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« Thoughts on the Long List - A Better Way? (cont.) | Main | How to Get a Book Read (Revised) »
Saturday
Oct282017

Thoughts on the Long List - A Better Way?

There is an interesting discussion ongoing on the forum. The question has been raised whether “standing out” is the best way to process a list. The essence of “standing out” is that tasks you want to do will stand out from the list. You therefore proceed from one task you want to do to the next one you want to do.

The trouble with this is that many people find that they never want to do certain tasks - which may be the very ones that they most need to do. They are therefore in danger of endlessly processing trivial easy tasks without ever getting to what really matters.

What is therefore being suggested is the opposite of this. Instead of looking for the tasks that we do want to do and ignoring the rest, we should do every task except the ones that stand out as ones we don’t want to do.

This is similar to the well-known technique for choosing between two alternatives - toss a coin and stick to the result unless you get a strong adverse feeling. That way you’ve cut through all the stuff going backwards and forwards through your mind and discovered which of the two alternatives you really want.

(To be continued)

Reader Comments (13)

In my view, you should want to do everything on your list.

If there is a task you don't want to do, rewrite it so it's easy enough that you do (Open the file). I find that the easier or smaller I make a task the more I want to do it because I think we like to feel productive, but ask too much of ourselves when we haven't even started moving.

The list is there to get you moving, you are there to know when to stop. If you want to work past your task on something bigger, allow yourself to. If you don't, move on, you have already completed your task!

If you don't want to do something and it is as easy as possible, delete it.

Scanning should be straightforward. You scan your list once, do whatever sticks out first, then start from the top.

I found this way not only easy, but inspiring because I can always start moving as long as I know what to do.
October 29, 2017 at 3:55 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
I'm interested to hear how this plays out.

Are you basically just doing things FIFO, and skipping the ones that stand out as "not ready"?
October 29, 2017 at 23:37 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Connor:

<< In my view, you should want to do everything on your list. >>

I agree with that, but with some reservations among which are:

- there may be some things on your list which you want to evaluate as to whether they are goers. If you don't do them that is probably a sign that they are not, but you won't know until you try.

- "wanting to do" is different from "wanting to do now this minute". Tasks are frequently sensitive to time, mood, weather, availability, deadlines, etc.
October 30, 2017 at 11:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< Are you basically just doing things FIFO, and skipping the ones that stand out as "not ready"? >>

You'll have to wait until the continuation to find that out!
October 30, 2017 at 11:48 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I really like the standing out method and I have had lots of success using it over the last month.

Especially when nagging tasks pop into my head I feel ready to do them there and then due to the flexibility of the system. It is certainly very productive and I easily get into the flow of work and hardly even take a break. I'm just ploughing straight through all things I want to get done, so resistance is minimal.

On the downside, my rather large task list very much looks like hole punched swiss cheese and there are some very old tasks in there which I am now seeing should have been done a while ago (maybe they did not stand out enough and got lost in the system). The other issue is that I'm starting to do lots of scanning trying to find things that stand out, so some time wasted there.

Anyway, in summary simple scanning is great but maybe a few tweaks to get to the perfect system.

As always, looking forward to Marks suggested improvements or new system.
October 30, 2017 at 14:39 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
MrBacklog:

<< Anyway, in summary [x] is great but maybe a few tweaks to get to the perfect system. >>

That's what I've been saying to myself for the last twenty years!
October 30, 2017 at 15:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Is my reading comprehension skill off today or should this sentence

"Instead of looking for the tasks that we do want to do and ignoring the rest, we should do every task except the ones that stand out as ones we DON'T want to do."

read

Instead of looking for the tasks that we do want to do and ignoring the rest, we should do every task except the ones that stand out as ones we DO want to do.

I capitalized the two words that confused me. Thanks!
November 6, 2017 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterJakeIsArmed
Your correction is wrong, Jake. There are 3 categories of tasks here: Good (want to do), Bad (don't want to do; maybe "want not to do" is more precise), and Okay (could do, don't really care).


Normal standout picks Good tasks.
The NO process picks "not bad" tasks, which includes Good and Okay.
Your modification picks for "not good" tasks which includes Bad and Okay. This is not desired. You should never be doing Bad tasks.

In Mark's advice, "want to do" is deliberately undefined and should be up to your intuition. My personal amendment: In my opinion, "want to do" should not be solely about your feelings relative to acting on a task. The phrase could include wanting this done, believing it is valuable to do, feeling ready to do it now, anticipating positive outcomes of doing it. Having elaborated what might kinds of things might be encompassed by "want", I return to Mark's advice and just go by intuition as to what stands out.
November 6, 2017 at 15:35 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Three categories? Doesn't "instead of" mean "either or"? As in one thing or another or a choice between two options?

I'm not questioning theory here, I'm just trying to understand a sentence. Not trying to nitpick grammar either, but the sentence is just tripping me up.

The sentence to me implies two situations:
1. do tasks we want to do and we ignore the rest
or
2. do every task except the ones we don't want to do.

These end up being the same thing in my mind.

Seems like situation two should be something like "do every task that I don't want to do and then do everything else."

Maybe I just need more coffee or a nap...
November 6, 2017 at 16:42 | Unregistered CommenterJakeIsArmed
In my post above, by "don't want to do," I mean tasks I must do but don't want to do because of resistance.

I certainly see Alan's point that we certainly should not be doing tasks that we neither must do nor want to do.
November 6, 2017 at 16:52 | Unregistered CommenterJakeIsArmed
JakeIsArmed, you highlighted "Instead of looking for the tasks that we do want to do and ignoring the rest, we should do every task except the ones that stand out as ones we DON'T want to do."

As Alan was clarifying, it just meant that you focus on avoiding to do the things you don't want to do instead of doing the things you want to do. The difference may be subtle but it's there.

Let me put it this way: By focusing on the things we want to do, we try to do what we most want to do right now. But of course that can mean that by doing these things, the good enough (the OK) can get neglected.

However by focusing to NOT do the things we do NOT want to do, we open our eyes not only to things that really want to do, but also the things that are good enough, or OK, to do.

As the old saying goes, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

"The sentence to me implies two situations:
1. do tasks we want to do and we ignore the rest
or
2. do every task except the ones we don't want to do.

These end up being the same thing in my mind."

Well if they are the same to you then do not worry about it!
November 6, 2017 at 18:21 | Registered Commenternuntym
They differ in how they handle the middle items.

Method 1 asks me to choose a single task I want to do. There's pressure to make the very best choice. Only the ones I really want to do get done. The ones I'm so-so on get put off, possibly for a very long time.

Method 2 asks me to do the first task, unless I don't want to do it (at that time). I have to consciously say, "I don't want to do this one," which leads to asking other questions: "Why not? If not now, when? Or ever?" The so-so tasks get done, and there's more pressure on the older ones. (Pressure to 4D, not necessarily to Do.)
November 6, 2017 at 20:00 | Registered CommenterCricket
Y'all have even succeeded in getting me confused now!

But basically all it means is that there are two methods of scanning:

1) Go through the list ignoring every task until you get a feeling that you want to do one now.

2) Go through the list doing every task, until you get a feeling that you don't want to do one now.

By the way, my new system uses both of these methods of scanning.
November 6, 2017 at 21:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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