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Saturday
Jul012017

High Volume, High Speed, Low Resistance

Just to wet your appetites I’m about to start the final testing of the high volume, high speed, low resistance system which I’ve been working on for the last few months. The aim of this method is to enable you to do anything and everything, with minimum resistance. I’m very hopeful that I have succeeded.

Some of the characteristics of the system are: 

  • Urgent tasks can be accessed at any time without bending or breaking the rules
  • Whatever the size of the list, scanning for the next task takes minimal time
  • It is very suited to “little and often” working
  • Any size of list can be handled
  • Equal attention is paid to all parts of the list
  • The system itself provides momentum
  • There is no provision for dismissal as this is unnecessary 

I’m starting testing tomorrow with my existing list which is spread across pages of 31 lines each. The number of active tasks currently on each page is as follows:

1 - 1

2 - 0

3 - 2

4 - 3

5 - 6

6 - 5

7 - 6

8 - 1

9 - 1

10 - 13

11- 18

Total: 56

Please note: 

  1. This page distribution was produced by a different system
  2. The pages are only being recorded for test puposes. The system does not use pages - it is just one long list and therefore ideally suited for electronic implementation.

 

Sunday
Jun252017

Thoughts on the Long List (2)

I wrote about about the natural selection of tasks back in February this year, and it would be well worth your while reminding yourself what I said then. One of the most important things was:

There is no such thing as procrastination. What we call “procrastination” is just our minds working through the selection process.

What I want to look at in future posts is what happens when we take this principle seriously.

Sunday
Jun252017

Anchored Autofocus2

Until a few days ago I was using simple scanning for my experiments with the long list, but in the last few days I’ve been using a modified version of Autofocus 2 (AF2) to give me a bit more flexibility. So far this has been working very well - but it’s early days yet. I’m describing it now for anyone who wants to try it out - but please bear in mind that it has not been properly tested.

There are two ways in which this is different from AF2: 

  • There is no dismissal procedure
  • After you have done a task, you may do the next active task on the list in either direction from the task you have just done. You continue to do this until you don’t want to do either of the adjacent tasks. Then you return to the end of the list, perform another scan and repeat the process. 

Example:

Email
Sharpen Pencils
Prepare Planning Meeting
Arrange Group Photo
Call John re Project X
Voicemail
Check Proofs
Submit Expenses
Order New Front Tyres
Buy 300 copies of Secrets of Productive People

From the end of the list scan back to the first task that feels ready to be worked on, and work on it. Re-enter if necessary.

Email
Sharpen Pencils
Prepare Planning Meeting
Arrange Group Photo
Call John re Project X
Voicemail
Check Proofs
Submit Expenses
Order New Front Tyres
Buy 300 copies of Secrets of Productive People
Flowers for J
Voicemail

 

You now have a choice of Call John, Check Proofs, or rescanning:

Email
Sharpen Pencils
Prepare Planning Meeting
Arrange Group Photo
Call John re Project X
Voicemail
Check Proofs
Submit Expenses
Order New Front Tyres
Buy 300 copies of Secrets of Productive People
Flowers for J
Check Bank Balance
Voicemail

You now have a choice of Arrange Group Photo, Check Proofs, or rescanning:

Email
Sharpen Pencils
Prepare Planning Meeting
Arrange Group Photo
Call John re Project X
Voicemail
Check Proofs
Submit Expenses
Order New Front Tyres
Buy 300 copies of Secrets of Productive People

Flowers for J
Check Bank Balance
Voicemail

You now have a choice of Prepare Planning Meeting, Check Proofs, or rescanning. You decide to re-scan:

Email
Sharpen Pencils
Prepare Planning Meeting
Arrange Group Photo
Call John re Project X
Voicemail

Check Proofs
Submit Expenses
Order New Front Tyres
Buy 300 copies of Secrets of Productive People

Flowers for J
Check Bank Balance
Voicemail
Email

Note that as you now are at the beginning of the list you only have one task to choose from - Sharpen Pencils - or rescan..

Saturday
Jun172017

Thoughts on the Long List

While I’ve been semi-incapacitated recently (suspected Guillain-Barré Syndrome on top of the expected side-effects of chemotherapy), I’ve been working on an outline for a book on the subject of the “catch-all” list.

My theory is that a properly handled and practised list removes the need for prioritization, goal-setting, planning and deadline-chasing - real “autofocus” in other words.

It’s not dependent on any particular way of handling the list, though I’ve found simple scanning to be the easiest and most reliable for my own use. It’s more a change of attitude than a new system.

