Simple Scanning - The Rules
Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 8:25
Mark Forster in Articles, high intensity, long list, simple scanning

As I said in an earlier blog post, I was using Simple Scanning as far back as twenty years ago. But at the time I did not realise its potential. I may say more about that in future posts.

Up to now I’ve never written any formal rules for Simple Scanning preferring to describe it as “going round and round the list, doing tasks which stand out”.

There are several concepts there which need explanation, particularly if you haven’t used any of my systems before.

Simple Scanning is what I call a “long list” system. In long list systems the aim is to write everything down that you have to do, want to do or think you might do in one long list in no particular order. There should be no attempt to categorise, prioritise, or emphasise particular tasks in any way. There are no rules about what size individual tasks have to be or how they should be worded. 

Since this is an intuitive system it is recommended (but not essential) that you use paper and pen rather than electronic means. A lined notebook is ideal.

If you use electronic means, be wary of time management apps which try to make you categorise and/or prioritise. These will work against the effective use of the system.

The second concept which needs explanation is what I call “standing out”. This basically consists of scanning through the list, doing tasks which you feel you want to do now. Don’t ask yourself “Do I want to do this task now?”. Just let the tasks stand out of their own accord.

For some people this comes easily and naturally, for others it takes longer to grasp.

Don’t get too worried about it. There’s no right number of tasks to select per pass. Assume you are doing it right unless you either find yourself selecting every single task or alternatively none at all. Allow it to find its own level naturally.

Another concept is that you should work on a task only for as long as you feel you want to. It is better to work “little and often” on tasks, than to work in huge bursts of activity - specially if the thought of a huge burst of activity puts you off from ever starting.

So however long your list is, you should be doing only tasks which you feel you want to do now and only for as long as you want to do them. 

Now for the actual rules for simple scanning:

 

  1. Write a list of things you have to do, would like to do or think you might do. One task per line.
  2. If you are not sure about a task write it with a query (?) after it. 
  3. There is no need to make the list comprehensive because you can keep adding to it as you go along.
  4. Don’t make any additional markings to indicate category or priority. 
  5. There are no rules about how you write the task - just as long as you can understand what you meant when you come back to it.
  6. Tasks can be as large or as small as you like.
  7. When you have finished writing your initial list, read it through quickly once to remind yourself of what is on it and where.
  8. Scan down the list until a task stands out as being ready to do.
  9. Work on it for as long as you like. 
  10. When you have finished working on it for the time being, re-enter it at the end of the list if there is still work to be done on it or if it’s a recurring task. 
  11. Cross out the task you have been working on.
  12. Continue scanning down the list and repeat 8-12 until it is time to stop working. 
  13. When you reach the end of the list, circle round to the beginning of the list.
  14. At the beginning of the next work period, start again from where you got to.

A couple of suggestions: 

 

 

Article originally appeared on Get Everything Done (http://markforster.net/).
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