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Main | Only Five Days to Start of Challenge! »

Lenten Challenge Starts/Started at Midnight (Your Local Time)

Here is the starting list for the Lenten Challenge 2019. I will accept last minute entries and amendments up to 11.59pm March 5th (your local time). 

At the very last moment I decided to change my own entry to a new, and so far untried, no-list method. I have no idea whether I’ll be able to keep it going.

I’m pleased to say that we have 57 entrants, which I think is a record for this.

If you fail to keep to the challenge please let us know in the comments to this post so that everyone can see. Do include a description of your experiences if you want to. Progress reports are also welcome.

If you are unable to post, then you can email me (top right tab) but please only do this if you have to.

Remember this is a challenge and not a competition, so the only person you will be deceiving if you cheat is yourself! 


  1. Myself - 10 Task No-List
  2. vegheadjones - The Bounce
  3. nuntym - Task Tracking Light
  4. avrum - Daily-Weekly Narrative
  5. Seraphim - Serial No-List
  6. Divyana Adwani - Google Ecosystem
  7. Will - Simple Scanning
  8. Mike Brown - Serial No-List
  9. Gadgets - Simple Scanning
  10. Colin - Simple Scanning
  11. Paul B - ASEM
  12. Ville - Simple Scanning
  13. teckwyn - Randomizer
  14. MrBacklog - ABC simple scanning batching
  15. TMac - Simple Scanning
  16. Laby - Smile (Own Method)
  17. Eiron Page - Productivity Bingo
  18. Natalia - 4x2
  19. Brenda - DIT (Do It Tomorrow) and Dreams book Combo
  20. Jacqueline - Method to be confirmed
  21. Eugenia - Simple Scanning
  22. Fintan - DIT
  23. bryane - AF2/Deep Work Combo
  24. Paul MacNeil - Time Surfing
  25. Andreas Vlach - Own system
  26. Jordan Navarrete - AF4
  27. adam - Simple Scanning
  28. Pablo - Dreams
  29. Caibre65 - Own Method
  30. Alan Baljeu - Serial No-List
  31. stefanb - AF1
  32. Nia - Burner List
  33. Cricket - Every-Other-Day
  34. Clarablanco - AF2
  35. Bence - AF2
  36. flight16 - One-A-Day Randomizer
  37. tomcal - Serial No-List
  38. Ryan Freckleton - AF4 modified
  39. KMac - Dalo
  40. Cameron - Simple Scanning
  41. Stuart Tattum - Weekly & Daily MVPs
  42. Emma-Rae - Simple Scanning
  43. Sitkeys - Own System
  44. Jens - 5T
  45. Dino - Halving
  46. avrum - Own System
  47. Mario - AF1
  48. Christopher - DIT
  49. Diana - Simple Scanning
  50. Nordwind - T7P10 (Own System)
  51. Leon - Own System
  52. Silvia - AF4-3T
  53. Margaret1 - Serial No-List
  54. Chris Cooper - RAF modified
  55. Terhorst - Simple Scanning
  56. Erin - RAF
  57. dgbeecher - Simple Scanning


References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    don't know where Mark Forster said this but I do know I read this sentiment on his site and I agree with it: you are almost always better off doing any task than you are checking the list for a task to do.

Reader Comments (58)

I'm no. 9 on the above list and have been doing simple scanning for a couple of weeks so that's the system I'll take into the challenge.
March 5, 2019 at 19:06 | Unregistered CommenterGadgets
I'll take the challenge using RAF (Real Autofocus), with the tweak of processing Day(s) Before Yesterday using FV rules rather than doing tasks in strict order. That makes slightly less of a demand on my willpower muscle.


As far as I can see, the method of processing Yesterday + Today is left open by the rules of RAF. I specify it in this way:

– On my first pass through the Yesterday + Today list, I use simple scanning. One of the tasks I write in today's list is DBY (meaning move to Day[s] Before Yesterday).