Typing is still very difficult for me so my intention at the moment is to write about this in dribs and drabs over the next few weeks (or possibly months). We’ll see whether the “long list theory” supports me in doing this in practice.

Thursday
May042017

Scatter Maps

Long-term reader of this blog, Beverly Chiu, has posted an article on her blog about how she uses Scatter Maps. I wrote about these in my first book Get Everything Done. It’s still a very useful technique, which can be used for many different purposes.

Saturday
Apr292017

No Question FVP

Here’s the system I’m using at the moment, which I’m finding works very well so far.

As the name suggests, it’s basically FVP without the questions.

As in FVP the first task on the list is always dotted.

You scan the list by dotting what stands out. As in FVP you then move backwards through the list to action the tasks.

When you have taken action on a task, you scan from that task to the end of the list without bothering to look at the preceding dotted task. When no tasks stand out you then go back to the preceding dotted task and do that.

In other words the basic algorithm is exactly the same as in FVP - but without asking any questions.

The great advantage over FVP is that the system itself requires hardly any mental effort. This makes it much faster and easier. And since the basis for selection is “standing out” there is little or no resistence to the tasks themselves.

Monday
Apr242017

Systematic Next Hour

It has just struck me that the answer to my quest for the Systematic Next Hour has been staring me in the face all along. In fact we already have it - it’s called The Final Version (FV).
Since the rules have never been published on this website, here they are.
(Sorry about the rather erratic formatting. It seems to be impossible to format a passage properly which has been cut and pasted into Squarespace).
——————————————————
Introduction
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here are the long-awaited instructions for the Final Version (FV) time management system. I don’t know if it’s the best time management system ever devised. What I do know is that it is the best time management system that I have ever used myself. It’s shown itself to be resilient, responsive and very quick. FV is based on my earlier time management systems, particularly the extensive range of AutoFocus and SuperFocus systems developed over the last three years. These were unique in that they were constantly developing with the assistance of a large band of commenters on my web-site. Anyone who has tried one or more of these systems will recognize the strong family resemblance that they have with FV. The most striking resemblance is that they are all based on one long list (either paper or electronic) which can be used to capture just about every possible action that springs into one’s mind. There is a minimum of special markings or annotations.Such a list depends on an effective algorithm to process it. There are three main requirements which have to be kept in balance. These are urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Traditional time management systems have tended to concentrate on the first two of these. The neglect of psychological readiness is probably the reason that most people don’t find time management systems particularly effective or congenial.The most distinctive feature of FV is the way that its algorithm is primarily based on psychological readiness - this then opens the way to keeping urgency and importance in the best achievable balance.
 
The FV  Algorithm
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Anyone who has followed the discussions on my website will recognize that the FV algorithm is loosely based on two powerful methods of making a decision, “structured procrastination” and Colley’s rule. I don’t intend to go into either of these now as an understanding of them is not relevant to the finished algorithm, but anyone who wants to know more about them can google them.The FV algorithm uses the question “What do I want to do before I do x?” to preselect a chain of tasks from the list. What exactly is meant by “want” in this context is deliberately left undefined. There may be a whole variety of reasons why you might want to do one thing before another thing and all of them are valid.The chain always starts with the first unactioned task on the list. Mark this task with a dot to show that it’s now been preselected. Don’t take any action on the task at this stage.This task then becomes the benchmark from which the next task is selected. For example, if the first task on the list is “Write Report”, the question becomes “What do I want to do before I write the report?” You move through the list in order until you come to a task which you want to do before writing the report. This task is now selected by marking it with a dot and it becomes the benchmark for the next task. If the first task you come to which you want to do before writing the report is “Check Email”, then that becomes the benchmark. The question therefore changes to “What do I want to do before I check email?”As you continue through the list you might come to Tidy Desk and decide you want to do that before checking email. Select this in the same way by marking it with a dot, and change the question to “What do I want to do before tidying my desk?”. The answer to this is probably “nothing”, so you have now finished your preselection.The preselected tasks in the example are:
Write report
Check email
Tidy desk
 Do these in reverse order, i.e. Tidy desk, Check email, Write report. Note that as in all my systems, you don’t have to finish the task - only do some work on it. Of course if you do finish the task that’s great, but if you don’t then all you have to do is re-enter the task at the end of the list.Once you have taken action on all the preselected tasks, preselect another chain of tasks starting again from the first unactioned task on the list.That’s it! You’re now ready to go. Everything else is further examples and explanation.
A Longer Example
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In this example for ease of understanding no new tasks are added while working on the list. This of course is unlikely in real life. Your initial list of tasks:
Email 
In-Tray
Voicemail
Project X Report
Tidy Desk
Call Dissatisfied Customer
Make Dental Appointment
File Invoices
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Back Up  
 
Put a dot in front of the first task:  
 
· Email 
  In-Tray
  Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do before I do Email?”
 
