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Report on Progress

FVP was working very well for me until yesterday evening when I started to become oppressed by the length of time it was taking to scan between tasks when I was working near the beginning of the list - my task list is currently 79 tasks spread over ten pages. I started making use of the “let-out” rule “If you know you want to do something now, do it now”, and in no time at all I found myself revitalized. I also found myself doing what amounted to the Fast Version of FVP and I decided to stick with it. 

I’ve decided that I haven’t changed systems on the following grounds:

1) Fast FVP is just a version of FVP. The basic system is the same, and the two versions operate on a continuum.

2) It is in the spirit of using a long trial to make improvements to a system. We discussed this in the run-up to the Challenge.

Reader Comments (22)

Mark wrote: " oppressed by the length of time it was taking to scan between tasks"

I'm using task outliner software to implement FVP so, in some respects, I have a bit of an advantage here because instead of having to scan through, say, 10 different tasks to clean different parts of the house, I just have a "Clean House" task on the FVP list and everything else hidden away as sub-tasks.
March 3, 2017 at 21:51 | Registered CommenterFrank
Hi Mark sounds like you may be ready for a variation to the system to eliminate that old problem of too much organising and not doing.
How about this?
Review task lists in full once a week on say Thursday morning. Flag all tasks that must get done by end of this week or there may be consequences. Those are you do it now tasks. Drop everything and do those to a conclusion. Be 100% committed to each task.
In the same review flag any with do by end of next week but a different marker.
Plough through your lists as usual, maybe oldest first.
When same time next week arrives, change any of last week's flagged tasks to do it now tasks and identify new do it now tasks. Repeat process.
That works for me....but as long as I commit to doing the tasks.
March 4, 2017 at 8:37 | Unregistered CommenterAlexG

<< I just have a "Clean House" task on the FVP list and everything else hidden away as sub-tasks. >>

That's basically what I do with that type of task. I have the main heading on the list and the steps of the routine in my head. One doesn't really need to write down the house-cleaning routine. You just go round the rooms of the house in order.
March 4, 2017 at 12:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, that's interesting you're doing Fast FVP.

Three days into the challenge (I'm a Bouncer!) and I'm finding it a bit cumbersome to scan back upwards from my completed task when I know that the thing I want to do next is downwards. In order to stick to the rules, I feel obliged to scan upwards then bounce off the top of the list and scan back down to the task I want to do. However, in the spirit of the challenge, I'm determined to follow the rules.

I've also felt I wanted to use incremental timeslots to complete tasks that MUST be done today, so that I could get them out of the way early on. My work-around (which I think I can justify as within the Bounce rules) is to have a task "Work 3 must-do tasks using timeslots" and work on that for as long as I want, and if I'm not able to complete the whole task (for instance if I feel I want a break by doing a more attractive task on the list) I cross it out and re-enter it at the end of the list and return to it as soon as I can.

Of course I'm using the rule which is common to most (all?) of your systems - if it needs doing now, just do it, then return to the system.
March 4, 2017 at 12:58 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1

Thanks for your suggestions. But my problem was not with getting tasks done nor with organising rather than doing. It was simply that if one sticks strictly to the rules of FVP one has to scan nearly the whole of the list between each task when working near the beginning of the list.

I solved the problem as described in the post.
March 4, 2017 at 13:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< Three days into the challenge (I'm a Bouncer!) and I'm finding it a bit cumbersome to scan back upwards from my completed task when I know that the thing I want to do next is downwards. In order to stick to the rules, I feel obliged to scan upwards then bounce off the top of the list and scan back down to the task I want to do.>>

I've had that problem with The Bounce too. I always make sure I have some really small tasks on the list whose main function is to act as turning points in just those circumstances.

Or of course I could use the let-out: "If you know you want to do x next, do it next regardless of the rules." But I'm sure there's a psychological benefit to sticking to the rules, rather than constantly using workarounds.
March 4, 2017 at 13:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks Mark.
My problem is I have too much work to do. Lots of emails, telecalls...I catch up, only to the get really behind again. Sadly it will take ages to get more staff in to ease the load. I love DIT, and generally follow that but it usually ends up becoming do it next week or do it next month...etc.
Would there be any system you can suggest as the best one to meet the needs of someone constantly overloaded?
Many thanks
March 4, 2017 at 13:51 | Unregistered CommenterAlexG
Thanks Mark - that's a great tip. Knowing that I'm aiming to stick to one system for six weeks has focussed my mind on thinking about what size of task will work best for me: is it best to add a task called "prepare for dinner party tonight" or to add several sub-tasks (get outfit ready, buy gift for hosts, book a taxi, manicure, work out SWEET time - stop-work-on-everything-else-time as advocated by you in one of your books). So far I've found it tidier to do the former as it feels neater and more compact, but your idea about using small tasks as a quick way to reverse direction on the Bounce list has made me re-think that.
March 4, 2017 at 15:10 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1

<< Would there be any system you can suggest as the best one to meet the needs of someone constantly overloaded? >>

The problem of course is that if you have more work than it's possible to do, then it's impossible to do all of it. No system is going to be able to get round that.

