the end of the list if necessary."

Of course, if you'd prefer to do it them in reverse order there's nothing stopping you.
May 11, 2016 at 17:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Skeg

Why thank you! Along that vein - here's how I see the difference between Mark's two versions:

Mark's Original Method: If Follow-Up Mode is possible, always do it first. Otherwise, work in New Entry Mode. (Note: When in New Entry Mode, as soon as you cross that new task out, Follow-Up Mode again becomes possible.)

Mark's Variant (this post): Switch between the two Modes at a whim, and linger in New Entry as long as you like.
May 11, 2016 at 18:23 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Mark: ah, I see. Though I think I still might have interpreted "all" to mean "all" in the order I mistakenly inferred, without your amendment to the rule. So thank you for amending it! (And as a first time poster, I wanted to thank you too for all your writing and for this forum; I'm a big fan of both.)
May 11, 2016 at 18:34 | Unregistered CommenterDan H
Miracle:

<< here's how I see the difference between Mark's two versions: >>

Close, but not quite there!

<< Mark's Original Method: If Follow-Up Mode is possible, always do it first. Otherwise, work in New Entry Mode. (Note: When in New Entry Mode, as soon as you cross that new task out, Follow-Up Mode again becomes possible.) >>

Ok.

<< Mark's Variant (this post): Switch between the two Modes at a whim, and linger in New Entry as long as you like. >>

You can't switch from Follow-Up mode to New Entry mode at a whim. You have to deal with all the tasks in Follow-Up mode before you can go back to New Entry mode.
May 11, 2016 at 20:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Dan H:

<< And as a first time poster, I wanted to thank you too for all your writing and for this forum; I'm a big fan of both. >>

Good to have you here!
May 11, 2016 at 20:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks, Mark.

Tidy up more than once a day? Dangerous heresy! I just wanted to use skeg's list and demonstrate something that got finished.

I am, of course joking when I protest the futility of housework on the grounds that:

"You dust, you lean the horizontal surfaces, you dust, you hoover, you mop, you polish, you round up socks and other litter, you throw out the litter and compost, you put away clothes, toys, books, etc, you file documents, you make the beds, you straighten the cushions on the sofas, ...

...and six months later, you just have to do it all again!"
May 12, 2016 at 10:24 | Registered CommenterWill
Will:

<< .and six months later, you just have to do it all again! >>

LOL.

As a naturally untidy person I find that the only way I can keep things tidy is by tidying up every couple of hours or so. And I'm only referring to my office, not the rest of the house.
May 12, 2016 at 10:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark

<<You can't switch from Follow-Up mode to New Entry mode at a whim. You have to deal with all the tasks in Follow-Up mode before you can go back to New Entry mode. >>

Ah yes - I see that now. Thanks for the clarification! I suppose that provision applies to both your methods. ie: "Whenever you're in Follow-Up Mode, you must run through all the open tasks prior to the last crossed out task before leaving Follow-Up Mode."

So to update and consolidate:

Entry Mode
1. Enter a new task, work it, cross it out, and re-enter if you intend to get back to it today.

Follow Up Mode
1. Work a task written prior to the most recent crossed-out task, cross it out, and re-enter it if you intend to get back to it today
2. Repeat Step 1 for each and every open task written prior to the most recent crossed-out task, in the order they are written
3. You may not leave Follow-Up Mode until you have a contiguous list of open tasks, unbroken by crossed-out tasks

Mark's Original Method: If Follow-Up Mode is not possible, do one New Entry, then attempt Follow-Up Mode once again.

Mark's Variant (this post): If Follow-Up Mode is not possible, repeat New Entry as many times as you like, then attempt Follow-Up Mode once again.

I believe it safe to assume Mark's two over-arching rules apply as well:

1. The Relevancy Clause - If it is no longer relevant, just cross it off now.
("Relevant" to my mind is anything that I don't expect to action within the timeframe set by the system. This timeframe is a subjective measure, though I feel No-Lists timeframes are a day at most. Catch-All list timeframes are much less defined, and can change based upon how you're feeling.)

2. The Emergency Clause - If it is an emergency, just do it now.
("Emergency" to my mind is anything that invites disastrous consequence if it waits its turn in the normal course of the system, taking into account the system's provision for handling urgent tasks. In other words, a task is an emergency if the system's provision for handling urgent tasks will not address the task soon enough.)
May 12, 2016 at 14:37 | Unregistered CommenterMiracle
Mark, I definitely love all of the practical advice you give and being part of these experiments. Going to give this new approach a try today.

I do have a question about lists in general - can you share how you keep track of activities that can realistically be done at a future date (i.e., buying a birthday gift, packing for a trip three weeks from now, etc.)? Some of the big things are probably easy to think of, on the correct date, but I am concerned that I will lose track of certain events if they are not maintained in a list somewhere.

Maybe the DIT approach that you wrote about previously, would be your recommended way to keep track of those future tasks?

I also assume that you maintain more granular lists for projects (i.e., the "write report" example that is used in several of the above comments)?

Once again, thank you so much for your excellent work and for being so responsive to your fans!
May 13, 2016 at 13:39 | Unregistered CommenterBernard
Bernard:

<< can you share how you keep track of activities that can realistically be done at a future date (i.e., buying a birthday gift, packing for a trip three weeks from now, etc.)? Some of the big things are probably easy to think of, on the correct date, but I am concerned that I will lose track of certain events if they are not maintained in a list somewhere. >>

It's perfectly OK to have reminders of things that need to be done at a specific time. You could put these into your calendar, or use a reminder system like Nudgemail.
May 13, 2016 at 14:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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