You work down the list and come to Voicemail. You decide you want to do Voicemail before doing Email. Put a dot in front of it.  
 
· Email 
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
  Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
Now ask yourself ” What do I want to do before I do Voicemail?” You decide you want to tidy your desk.  
 
· Email 
  In-Tray
· Voicemail
  Project X Report
· Tidy Desk
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
There are no tasks you want to do before tidying your desk, so now take action on the dotted tasks in reverse order:  
 
Tidy Desk
Voicemail
Email  
 
Your list will now look like this (I’ve removed the tasks that have been actioned but if you are using paper they will still be on the page but crossed out):  
 
  In-Tray
  Project X Report
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
  Back Up  
 
Now start again with the first unactioned task on the list, In-Tray, and repeat the same procedure. The only task you want to do before In-Tray is Back Up. As this is the last task on the list there are only two dotted tasks: 
 
· In-Tray
  Project X Report
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
· Back Up
 
Do the two dotted tasks in reverse order:
 
Back Up
In-Tray
 
So the list now looks like this:
 
  Project X Report
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
  Make Dental Appointment
  File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
 
So far the tasks have been relatively trivial, but the Project X Report is something that you have been putting off doing for a long time. So repeat the procedure:
 
· Project X Report
  Call Dissatisfied Customer
· Make Dental Appointment
· File Invoices
  Discuss Project Y with Bob
 
You now file your invoices, make a dental appointment and make a start on the Project X Report.
 
In your final pass through the list you Discuss Project Y with Bob and Call Dissatisfied Customer.
 
So the tasks on the original list have been done in the following order. The tasks in italics are the ones at the beginning of each scanning process.
 
Tidy Desk
Voicemail
Email
 
Back Up
In-Tray
 
File Invoices,
Make Dental Appointment
Project X Report
 
Discuss Project Y with Bob
Call Dissatisfied Customer
 
Notice what has happened here. The root tasks (the ones in italics) have been done in strict list order, regardless of importance, urgency or any other factor. Some of them are relatively easy (e.g. Email) and some are relatively difficult (e.g. Project X Report) or you are reluctant to do them (e.g. Call Dissatisfied Customer).
 
Each of the root tasks is preceded by a short ladder of tasks which are in the order in which you want to do them. The number and difficulty of the tasks in the ladder tend to reflect the difficulty of the root tasks.
Additional Tips  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The best way to sink any time management system is to overload it right at the beginning. FV is pretty resilient, but at this stage you aren’t. So build up the list gradually. My advice is to start off with the tasks and projects that are of immediate concern to you right now, and then add more as they come up in the natural course of things.Tasks can be added at any level, e.g. Project X, Plan Restructuring, Call Pete, Tidy Desk.
If the first task on the list can’t be done now for some valid reason (e.g. wrong time of day, precondition not met, bad weather), then cross it out and re-enter it at the end of the list. Use the next task as your starting benchmark.If at any stage you find that a task on the list is no longer relevant, then delete it. If you find that your preselected list is no longer relevant (e.g. if you have had a long break away from the list), then scrap the preselection and reselect from the beginning. A shorter way to do this is to reselect only from the last preselected task which you haven’t done yet.If one or more very urgent things come up, write them at the end of the list and mark them with a dot so that they are done next. If something already on the list becomes very urgent, then move it to the end of the list and mark it with a dot in the same way.Remember that the aim of any time management system is to help you to get your work done, not get in the way of doing your work. So don’t be afraid to adjust priorities if you need to. However try to keep this to a minimum - stick to the rules whenever possible as they will ensure you deal with your work in a systematic way.
Why It Works
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
At the beginning of this newsletter I said there were three factors which every time management system needs to address: urgency, importance and psychological readiness. Let’s see how FV deals with each of these.Urgency. Because of the nature of the preselection process, urgent tasks tend to get selected - generally speaking the human brain wants to do things that it knows are urgent. If things come up that are particularly urgent they can be added to the preselected list at any time.Importance. Generally speaking the human brain is a bit less keen on doing important stuff than it is on doing urgent stuff. This is particularly the case when the important stuff is difficult. However the FV preselection process ensures that tasks towards the beginning of the list are given as much attention as tasks towards the end of the list.Psychological Readiness. This is where FV really enters new dimensions. By using a pre-selection process, the brain is softened up towards the selected tasks. But this isn’t all. The selection process is based on what you want to do. This colours the whole preselected list so that even the first task, which you may not have wanted to do at all, gets affected. In addition, doing the list in reverse order, with the least wanted task last, uses structured procrastination to get the tasks done.
Saturday
Apr152017

