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Entries in random (9)

Wednesday
Jul272016

The Random Hour

I said in yesterday’s post that I was left with The Next Hour of Your Life as the best method for getting everything done. Today I’ve been trying to improve it by using it with a randomizer.

The details of what I’m doing are:

  • I’m using a 22 line notebook, specifically a Moleskine Cahier.
  • I’ve set the Randomizer on 11 (i.e. half the page)
  • No sliding - I just count the active tasks
  • The list is a rolling list of approximately one hour’s work.

Although today’s been very fragmented, the system has been pretty successful so far. Tomorrow should be a bit more stable, which will give a better opportunity for it to show its paces.

Sunday
Jul172016

More Thoughts on the Random Method

After experimenting with various methods of working the Random Method I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • The random method is best taken neat without any attempts to prioritize. The reason is that whatever method you use for prioritizing will slow down the rest of the system.
  • For the best results the list needs to be kept well-weeded. I am finding it works best with 35-40 items on the list - much above that and its effectiveness starts to fall off.
  • You can use the list for time-sensitive stuff, subject to my final point, which is:
  • When something needs doing now, do it now.
Saturday
Jul162016

A Refinement on "Dot and Do"

In yesterday’s post I suggested that the “dot and do” approach could be done anytime

However I think a more structured approach would be helpful and so I suggest something on these lines.

When moving to a new task, use the Randomizer to select the task as usual

Review any tasks marked as time-sensitive which lie between the task you have just finished and the task which the Randomizer has just landed on.

For example your Randomizer throws an 18. You have two time-sensitive tasks marked, one at 5 and one at 13. What do you do?

  1. Dot the task at 18.
  2. Examine the task at 5 and decide whether it should be done now.
  3. If yes, do it. If no, leave it where it is.
  4. Examine the task at 13 and decide whether it should be done now
  5. If yes, do it. If no, leave it where it is.
  6. Do the task at 18.
  7. Throw the Randomizer for the next task.

One word of caution. Mark tasks in this way very sparingly. Remember that whenever you increase the priority of a task, you are at the same time reducing the priority of everything else. So keep it for when it’s really needed. Don’t do it as a matter of routine. The basic rule is that the Randomizer should select the next task to be done whenever possible.

Friday
Jul152016

A Simple Amendment to the Random Method

The major problem with the Random Method is that as the list gets longer so the maximum time it takes to get to a particular task gets longer too. The result is that some tasks don’t get dealt with as quickly as we need them to be.

However this can be dealt with simply and easily by making one amendment to the rules. I call it “dot and do”.

The amendment allows any task on the list to be done at any time by dotting it and doing it. The dotted task is treated just as if it had been selected by the Randomizer, i.e. the next scan starts from it.

Since tasks treated in this way are normally ones which are coming under time pressure and therefore are forcing themselves on your attention, selecting them does not involve rejecting any other tasks. As a result procrastination is not increased.

I find it useful to mark up in advance the tasks which may come under time pressure. Then at any time I can easily see at a glance if any tasks need to be “dotted and done”. However as far as possible selection should be done by the Randomizer.

The way I mark up these tasks is to mark them with an empty dot, i.e. a small circle. But you of course can use whatever way of marking you prefer.

I’ve been trying this out for the last couple of days and it’s been amazingly successful. I’ve only needed to use “dot and do” a few times, but the ability to do it within the rules removes all the anxiety felt when a task gets overdue.

Thursday
Jul142016

The Random Method with Day List

I found that the idea of a day list didn’t work with the Random Method. The reason was quite simply that I found myself feeling pressurized to get all the tasks done by the end of the day. Since one of the great advantages of the Random Method is how little pressure one feels, I thought that was throwing away one of the best features.

However I think I have discovered a simple amendment to the rules that solves all the Random Method problems and allows you to have as long a list as you like!

I’ll describe it tomorrow if it’s still working for me.

Wednesday
Jul132016

Statistics for the Unmodified Random Method

Over the last two days I’ve been testing to see how well the Random Method would perform before I tried any of the possible modifications described in yesterday’s post.

Day 1

Using a notebook with 21 lines to the page

6 pages used

Page 1 - 21 tasks done, 0 not done

Page 2 - 21 tasks done, 0 not done

page 3 - 18 tasks done, 3 not done

page 4 - 10 tasks done, 11 not done

page 5 - 2 tasks done, 19 not done

page 6 - 0 tasks done, 5 not done

Total tasks: 110

Total done: 72

Total not done: 38

Day 2

Page 3 - 3 tasks done, 0 not done

Page 4 - 11 tasks done, 0 not done

Page 5 - 12 tasks done, 7 not done

Page 6 - 9 tasks done, 12 not done

Page 7 - 7 tasks done, 14 not done

Page 8 - 0 tasks done, 13 not done

Total Tasks over 2 days: 160

Total Done in 2 Days: 114

Total Not Done: 46

Not so bad!

