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« Reduced Blogging for the Rest of August | Main | The Random Hour »

The Random Hour v. The Next Hour of Your Life

The Random Hour yesterday did not live up to its early promise and by this morning I had had enough of trying to get things to happen in the order I wanted and went back to The Next Hour of Your Life - where I can control the order without any difficulty. Another problem I found with The Random Hour was that I tended to overload it just because it had the random element. I’m not quite sure why that is, but it’s not a problem I’ve had with The Next Hour.

So, what I intend to concentrate on now is working out the best ways of using The Next Hour.

I’ve discovered one important fact about The Next Hour already, and that is that it doesn’t work well when used with paper and pen. It needs an electronic platform.


I’ve found a great strength of the method is that you can arrange the tasks in exactly the order you want them to be done. But even within a short space of time like an hour circumstances can change, so you need to be able to change the order. This gives the method a good deal of flexibility.

There are some basic principles that you should keep to:

  • You should do tasks in the order they are written
  • You should enter tasks at the end of the list
  • You should not exceed approximately one hour’s worth of tasks
  • The order can be changed if it needs to be, but only if it needs to be

As for the mechanics of it, I use a simple checklist in Evernote. I’m sure there are plenty of other programs and apps which would do the job even better, but for the moment I’m sticking with the one I know. I have to admit that part of the reason is that the Evernote checklist is just a checklist and one is not tempted by all the bells and whistles that some dedicated to-do list apps have. Simplicity is the key here. 

Reader Comments (13)

I keep daily work logs in Evernote and the top portion of the log is always a checklist of tasks accomplished.

Lately, I've been listing tasks that are top-of-mind into the daily log at the start of the day with checkboxes, then I sort the tasks into estimated one-hour chunks, with each chunk separated by a blank line. It's not a schedule and I can still move things around or add things as needed, but it helps me give a shape to the day. Also helping me estimate what an hour's work looks like.
July 29, 2016 at 15:40 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Hmm, I tried The Next Hour yesterday (albeit with pen and paper), and it was pretty quickly a dismal failure. I found looking at what I was going to do over the next hour induced a lot of procrastination, probably in part because it was just a single thing, or possibly two things. I didn't want to think about the fact that my next hour was going to be putting together presentation slides!

I'm not sure why I find No-List FVP much less procrastination-inducing than The Next Hour; I suspect it's the fact that I don't feel tied down to doing Giant Task of Doom for the next hour, even if that's what will probably happen. Somehow not putting a time estimate on my plans makes them easier to swallow. (Of course, I'm not really doing true No-List FVP anyway -- I let myself rewrite something further up the list at the bottom, if I feel like doing it now instead of later, and I'm partially pulling from a daily list so I don't lose track of things that need to get done today.)
July 29, 2016 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterLanth

There's nothing at all wrong with No-List FVP. I'm being quite specific in what I am trying to achieve by experimenting with various methods like Random Hour and Next Hour - and that is to increase the volume of work that can be done, i.e. by reducing "friction" as I described in Monday's article "Answer to the Puzzle". These will all affect different people differently, particularly in their early stages of development.

[Afternote: The "their" in "their early stages of development" refers to the methods, not the people!]
July 30, 2016 at 0:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark - What would you say are the key differences between the Next Hour of Your Life method versus the Pomodoro method?
July 30, 2016 at 13:13 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B
Paul B:

I haven't taken a great deal of notice of the Pomodoro method because it appears very similar to some of the methods I described in my book "Get Everything Done" back in 2000. Though I think he'd been teaching the method in Italy for quite a long time the first English edition of his book wasn't published until 2007 and by then I'd moved on to other things.

Key differences between it and the Next Hour of Your Life? The only real similarity is that they are both based on a period of time.

Just about everything else is different.

Specifically Pomodoro is based on working on a task (or tasks) during a 25 minute timed period, followed by 5 minutes' rest. It's a "time-box" method. The tasks for each "pomodoro" are taken from a prioritized day-list.

The Next Hour is not a "time-box" method. You keep adding tasks to the list so that there is always approximately an hour's work on the list. You do not need to time it. It is a no-list method so you do not use any list to feed it.
July 30, 2016 at 16:09 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
This method sounds promising.

I can see expanding this to next day, week, month, season, year, decade of my life.

Pretty much the same rules. Every so often, each list gets the task "remind self what is on next list up" and "reevaluate and/or check status and deadlines of things on next list up."

That will, in theory, keep things moving on the larger projects. It will also encourage you to have long term goals.
July 30, 2016 at 17:20 | Registered CommenterCricket
Mike, that sounds like a good way to notice and develop routines.
July 30, 2016 at 17:25 | Registered CommenterCricket
At the moment, "The Next Hour of My Life" list includes a recurring task to update Mark's blog hoping to see the latest post (Bounce-to-Circle?) reappear!
July 30, 2016 at 17:39 | Unregistered CommenterDan H

Have you tried the Monentum extension for the Chrome browser? It has a very short and basic to do list that seems very suited to:
August 1, 2016 at 12:02 | Unregistered CommenterDAZ

No, I haven't. I don't use Chrome, and I think a check list on Evernote would be more accessible.
August 1, 2016 at 17:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I hope all is going well with the house repairs. You probably already know this but Autofocus is featured on Lifehacker today -
August 15, 2016 at 21:33 | Unregistered CommenterEric

No, I didn't know about that. Thanks for telling me. The article makes a complete hash of describing Autofocus and I have commented accordingly!
August 16, 2016 at 12:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I agree. I read it more carefully after I posted. It seems like they were using their "Autofocus" list to feed some other daily list with crazy numbering. Hopefully, some people will click on the link that goes to your page to get the real instructions.
August 16, 2016 at 15:20 | Unregistered CommenterEric

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