End of the Challenge

Well, the Lenten challenge has now ended. How did you all get on?

Please report what lessons you learned - positive and negative - in the Comments to this post.

As for myself I got enough insights for a new book and developed a really good way of keeping a “catch-all” list fresh and up-to-date.

Monday
Apr032017

Order and Harmony

“First there must be order and harmony within your own mind. Then this order will spread to your family. Then to the community and finally to your entire Kingdom. Only then can you have peace and harmony.” Confucius

The Lent Challenge is now in its final week with only four full days to go. I hope there will be more than a few people who made it through.

The point of the challenge was not to prove any particular system but to experience the effects of being consistent. 

The quote from Confucius above is highly relevant.

Sunday
Mar052017

How to Get a Book Read

I nearly called this post “How to Read Books”, but decided that would give the false impression that I’m going to write about speed reading or skimming or some such. 

Instead this post is about how to prevent one’s house (or Kindle) filling up with books that have been started but never finished - or in some cases not even started. As such, I want to make it clear that I have just as much a problem as any of you. I often declare that I’m not going to buy any more books until I’ve read the ones I already have. That’s usually just before I go and buy the latest volume to catch my eye.

So I’ve finally come up with a way to get these books read. It’s working well for me at the moment, but I warn you that I’ve not been doing it for long - so I don’t know what the long-term results are going to be. However I think it is a good enough idea to let you in on the secret so that you can experiment with it yourselves.

Here’s how it works:

You read two books at once.

The two books should be reasonably compatible in length and ease of reading. 

Both books should be in either electronic format or paper. Don’t try and mix the two formats.

If you are reading with a Kindle or similar device, it will tell you what percentage of the book you have read. On each reading session, read the book which has the least amount read. So if one book is 35% read and the other 38% read, you read the one which is 35% read.

It doesn’t matter whether the book you are reading catches up with the other one or not. Just read for as long as you want and then apply the rule again the next time you read.

Putting two books in competition together like this is remarkably effective. 

If you’re reading paper books then go by the number of pages read. This is why the books need to be reasonably compatible in length. When the shorter book gets finished, you’ll still be in sight of the end with the longer book.

I’m also using this method with magazines. You don’t need to confine yourself to two magazines though. I’m currently reading six! 

Friday
Mar032017

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.

Thursday
Mar022017

Entries for the Lenten Challenge

Here is the list of entrants as far as I am aware of them from the Comments to the last two posts. Please notify me of any mistakes, omissions or amendments in the Comments.
Austin               Own system (notebook reviews)
Brenda              DIT
Caibre65            The Bounce (modified)
Chris Cooper      The Bounce
Christian G.       Own system (five tasks)
Christopher       DIT
Colin                 DIT
Cricket              ToodleDo
Dino                  DIT
Don R                Own system (minimal steps)
Eiron                 Own system
Eugenia             (Added Mar 5) Basic scanning
Frank                FVP
Griffen               The Bounce (modified)
james220          FV
Jupiter              (Added Mar 5) Own system (Jane Wesman/AF2)
Kiwi Eric            AF1
Lenore              DIT
Leon                 The Bounce (modified)
Margaret1         The Bounce
Mark Forster      FVP
nuntym             FAF
Ryan Freckleton AF4
Seraphim           DIT with Theory of Constraints
stefanb              (Added March 3rd) AF1 modified.
Terry                 Basic scanning
Tobba                The Bounce
Tommy              (Added Mar 5) DIT
tomcal               FVP
vegheadjones     FAF or The Bounce
I’ve received only one idea for a prize so far, but as it would cost me far too much in the way of time to produce unfortunately I’ve had to rule it out.
Wednesday
Mar012017

The Lenten Challenge Starts

We’re off! Or least those on the same or earlier time zones as me are. The rest of the world will have to wait for a few hours.