I suggest you use one of the "no-list" systems. My own personal favourite is The Next Hour.

As far as possible keep your schedule free of events, e.g. meetings, presentations, seminars, etc.
March 4, 2017 at 15:58 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Margaret, I put projects, tasks and subtasks on the same list (unless there's a good reason to make a separate list for a project).

This way, writing requires no effort. No searching for the right page. No wondering if I wrote it before. Sometimes I'll recopy them to the same page, but only if it makes sense to group them.

Yes, projects with more lines have more chance of being worked on, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. If I've already worked on the project, other parts of it don't stand out (unless I'm on a roll). If the dice tell me to do it, I can always say, "already done it recently" and take the next line.

When looking for something that stands out, or when I land on it with a counting method, the line with the project means any reasonable next action in the project. The line with any task or subtask means any action I need to do before that one. That way, when I land on the line, I have to think about the project and what I can do on it rather than saying, Can't do anything on it.

(David Allen's example of Next Action comes to mind. The reason the tires haven't been changed is he thinks it's a home task, but the next action is actually call the store, which is needs to be done during business hours, so it belongs on the work list. On further thought, he needs to call his friend to get the name of the store he liked, which means find friend's phone number. He had to think it all the way through.)

Currently, I'm using a computer list that includes priority. Clean House Daily is high priority, and right at the top. Subtasks are a much lower priority, at the bottom of the list, regardless of due date. The top item means I am to pick one of the subtasks.

I tried just going around the house clockwise, starting where I left off the previous day, but that's not predictable enough. My weeks vary widely. So, I set a due-date based on when it was last done and an ideal cycle, along with a "whatever is annoying me most" option.
March 4, 2017 at 21:54 | Registered CommenterCricket

I once had a period at work of extreme overwhelm, chaotic change, high pressure, and high politics. It lasted several months, and I was using FVP to stay on top of everything.

FVP really worked great in that situation. It helped that I never had the expectation of getting everything done. That was just impossible. But I needed to focus my attention on the most critical, most pressing things. And FVP was great for that. I always worked near the end of the list, and never made it back to the top. But that was OK.

In fact, that led to a significant learning experience for me. Whenever I had some breathing space, looking back over the earlier pages, there was an awful lot of stuff that seemed really important at the time, but within a few days or a week, it had completely lost its importance. The learning experience was realizing that this happens under more stable circumstances even more often! So much of what we think is important, really isn't important at all, but I would often have so much angst over it. Emergency situations give me a much clearer picture of what is really critically important, and to shed the angst over the rest. FVP allowed me to learn this lesson in a striking way during that period of serial emergencies.

These experiences led me to try No-list, and it had the same effect, but even better: even more focus, and no angst at all. I constantly felt in an almost joyful flow state, despite all the stress and frustration of the work itself.

Now that I think about it, I'd say FVP and No-list are antifragile systems -- they become more effective, the more chaos is thrown at them. In this respect, I think they are very different than FV or DIT or the AF systems.

I kind of miss those chaotic times. The focus was always so clear. The flow state was so strong. It all felt so alive and real despite the deep difficulties and frustrations. I wonder if this phenomenon is part of why soldiers can feel so disoriented after returning to civilian life. Nobody wants the terror of war, or the frustrations of a chaotic and overwhelming work environment. But we DO want the feeling that our work really means something and is making a difference, and even if we didn't meet all our commitments we did the things that really mattered.
March 5, 2017 at 0:02 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

Thanks so much for that, yes things seem so overwhelming at the time and then when you look back you can see how things could have been done better and really it was not that bad!