– When I return to the Yesterday + Today list, I use FVP.

Looks a bit rococo when written out. I've been fiddling with rules for days.
March 5, 2019 at 22:08 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Please change to: Smile (own method). Local time is 23:16.
March 5, 2019 at 22:17 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
I'd like to join the challenge - I'm going to give Serial No-List a try.
March 5, 2019 at 22:53 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret 1
Mark: what is Halving?
March 5, 2019 at 23:13 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Interesting... not ONE GTD'er
March 5, 2019 at 23:40 | Registered Commenteravrum
Put me down for Simple Scanning.
March 6, 2019 at 2:14 | Unregistered CommenterTerhorst
I’m in for the challenge, using RAF as Chris does, not using strict order. 10 pm here.

I was looking all over the site for the post that mentioned using RAF with the app Things. Was that you Chris?
March 6, 2019 at 6:22 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Entering at the last moment (local time) with Simple Scanning. Thanks for arranging this, Mark.
March 6, 2019 at 7:24 | Unregistered Commenterdgbeecher

10 Task No-List?

I can guess what it is, but would like to be sure...

Anyway: Under no circumstances would I try it, because I‘m part of the LENTEN CHALLENGE !
March 6, 2019 at 10:56 | Unregistered CommenterLaby

> the post that mentioned using RAF with the app Things. Was that you Chris?

Not me, Erin.
March 6, 2019 at 10:57 | Unregistered CommenterChris Cooper
Alan Baljeu:

I think 'halving' comes from Mark's first book. Write down everything you have to do, and divide it in half over and over again until you have only one thing left, and then you do it. A multiple pass system. In the book, Mark describes starting with two categories of work that have about the same amount of work to be done.

Terribly useful idea when whittling down a big backlog of paper: divide the pile into halves, then divide the halves into halves, etc till the problem is sufficiently chunked down.

In Serial No-list, which I'm also doing, I guess you would write down everything, then divide that list in two, then pick a half and divide that in two, to eventually whittle your way down to the next task. But that's a lot of judging, weighing, thinking, etc and less intuitive.

This is my interpretation of halving; not sure what our Lenten colleague's idea of using it would look like.
March 6, 2019 at 14:33 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown

It is in the Real Autofocus? post, actually near your comment. Your system helped me find it. I was searching for the words Yesterday, Day before Yesterday and Things, to no avail.
March 6, 2019 at 15:34 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Alan Baljeu:

<< I think 'halving' comes from Mark's first book. >>

Yes, though the implementation of it is different from what you suggest. It's the system to be found here which is based on the halving principle - though I didn't actually give the system that name at the time:
March 6, 2019 at 15:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I hate to say this, but I've crashed out already. I should really know better by now than to change to an untried system at the last minute. The 10-Task No-List system failed when some unexpected and time-consuming circumstances came up today.

Anyway I am now going back to The Bounce in the hope that I can keep it going through the period of the Challenge - even though I'm no longer part of it!
March 6, 2019 at 15:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Sorry you crashed Mark, but happy to see I have another Bouncer (the creator) no less, working on this. I am mid-day through Day 1 but am very impressed, look forward to sharing out at the end of the day.
March 6, 2019 at 17:48 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
Mark is the Kramer of GTD challenges.
March 6, 2019 at 19:37 | Unregistered CommenterKMac
Mark, I think you should have special dispensation to recommence the challenge with the Bounce.

Or maybe that's the start of a slippery slope and you wouldn't agree to bending the rules to your own advantage.

Good luck to everyone!
March 6, 2019 at 20:17 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret 1
I should have included that Weekly & Daily MVPs (Most Valuable Priorities) includes batching together other tasks (e.g. group admin tasks together and do them in a batch).
March 7, 2019 at 1:47 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Tattum
I have never been able to stick with one method for 40 consecitive days and I start a new job Monday. This will be quite the challenge for me, but I'm up for it!
March 7, 2019 at 2:30 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
A busy first day with pre-established plans and my job precludes me from following my system during the day, but I have a methodology for my work tasks that I followed to the letter (it is another gamified system with a reward system in place, but when at work there is an order in which I need to do things in order to keep to my deadlines, and I generally do prefer to be seen to be working!).