I made a last minute decision to use FVP rather than anything else. I may live to regret that, but I can’t change it until the end of the challenge. So if it doesn’t work out, I’m stuck with it.

This is the original FVP, not the fast version.

Good luck to everyone who is taking part, whether they’ve announced the fact or not.

Tuesday
Feb282017

Ready for the Start?

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start of my challenge to myself, and anyone who wants to join me, of sticking to the same time management system for the whole of Lent. 

I’ve decided not to use The Bounce because I don’t want this to be a test of a specific system, but of what happens when one consistently uses the same “catch-all” system over a period of time. 

So instead I am going to use the most basic “catch-all” system, which consists of nothing more than repeatedly scanning the list from beginning to end, taking action on any task which stands out as being ready to be done.

Those who want to join me in the challenge can use whatever system they like - or none at all.

I started using the system yesterday so that I’d be up and running for the start tomorrow.  I copied over the list I was using with The Bounce into a new notebook. There were 113 tasks on the list. 

Note that there is a certain amount of disagreement about when exactly Lent ends. For the purposes of this challenge only I am including Good Friday (April 14), but not Holy Saturday (April 15).

Thursday
Feb232017

What to give up for Lent?

Lent starts next Wednesday (March 1st).

Each year for Lent I give up something different. One year I gave up alcohol (never again!), another caffeine (even worse!) and one year I gave up swearing even under my breath (every time I swore I gave £1 to charity - it cost me a fortune!).

This year I have decided to give up changing time management systems.

So whichever system I am using when I go to bed on February 28th will be the only one I will use until I go to bed on April 14th. I don’t know which it will be, but the one I am currently using is The Bounce - see here.

Anyone want to join me in this? You can use whatever system you like - or none. The only rule is that whatever you choose, you can’t change it until the end.

Wednesday
Feb152017

This One!

Here’s the answer to the question I posed in my previous post.

It’s the method described at http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2006818#post2070863

I hope I didn’t mislead people too much by saying it wasn’t one of the Autofocus systems. I don’t think of it as an Autofocus system and it doesn’t bear an official AF series number, but I see it was originally part of a discussion on possible AF variations. The name I usually give this to myself is The Bounce for reasons which are obvious if you read the instructions. I keep track of the direction I am going in by using a caret or upside down caret in place of a dot when selecting a task.

I had it in mind that I had written more about this somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t find it. Kudos to anyone who can find some other references.

And it’s still working really well with 68 active tasks on my current list.

Pages are not relevant to the actual mechanics of the method, but they are useful to see what sort of spread the system gives. I’m using a standard Moleskine notebook with 31 lines to the page. I started with a fresh list so only this method has been used on it.

Active tasks per page:

Page 1 0

Page 2 0

Page 3 0

Page 4 5

Page 5 13

Page 6 2

Page 7 9

Page 8 11 (including this one)

Page 9 20

Page 10 8 (out of 8)

Tuesday
Feb142017

Guess which?

For the last few days I’ve been resurrecting an old method and getting really good results from it. I know some of you like playing the detective, so here are some clues. Can you identify the method?

 

  • It uses a full “catch-all” list
  • It’s not one of the Autofocus, Superfocus, FV, or FVP based methods
  • Any task can be accessed immediately
  • It does not use any form of random selection
  • There is no pre-selection - only one task is selected at a time.
  • New tasks can be added at any time
  • There is no “dismissal” of tasks
  • Unfinished and recurrent tasks are re-entered immediately
  • Selection is fast and easy
  • It is very responsive to circumstances, time of day, etc
  • No need to have separate lists for work, office, home, etc.
  • The list is treated as one whole - no pages involved.

 

I’ve never really given this method a fair trial in the past. I think this is because I’ve made the mistake of starting it on an already long list. This time I started with a list of only ten tasks and let the list grow of its own accord. At the moment my list is 69 tasks long and the method is still working well.

Tuesday
Feb072017

Natural Selection Changes the Emphasis

One of the things that is coming out in the comments to yesterday’s post on The Natural Selection of Tasks is that the commenters are still thinking in terms of getting everything on the list done. But the whole point of Natural Selection is that you don’t get everything done or even aim to get everything done. You allow tasks and projects to find their own level.

The difference could be summarised as: 

  1. A comprehensive list of everything that needs to be done, OR
  2. A wide-ranging list of everything that you might do

 In the case of 1, the aim is to do everything on the list as quickly as possible whether you want to or not.

In the case of 2, the aim is to whittle the list down to what you are actually ready and motivated to do.

