Simple Scanning - Clumping, Attenuation and Maturity
Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 15:41
Mark Forster in Articles, high intensity, simple scanning

If you haven’t already read the previous article on Simple Scanning then you need to do so before reading this.

My original intention was to write a separate blog post about each of these characteristics of Simple Scanning. However it seems easier to write one post and cover all three in one go. They are by no means confined to Simple Scanning, but that seems to be the system which best combines them  - the best I’ve been able to discover so far anyway.


In Simple Scanning tasks are written on the list when you think of them, without any attempt to classify or order them. But as one works the list, so the tasks which get done together will be re-entered on the list together. So the very action of using the system tends to mean that, as you progress, the amount of scanning time becomes progressively shorter and the speed at which you select tasks off the list gets faster. This particularly applies to routine tasks which need to be done at a particular time of day, such as a morning routine or an evening routine.


Attenuation is almost the opposite effect to clumping. It is what happens to tasks on the list that don’t get done quickly. As other tasks around them get done so they get surrounded by deleted tasks. This has the effect of drawing attention to those undone tasks. The more the list gets attenuated the more the undone tasks stand out physically. This gives important information to your intuition. You can increase the contrast between tasks by joining contiguous deleted tasks by joining them together with a vertical line in the left margin. This gives you a very good picture at a glance of how many tasks remain on any given page.


When you start a new list, you can’t expect to leap into full-ahead productivity immediately. It takes time for the list to mature.  You usually find that you start off by working on easy, routine tasks. This is entirely how it should be because you need to get these routines well established before you can start on more challenging work. Gradually you will find that more and more of the “real work” gets incorporated in your routines. Routines are the basis of all good work. You will find it very difficult to keep up to date with your work if you only work on it by fits and starts.

When you add a new project it too takes time to get established. Unless it’s urgent, your intuition will probably allow it to lie fallow for a bit, but once you start working on it it will become easier and easier to keep working on it.


The effect of these three working together provides a high-speed high-volume method of tackling your work which requires no more than writing down what you have to do on a list, scanning it and working on the tasks which stand out. The method itself require an absolute minimum of overhead.

Article originally appeared on Get Everything Done (
See website for complete article licensing information.