When I did get back in the evening I opened up my spreadsheet and it told me to stop for the night, so I ticked off the things I had done just as matter of course through the day and tucked in earlier than I would usually.

I have a bit more time in the flat tonight, and the expectation is that my system will get me focused on my chores and out for a run before it even thinks of letting me treat myself (with one non-repeating task to cross off in the interim). It is a harsh master, but ultimately I feel it is fair. We shall see how I feel a few more days down the line.

Days completed: 1.
Tasks done: "only" 4.
Rewards claimed: 0.
March 7, 2019 at 11:56 | Unregistered CommenterEiron Page
I am super interested to learn more about your system Eiron.

Overall I was very happy with the official Day 1 with the Bouce. I had a few time sensitive work I needed to produce and had two surprises come up. The Bounce got me through those plus I got a many little things done in-between them, they mostly came as I was bouncing up and looking for something to “rebound” me back down.

Today I have some even tighter deadline work due and many more meetings. Looking forward to see how the Bounce handles it all.
March 7, 2019 at 12:27 | Unregistered CommenterVegheadjones
As predicted, my system had me vacuuming, mopping, cleaning windows and mirrors and cleaning the tumble drier filter. An exciting evening all round. I had to have an emergency finance meeting with my brother, so that took some of the time out of my evening, but I am not dissatisfied with my progress. Technically, all that cleaning I did was two things off my grid (they could be more granular, but I had 'daily cleaning tasks' as the item, so despite them being pretty big jobs (each involving a few sub-tasks that I have not enumerated), that changes things as follows:

Days completed: 2.
Tasks done: 6; 3.0 per day on average.
Rewards claimed: 0.

My evening and weekend are both freer, so hopefully we should see a bit of a jump to these numbers (maybe including a reward or two!).
March 8, 2019 at 12:09 | Unregistered CommenterEiron Page
Vegheadjones: My system is a spreadsheet with code I have built into it in order to automatically fill a 5x5 'Bingo' card with jobs on it. It uses semi-randomised weightings to prioritise the important tasks, while still making sure that less critical tasks and things that I want to do for myself still make an appearance.

I can choose how to tick off the tasks on this card, in any order I like, but the main rule is I am only allowed to claim a 'Reward' from the grid if I have cleared the other jobs in that line first. It means that I feel I am earning my treats rather than using them as a means to procrastinate, and it works out well for me this way (even if I do not get to claim them, I still feel this is fair).

On alternate evenings I do one of two things: either fill the gaps in the grid using the same algorithm and then shuffle the location of the cells, or completely clear and refill the grid. This makes sure it stays current.

If a task is literally impossible at the current time (and the reason has to be valid, e.g. financial constraint, timing [such as going to the Post Office on a Sunday when it is closed]) and there is no way it could be completed before a grid refresh, only then am I allowed to check it off without completing it. The rule then is I have to run the refill-shuffle process.

It is just the right combination of freedom/constraint/reward for me to push forward with what absolutely needs doing, while also getting some of those "nice to do" and "just for me" things done in the process. From my previous comments, you can see that if something absolutely needs doing now, then I allow myself to do that. The system is used as a driver for when I am wondering "what next?" (which with my decision paralysis is most always).

It all sounds a little complicated, but I have been building and tweaking the system for the best part of a year and most of it is automated now. I have banned myself from making changes during this challenge, so anything that does not work I shall make a note of and address at its conclusion.
March 8, 2019 at 12:19 | Unregistered CommenterEiron Page
I'm out.

It always seems to break down the same way:

I use Trello at work, so it feels pointless to use a second list there. I don't have the flexibility to choose my own tasks at work, anyway.