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m going to try it as a day list, with the aim of ending the day with zero tasks undone.

Tuesday
Jul122016

Random Amendments for the Random Method

Here are some possible ways in which the Random Method could be improved.

The main problem with it is that the longer the list gets the longer the average time before individual tasks gets actioned.

To counteract this there needs to be either a restriction on the number of tasks entered, or some sort of prioritizing system to ensure that the tasks that need dealing with frequently get despatched quickly.

The easiest way to restrict the number of tasks on the list is to start a new list at the beginning of each day. The aim should be to finish all the tasks each day.

The alternative approach, as I’ve just said, is to allow the list to grow but to develop some sort of prioritizing system.

Here’s a possible one, which is automatic and adjusts to the nature of the random process itself:

  1. When you finish working on a task and there is still work left to do, re-enter the task in the normal way at the end of the list, but add another copy of the task.
  2.  When you finish working on a task and no work is left to do, cross it out - and if it is a recurrent task re-enter it. Do not delete any extra copies added under rule 1.
  3. When you are directed to a task by the Randomizer and the task is “empty”, i.e. there is no work to do, delete it. If it is a recurrent task and there are no other copies of the task in the list, re-enter it. If there are other copies then don’t re-enter it.

Using these rules the speed at which the Random Method picks tasks will automatically adjust to the amount of work that is needed to keep the tasks up-to-date.

At least that’s what I hope will happen. I haven’t tested it out yet!

Anyone want to give it a try?

Monday
Jul112016

Random Thoughts on the Random Method

Since we have been discussing the Random Method of time management in yesterday’s post and its comments, I thought I’d say a little bit about it in today’s blog post.

First of all here’s the link to the original post about the method.

Re-reading it as I am now after an interval of two and a half years, here’s a few remarks about it:

  • Setting the range of the Randomizer for the number of lines on the page is more important than I thought at the time.
    • If you set the Randomizer for a lower number you may not be able to jump the crossed out tasks on a page, which means you will be stuck on the page until every task has been done on it.
    • Setting the Randomizer for a higher number on the other hand means you may miss out a page altogether, which may upset the weighting towards earlier tasks.
  • Don’t let your list get too long. I recommend a maximum of the number of tasks you can work on during an average day. (Notice I say “work on”, not “do”). If you have more than that number the gap between writing a task on the list and working on it gets too long.
  • Remember that a random system is just that - random. It is not in any way taking your needs and priorities into account. There is no guarantee that any particular task will be worked on during a day, while some may be worked on several times.
  • For these reasons don’t use the system for very time-sensitive tasks. It is brilliant for despatching a lot of work in a very short time, but you can’t guarantee exactly how long that “short time” will be. Use a schedule instead for this type of task.
  • Remember the longer your list the longer the average time to reach any given task.
  • The list is weighted so that the longer a task has been on the list the more likely it is to get picked during a pass. Conversely the shorter the time a task has been on the list the less likely it is to get picked.
  • Don’t put tasks on the list that you aren’t fully committed to doing. If the system picks a task and you don’t do it, you are undermining the effectiveness of the system and you will start to experience procrastination with a vengeance.

Tomorrow I’m going to discuss some possible amendments to the system to make it even more effective.

Sunday
Jul102016

A Thought About Procrastination

Over the last months I’ve been doing a whole load of experimentation with no-list methods. More recently I’ve been re-visiting the idea of randomness in time management. And I’ve realised that the two methods have something in common.

The common factor is that they both have a reputation for reducing procrastination.

I started wondering about why this was and I realised that both methods do not involve rejecting tasks.

What do I mean by that?

In most list-based time management systems, whether mine or other people’s, the process of selecting the next task for action involves scanning the list and selecting the task from it. But you’re not just selecting a task; you are also rejecting every task that you scanned before selecting that task. If you have a long to-do list some tasks may end up being rejected scores or even hundreds of times.

My theory is that every time you reject doing a task you increase the amount you are resisting doing that task.

By contrast the selection process in both no-list systems and random systems does not involve rejecting any tasks.

In most no-list systems you make a short list (usually 1-5 items) of what you are going to do and then do them in order. You don’t at any stage scan over any of the tasks and reject them.

In a random system you are simply told what to do by the randomizer. You don’t have to reject anything. The randomizer selects the next task from the list for you.

So the converse of my theory is that the less often you reject a task the less you build up resistance to doing it.

So what sort of system can we design round this? We need a system in which we know what to do next without having to reject any tasks during a selection process.

Here are four ways of achieving this:

  1. By having a boss who tells you what to do all the time
  2. By doing everything on your list in the order you wrote it down
  3. By not having a list but instead just writing down a few tasks at a time and doing them
  4. By having a randomizer select tasks from a list for you

Can you think of other ways of achieving this?