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« High Volume, High Speed, Low Resistance - 6 | Main | Testing - Update »

High Volume, High Speed, Low Resistance - 5

Very much to my surprise I found that simple scanning (i.e. going round and round the list doing whatever stands out) actually produced just as good results as the new idea I was supposed to be testing. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised as one of my contentions has been that it’s the psychological attitude that counts as much as the system itself.

Simple scanning does have two major disadvantages though: 

  1. The list tends to grow uncontrollably
  2. It gets spread over a large number of pages if one’s using a notebook and pencil/pen. 

So over the last week I’ve been working on how I could improve these aspects of simple scanning. I think I’ve succeeded - though it needs some further testing.

Here are the stats for the short period (4.5 days) I’ve been using it. I started a new list for the test wth 31 tasks to the page.

The first column shows the page, the second the number of tasks remaining as of this moment:

1 - 0

2 - 0

3 - 0

4 - 0

5 - 0

6 - 0

7 - 0

8 - 0

9 - 4

10 - 15

11 - 21

12 - 2 (of 2)

So in 4.5 days I have actioned 343 tasks, with 42 remaining.

More details soon!

Reader Comments (9)

Can't wait...
Now I thought I was a busy/productive person until I saw you got through 343 tasks to do in a few days!
July 13, 2017 at 17:24 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

The number of tasks isn't really the crucial thing. It's how up-to-date you keep your work and how far you can rely on yourself to push through what you have taken on.
July 13, 2017 at 17:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I'm looking forward to hearing more about the psychological attitude you have in mind.

I've been having good results emphasising "work on a task for as long as you feel like it", seems to really be getting things moving; coming back to a task a few times when resistance is low often seems a smoother way of completing than bashing away at it till it's done, and it stops resistance building up to projects in waiting.
Interesting contrast to Cal Newport's Deep Work emphasis on periods of long uninterrupted concentration, a lot of my work seems to benefit from a quick next step to get things moving.

Hope you're as well as can be, Mark.
July 14, 2017 at 10:34 | Unregistered CommenterColin
So true...

I think pushing through all the tasks no matter what is probably one of the key things that makes any system work in the long run.

I wonder if the saying "a bad workman always blames his tools", is something to carefully consider before thinking it is the system that is not working...
July 14, 2017 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog

<< I'm looking forward to hearing more about the psychological attitude you have in mind. >>

In fact you've summed it up pretty well in your comment. Paradoxically the best way to push through what you've taken on is to avoid forcing yourself to work on a specific task or for a specific length of time. That way you neither experience resistance to the task you are doing nor to the tasks you are not doing.

<< Cal Newport's Deep Work emphasis on periods of long uninterrupted concentration >>

These will still occur. It's just that they won't be scheduled.
July 14, 2017 at 12:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< I wonder if the saying "a bad workman always blames his tools", is something to carefully consider before thinking it is the system that is not working... >>

Much as I don't like it, that fits my experience. There are better and worse tools, and some tools will fit an individual, or job, or season, or combination of the above, better than other tools, but eventually it comes down to using them.

Now that I finally experimented with tiny goals, a quick touch of each project most days (a tiny bit more than opening and immediately closing the folder), I've found that most projects can be broken up, even ones I hadn't expected. Those tiny touches keep momentum going. For the rare bits that do need a longer session (still shorter than before I tried asking "how short and still useful?") I have less resistance. The momentum is there, and I know better what to expect. Much nicer than, "An afternoon or five, maybe more, dealing with that mess in the folder."
July 14, 2017 at 20:28 | Registered CommenterCricket
@Cricket: This matches my own experience. The "tiny bit" is the "at least one minute of work or thinking about the best next action" in my system, which can result in just reprasing the item and reentering it at the end of the list.
July 16, 2017 at 9:34 | Unregistered CommenterNordwind
@Nordwind: That's even smaller than my tiny bit. I wonder if "Gently think about why I'm resisting and what my actual goals are?" might work for me. In hindsight, I'm more likely to ask "Why do I have to do it that way, or at all?" when relaxing than when working.

Another important part for me is not creating a mess while doing the work. Take one thing from the pile, and put it in its new home. If that new home is full, take one thing, put the first thing away, and take the new thing to its new home. Very different from pull everything out of your closet, put it on the floor, take three things to their new homes, and get distracted. Dana White, of A Slob Comes Clean, describes this very well in her book How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. I find some types of projects are easier to convert to this method than others, but I'm finding it worth the challenge.
July 17, 2017 at 1:04 | Registered CommenterCricket
@Cricket: That is a good question. My method consists of two modes: "urgency mode" (skimming backwards and working on items that should be acted on within the next hour) and "top down mode" (work on the first unactioned item for as long as I want to, but for at least one minute, before crossing it off and reentering it at the end of the list (sometimes rephrases or as the next action for that particular project). Only items that can't be worked on right now (wrong place, wrong time) may be skipped.

When I work in "top down mode" every item has to be worked on (except the above mentioned skipping rule). If I feel resistance / procrastination, I think about why this item is on the list at all, if there are other/better ways to get the same result, if the item should be transferred to my "trigger list" for later, or how I can rephrase it to get a grip on it and reduce my inner resistance against it. This works so good that usually I no longer feel any resistance to tackle this item on the next pass.
July 17, 2017 at 10:58 | Unregistered CommenterNordwind

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