And then I'm so exhausted by the time I get home that the last thing I want to do is look at another list, even if it contains nothing but fun or relaxing stuff. My mind just wants to turn off.
March 8, 2019 at 12:47 | Unregistered CommenterTerhorst
thanks Eiron, once upon a time I set up an excel spreadsheet with VBA code to identify what I should be working on right now. It factored in due dates, importance, priority, project linkage and a DWM expiration date. After working on it for so long, I realized that my intuition when using a catch-all list was just as good, so I abandoned it.

The bingo idea is really intriguing, glad it works for you
March 8, 2019 at 18:25 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
I nearly lost the challenge on Saturday, but managed to do some Simple Scanning in the evening. So I'm still in I think. Weekends were always going to be the main challenge for me.
March 11, 2019 at 14:24 | Unregistered CommenterVille
I have been using Simple Scanning with a notebook, and unfortunately I left my notebook at home yesterday, so had to work via a No List system for the day (which was refreshing for keeping me on the top priorities, but not so good for keeping track of outstanding commitments), I guess this means I have flunked the challenge!

Mark, could you remind me of the benefit of sticking to a single system for (as much as possible of) the period? Is it so that, through sustaining a commitment, we work through limitations in our working patterns and get the system working properly, rather than blaming the system and changing around?
March 12, 2019 at 16:07 | Unregistered CommenterColin
Colin -

<< so had to work via a No List system for the day (which was refreshing for keeping me on the top priorities, but not so good for keeping track of outstanding commitments) >>

You might like Serial No-List. :-)
March 12, 2019 at 16:43 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< Mark, could you remind me of the benefit of sticking to a single system for (as much as possible of) the period? Is it so that, through sustaining a commitment, we work through limitations in our working patterns and get the system working properly, rather than blaming the system and changing around? >>

I couldn't have said it better myself!
March 12, 2019 at 21:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I flunked it.. Didn't manage to do any Simple Scanning on the weekend.

I'll continue the challenge though, as much as I can. Thanks.
March 18, 2019 at 19:04 | Unregistered CommenterVille
I have to ask: I couldn't improve "Task Tracking Lite/Light" enough to be like vanilla "Task Tracking 2.0" so I went back to the latter on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, and have been using it ever since. Am I still on the challenge?
March 21, 2019 at 12:15 | Registered Commenternuntym
I started with an own system which I call Random No List (although Random Hammer, as in , would probably be more precise but it sounds a bit harsh to me). There is no sliding involved. If I throw a four, I'll do the fourth uncrossed task. If there are less than four open items, I add a new one. At the end of the day, I don't add any new tasks so I feel I can get the list done. A six-sided die works great but depending on the day I sometimes use another number. Tasks which are actioned but not finished are reentered but I find myself not doing that very often. With this system, I usually finish a task or at least rewrite it in a different way every time I did some work on it. For the first entry of a day, I like one to four tasks as well as building the list up by rolling the die.

Every time I used a system during lent, it was the Random No List. I just didn't use it nearly every day, which works alright because it is a No List. Still, it would have gained much more traction if I used it every day, so I consider myself off the challenge but happily using the system onwards because it works just great for me to 1. get a feeling for what is significant in this moment and 2. do it with no resistance at all. Of course, with a randomizer, you sometimes have to use common sense (getting dressed after an event because doing the dishes and other stuff were chosen first is probably not an option) but you can limit that by deciding to not add any new tasks at any point before rolling the die. Then, eventually, every task on the list will be actioned.
March 24, 2019 at 8:09 | Unregistered CommenterSitkeys
I'm out. Unfortunately, I had too many urgent tasks to handle and had to abandon the ”3T” part of the system.
March 26, 2019 at 10:23 | Unregistered CommenterSilvia

<< Am I still on the challenge? >>

If what you are doing now is different from what you said you were going to do, then no you're not!
March 26, 2019 at 14:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alas, despite my best intentions I did not stick with Simple Scanning. Unfortunately, my task management has broken down (again)
March 29, 2019 at 12:58 | Unregistered CommenterTmac, #15
I made a small change to my system to allow myself to tick off to-dos when my computer is not available. If this change invalidates the challenge, then I am out. I stopped doing a counter when the comments were unavailable for a few days early on (and when the task 'fix my computer' came up and became my sole focus for about a week), so I do not have a measure of how things went.