It is great to be really busy but it gets quite scary when way too much. I had all these deadlines coming up and felt a bit like I was doing 40 on the motorway and a big lorry behind doing 70 and it was not stopping! Luckily I got some staff in and we are doing 80 now, but I'm still running around like a headless chicken. I like the no list as it seems simple with no set up time, so I will try something like 5T or next hour. If it can make me feel like I'm getting lots done and in control I will be happy. Fast FVP seems a good one, so might try that next when I feel ready...I just need to get the deadline stuff done and all the small tasks as well so they don't become problems.
I think just head done and plough through for a while....
March 5, 2017 at 6:51 | Unregistered CommenterAlexG

<< Three days into the challenge (I'm a Bouncer!) and I'm finding it a bit cumbersome to scan back upwards from my completed task when I know that the thing I want to do next is downwards. In order to stick to the rules, I feel obliged to scan upwards then bounce off the top of the list and scan back down to the task I want to do.>>

I'm going to increase "freedom degree" of the Bounce method. When you've done a task, bounce off it to any direction you feel (upwards/downwards - it's completely up to you).
March 5, 2017 at 7:40 | Unregistered CommenterShamil
just curious - since you've already found a solution that works - but why not re-write the entire list (in order) starting on a new page if it's a matter of tasks spread out over too many pages?
March 5, 2017 at 15:49 | Unregistered CommenterLillian

A long list may contain a hundred or more tasks, so to keep writing the list out afresh would take up more time than you'd save.

A better way is to cross out tasks which have become isolated on early pages and re-enter them at the end of the list.
March 5, 2017 at 19:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I have a few thousand things in my list. This contains everything I have thought that I would like to do ever. So, yes, it is more like a bucket list than an active to-do list. But this sits behind the rest of my system and so I am able to concentrate on what matters now (the priorities work out such that I can write a new list in the highest priority column each day and it really targets that column whilst bringing out occasional tasks from the 'big' list (in a number of ways I will not go into here)). Occasionally these have ceased to be relevant, so they can be dropped. I could never no-list it (at least not yet), but once the list gets as long as this you kind of acknowledge that not everything is getting done and aim to target the things that really matter. In the future, I probably need to book myself a week off just to run a cull, but for now I keep driving ahead with the formula I have written for myself.

Eventual aim is to have my life running so much on automatic that I no longer need to be involved!
March 5, 2017 at 20:01 | Unregistered CommenterEiron
Eiron: << I have a few thousand things in my list.>>

Seraphim: Emergency! Your record of 400 has been broken!
March 6, 2017 at 1:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark - LOL! Actually, my record was around 1200. And VegHeadJones was up in that range, too, if I am not mistaken. But still... Eiron has far exceed those levels! :-)

No-list showed me it was possible to do without those lists altogether. And TOC is showing me WHY I was generating those lists -- the hidden conflicts that kept causing me to generate them -- and pointing me in the direction to permanently resolve those issues.
March 6, 2017 at 4:23 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Hi Cricket - thanks for your tips on project tasks and sub-tasks. I have been trying it out and although it makes my list messier, it does focus my mind on doing some work on a project if I keep seeing tasks related to it, rather than skipping over the tidier task "Work on project X".

Shamil, thanks for the 'freedom degree' idea of bouncing in any direction. For the purposes of the Lenten challenge, I'm still a bit reluctant to tamper with the original rules but bouncing in any direction is certainly an interesting variation.
March 11, 2017 at 20:30 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
Report on lent challenge:

I am using DIT.
I never quite could get a picture of how DIT would look in real life, so I figured this challenge would be a time to actually try it instead of just read about it!

I am a bivocational pastor, meaning I work a full time job and also pastor a church in my "free time". This often causes tremendous strain to my ability to keep track of all the moving pieces. It seems as though there's always an overwhelming amount of tasks, projects, people to contact, ideas to ponder,etc...

So how has DIT been doing? I'd say fairly well! The in today - out tomorrow flow has helped me feel less overwhelmed as I feel the routine of my life is balanced. DIT doesn't tell me what projects or tasks I should be working on for future things and that's okay. I think I'm able to select my CI better than an algorithm anyhow.

Overall, I'm enjoying this experiment. It has reinforced to me that to properly judge one of Marks methods, I need to actually DO the method and not just read about it.

Keep on keeping on!
March 17, 2017 at 23:44 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
Hi fellow productive Lenters,
I'm enjoying my month of DIT. It has evolved a bit in that time, I have evolved a daily routine task list that I paste onto the list each day (including dealing with yesterdays incoming work), and I work a bit more of a no-list approach to the main project work of the day, in that I commit to getting a limited amount of tasks done but leave space to work a short no-list with the discretionary time that's left. Not sure if that is totally the spirit if DIT as intended by the author, but it's working for me!
Hope you are well as can be Mark.
Best wishes all
April 2, 2017 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterColin
F<< Not sure if that is totally the spirit if DIT as intended by the author, but it's working for me! >>

That's the important thing.

Thanks for your good wishes. I'm doing as well as can be expected at the moment.
April 3, 2017 at 10:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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