It should be obvious that there will be one major difference between how these two lists get actioned. In the case of 1, you will be continually struggling against procrastination. In the case of 2, procrastination will be virtually non-existent. 

In the absence of procrastination, the speed of work will be much greater. Therefore in theory you will get much more work done in the case of 2 than you would in the case of 1.

In practice, I have found this to be so. I have powered through mountains of work in the last few days, including stuff which I have been stuck over for weeks (even months in a few cases).

I know that my experience of a system doesn’t necessarily correspond to somone else’s experience, so this may not be for everyone. But I do encourage you to have a go  However make sure that you have first taken on board what I said at the end of yesterday’s article:

…the difference is not so much in the method as in the mental attitude that goes with it. It’s a matter of learning to trust that your subconscious mind is quite capable of sorting through your tangled priorities without any interference from your conscious mind. In fact it does a much better job on its own.

Monday
Feb062017

The Natural Selection of Tasks

When I first started developing Autofocus one of the ideas that was at the foundation of what I was trying to achieve was the natural selection of tasks. By this I meant that I wanted to find a method that would free our minds to naturally focus on what was important to us and leave the rest.

This never quite worked out with Autofocus or its successors. Recently I been spending quite a bit of time trying to work out what I was doing wrong.

Here are some of the conclusions I’ve come to: 

  • We should consciously interfere with this natural selection process as little as possible.
  • We need to rid ourselves of all ideas that we “should” be doing this, that or the other task.
  • If we don’t get round to doing a task, that’s a sign that we should let it die.
  • A prerequisite for natural selection is a large seed-bed of possibilities. This would imply that we should use a “catch-all” list and add every fleeting idea to it. 
  • We should rid ourselves of the idea that putting a task on the list implies any commitment to doing it. It does however imply a commitment to keeping it under consideration for as long as it remains on the list.
  • There is no such thing as procrastination. What we call “procrastination” is just our minds working through the selection process.
  • A method of weeding out tasks which are showing no sign of getting done is required. This implies no condemnation - it is purely housekeeping to keep the list manageable.
  • Our method of working the list should put no pressure on us to do any particular task or tasks. 

If you compare the above list with Autofocus you can see exactly why Autofocus ultimately failed to provide a long-term satisfactory answer.

The solution is not to make Autofocus more complicated or effective. It is to radically simplify it and remove even the faintest suspicion of compulsion from every part of it.

Current Method

What I have been working with over the last few days is a “Catch-all” list to which I add everything that I think of. I scan it continuously as one list from one end to the other, taking action on tasks that stand out and re-entering recurring and unfinished tasks.

At the end of the day (or beginning of the next) I remove pages on which there has been no movement during the day. This purely a housekeeping matter to keep the list manageable. It’s not a penalty or “dismissal”.

This is proving extremely effective. I’m getting a vast amount of work done without any of the usual heartache (or brainache) about what I should be doing.

Conclusion

As you will realise if you’ve been around my website for a bit, there’s nothing new about any part of this. In fact the difference is not so much in the method as in the mental attitude that goes with it. It’s a matter of learning to trust that your subconscious mind is quite capable of sorting through your tangled priorities without any interference from your conscious mind. In fact it does a much better job on its own.

Monday
Jan092017

Flexible Autofocus

In my post Systematic, Fast and Flexible I said that FVP was systematic and flexible but not fast. Accordingly I spent a bit of time developing a variation on FVP called Fast FVP. Those readers who have tried it out have generally speaking found it works well.

However in the post I also said that Autofocus (AF1) was systematic and fast but not flexible. So I’ve now been looking at how I can produce Flexible Autofocus. I’ve been trying this out over the last few days and actually prefer it to Fast FVP.

Here’s how it works:

1. It uses exactly the same rules as AF1 except for the following.

2. When you finish scanning a page, you no longer proceed automatically to the next page and repeat the page scanning procedure. Instead, you scan forward ignoring the page structure until you come to a task that stands out as ready to be done. You may skip over several pages before this happens.

3. Once you have done the task that stood out, you are “trapped” on its page. You have to carry out the full page scanning procedure on that page in order to be released from it. Once you have been released, you repeat rule 2.

4. AF1’s dismissal rules obviously wouldn’t work with this. I don’t see much point in trying to work out a different form of dismissal, so there is no dismissal in this method.

I’m so far very satisfied with how this works. We’ll see how well it stands up in the long term. But there is one challenge yet to come:

The Systematic Next Hour