Still, I am using the same system and with better results than before, so maybe moving slightly away from the original specs was a good thing!
April 5, 2019 at 9:23 | Unregistered CommenterEiron Page
I tap out. I use Things 3.
April 5, 2019 at 22:56 | Unregistered CommenterNia
Hi Mark, I'm using Serial No-List for the challenge, and I've been enjoying the comments of Seraphim and others on how they're doing.

I really like the system's low overhead and have been using it consistently (in the sense that I haven't been at all tempted to try another system). However, I haven't been using it all day every day, but then maybe that's still within the rules - it seems so when I've read about Seraphim's (and others') experiences with the system but please correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe I've already failed!

Some days I write down every new task before I do it, when I want to reassure myself that I'm makiing good use of my time. What I don't like about this is that it makes the day's list longer and therefore more cumbersome.

Other days I work through several tasks in a row as Ithey come to my attention, without writing them down, and only write down tasks I'm afraid I might forget. This keeps the list cleaner.
April 8, 2019 at 13:19 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
I’m out of the Challenge.
April 8, 2019 at 14:43 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda
I am out too!
April 9, 2019 at 15:18 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
I'm out of the challenge. I was Simple Scanning, but the list got too big and unwieldy and I lost momentum. I'm going to try a different method for the remainder of Lent
April 9, 2019 at 16:32 | Unregistered CommenterAdam
I'm out - so close but so far!

The method started out as:
Split tasks into 3 priority piles, then simple scanning through each pile. Batch similar tasks for efficiency.

But I ended up simply batching tasks and then working though them completely one batch at a time. I have dropped priority of tasks, other than moving tasks into one batch that I want to do each day (e.g. client emails). I always manage to clear that by lunchtime.
I suppose it is a significant enough change to mean I'm out.

I'm liking what I'm doing at the moment as it is stupidly simple and I get a lot of traction doing similar type tasks all in one go each afternoon. I seem to get on a roll so that is good.
April 10, 2019 at 17:29 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I failed to keep up 5T for a month and went back to alternating smema and May 9.
April 10, 2019 at 19:13 | Unregistered CommenterJens
I'm out, too.
Halving worked great to get moving and avoid procrastionation, but I couldn't keep it up under pressure and felt the need for a more structured method like DIT
April 11, 2019 at 15:17 | Unregistered CommenterDino
Margaret1 -

<< However, I haven't been using it all day every day, but then maybe that's still within the rules >>

The rules ( ) don't specifically say whether or not to use it all day every day. But there are a few reasons why I don't think that's the best way to work, or indeed, that it is even logically possible:

- I don't think it's possible to use a TM system for every task, because "every task" is an ambiguous, indefinable concept. Every letter I type here is an "action" -- but is it a task? Every task or action can be broken down into smaller ones. But just because we CAN break them down, and write them down, doesn't mean it's feasible or useful. But this implies that every task assumes the smaller, component asks are implicitly understood to the degree that there is no need to specify them -- no need to write them down. This means there are all kinds of things we never write down, and would never have any rational reason for writing down.

- Then there are habits. Every time I brush my teeth, it's a "task" - so should I write it down on my list when I get up in the morning? I suppose if one needs a reminder, and wants to make oneself more consciously aware, then maybe it's helpful. But once the habit is established, it just isn't needed anymore. Just get up and follow the morning habitual routine.

- I feel that a TM system should be a help and a guide to one's intuition, and should not take the place of it. So I try just to do whatever is in front of me, without reference to a list, unless I know I will need the help of the list, or I start feeling aimless. I think it's a *good* thing to use a good system to teach you good habits, so that you don't need the system anymore -- or at least don't need it for the smaller tasks.

With Serial No-List, it's easy to let this ebb and flow as needed. Whenever I am feeling I am in a good flow state without the list, then I just try to keep it going. Sometimes it's fine just to follow my calendar most of the day, and catch up on whatever small things come to mind in between the meetings.

But whenever I feel I need more guidance and focus, I just write more on my list -- more often, more detail, smaller tasks. And then the focus comes back.

And in general, I just start the day by writing down whatever is on my mind. I think the human mind is a great tool for capturing the right stuff at the right level of specification. And if we don't get it quite right, we can make it a little more detailed, or a little less detailed, and see what works better.

It would be interesting to hear Mark's perspective on this!
April 12, 2019 at 6:01 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I'm still "in," which is remarkable since I don't think I have ever stayed so long with one system, although I'm tempted to try the serial no-list system you guys have been talking about. It looks like I am the only person on Mark's list using Time surfing, a system based largely on using intuition to guide choices in the moment. I have tried other versions of Mark's no list systems, but they didn't really work for me -- missed tasks and added stress. But this approach feels very different, I have not used a list at all since February.
- Some observations: From the perspective of procrastination or that feeling resistance, Time Surfing has the same feel for me as the randomizer. The only difference is that I'm happier with the choices that I'm making. I also feel, during the day, much more "in the moment" with things, I sleep better, and I have less stress (and this is one of my busiest times). For me, it's a bit like trusting the GPS on my phone or watch to take me through unfamiliar territory -- I have no idea the route, but I know the device will ding me in plenty of time to make the correct turn. And suddenly I'm home! Intuition is the "ding" and has been far more reliable than my intellect at choosing the correct task in the moment.
April 12, 2019 at 22:20 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
Thanks for your reply Seraphim - very interesting and helpful, as usual. It's reassured me that I'm not breaking any rules, therefore I'm still officially in the challenge.

Using the list has helped me to identify and work on the essential tasks without having to plough through multiple tasks that aren't relevant today. I have a daily task "once through whole list" so that I can reassure myself I'm not going to forget something important. If I spot something I want to work on today I add it to today's list. In practice this means that I don't even have to go right through the whole list - just checking the last few days is fine. Of course once I've worked on today's page for as long as I need to, the rules get me to go backwards through the previous days' lists anyway.

I occasionally have times when I don't want to do ANY tasks on the list, even though they should be worked on - this bunking off makes me feel guilty, but I don't think it breaks the challenge, if the challenge is to use only one system. If the challenge is to not bunk off when I should be doing tasks from my list then I'd have been out long ago. Of course I could always add a task "feel free to bunk off" to my list!
April 13, 2019 at 12:27 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
I‘m out.
April 14, 2019 at 17:06 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
Margaret1 -

<< Of course I could always add a task "feel free to bunk off" to my list! >>

Actually, maybe "feel free to bunk off" should just be part of the official rules! :-)

As I wrote to Alan earlier ( ), I want the system to preserve complete freedom of action at all times. The system is a guide to help me sort out what my intuition and internal motivations are already telling me. But I don't want the rules to dictate anything to me. I am afraid it will cause me to resist the system altogether, in the long run, if there are any obligatory rules that try to force me to behave in a certain way.

So if I am sick of my work and sick of writing things down, and I just want to get away for awhile, I want the system to allow me to do that without making me "sort it out", and without making me feel guilty about it!

But maybe, if I am afraid I am being impulsive, and want to ensure my internal motivations are not just impulsive whims, I can write "feel free to bunk off" on the list before selecting it. This acknowledges my current state of mind but gives me a moment to reflect before just going off on a whim.

This seems in line with how Mark has recommended similar things, as far back as AF1 at least.
April 15, 2019 at 1:05 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

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