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Discussion Forum > Contrarian

As a businessman and stock trader, I've learned that thinking opposite to the crowd is often positive. For example: most individual traders loose most of their investment capital. Determine the common approach most individual traders use and "short" when they buy, etc...
This has got me to thinking, is there a way to re-think time managment? Can we reverse some failing methods? Can we think backwards?
Ideas?
December 2, 2014 at 14:04 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
Tommy:

Most of the ideas on this website came from doing precisely that. However we are always open to new ideas.
December 2, 2014 at 16:01 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Tommy, every system talked about on this forum is eventually gamed by every individual who tries it. At first it's perfect, because it was populated using the person's situation as it is right then. Over time it goes wrong because there's a cost involved in using it and it diverges from the person's situation. Eventually the person will look for something new, and again finds the perfect system.

Playing this game is fun in its own right (it even has its own name, "Productivity Porn", google it), but it's not productive in the context of moving things along in life. Indeed tweaking and keeping a system up to date, and changing it yet again can make for weeks of procrastination per year.

These systems have a weakness - the human being whose brain responds chemically one way to the idea of surfing the Net, and another way to the idea of sorting out a pile of documents. Knowing that is the first step to managing it (because it cannot be overcome) and being productive AND mindful that committments to yourself and others are genuinely being met.

Tommy I've talked about this previously:

http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2133033#post2134240
http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2413994#post2414772

Regards,
Chris
December 3, 2014 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris:

<< every system talked about on this forum is eventually gamed by every individual who tries it. >>

Do you have any evidence for this statement?
December 3, 2014 at 14:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Survey time?
December 3, 2014 at 19:26 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< Survey time? >>

I'm afraid a survey would achieve nothing because the people who take part in this forum (about 30 or 40 regular posters)* are a self-selecting sample of people who like discussing time management systems.

All we would succeed in establishing is that people who like discussing experiments with time management systems tend to experiment with time management systems.

* out of 12,567 individuals who have visited this website in the last 30 days.
December 3, 2014 at 21:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I'm figuratively describing the vast majority, including me, who flip flop between this system and that system, how they tried X and they're back on Y, then later how Y didn't work out and they're trying Y coupled with Z, then what if we did Z backwards, then what if we did Z on an iPad, then what if we did Y using Z's method on the iPad, then what if we use index cards and a space pen, then cards aren't working out, what if we give X another go, then later on it's not working again, what if we used dice with X, then what if we used dice with Y and Evernote, then... After a few years of this one has to wonder if thinking like this over and over is bordering on absolute madness! I asked myself that one difficult day.

It's all greatly distracting, pleasure-centre hitting "productivity porn" at the time but it's not making our actual life stressors go away because we really don't want to deal with them except at some abstract 'task' level which allows us to shield from them. Using an algorithmic system as a proxy for self control, which is what's going on here, only works until we adapt and game the system. I've seen, and done it myself, AF and FV gamed endlessly on here, for example trying to agree just how little of a task needs to be touched before it can be classed as "worked on" and re-written, rather than looking at the committment which the task represents and what kind of pain it's genuinely causing, getting it done with minimal handling and moving on.

As I've said before it's the same with diets for weight loss - a systematic approach to eating designed to take over the self control, but we end up cheating and adapting and then think we need a new diet rather than honestly re-thinking whether we do or don't want to face the reality of it head on.

Those posts I linked to were me describing my 'waking up' which may be of interest to some people, and Tommy they are my personal experience and interpretation of your opening post about re-thinking time management.

Chris
December 3, 2014 at 21:55 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris:

<< I'm figuratively describing the vast majority, including me, who flip flop between this system and that system, >>

The vast majority of who?

Again, my question is what evidence you have for claiming that "every individual" or "the vast majority" spend their time gaming systems or flip-flopping between systems.
December 3, 2014 at 22:21 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I'm interested, are you genuinely unable to understand the crux of what I'm saying, or is it just inconvenient for me to be saying it? I'm talking about anyone who is liable to addictive / reward-driven behaviour, that's almost anyone with a pre-frontal cortex and probably everyone in this self-selecting group, me included by the way. I have been over this at least twice previously so we're not doing it again. I'm responding to Tommy's interesting opening question.
December 4, 2014 at 0:22 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris,

I would explain the flaw in your reasoning, but my algorithmic system (FV) is telling me I should do something more productive. :)
December 4, 2014 at 1:29 | Unregistered CommenterAustin
Chris:

<< I'm interested, are you genuinely unable to understand the crux of what I'm saying, or is it just inconvenient for me to be saying it? >>

Why does asking what evidence you have imply either of these?
December 4, 2014 at 12:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<I'm figuratively describing the vast majority....>>

Personally, I find your observation - even without the evidence - compelling. I have heard Merlin Mann, David Allen, and the good folks on the Google+ Productivity board echo similar sentiments.

It has taken me years to develop a workflow that works for me. A lot of trial and error, frustration that is finally paying some dividends.

In the end... who cares if you game/hack a system so long as the results are tied to your principles and goals. I can't imagine a more impoverished existence than being true to the rules of GTD, but miserable in your job, gridlocked in your relationships.

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

- S. Covey
December 4, 2014 at 14:37 | Registered Commenteravrum
avrum:

<< I have heard Merlin Mann, David Allen, and the good folks on the Google+ Productivity board echo similar sentiments. >>

I think maybe that what one needs to do to get the right perspective on this is to look at other fields as well as productivity.

You'll find exactly the same phenomena on the discussion boards for language learning, fitness training, and no doubt many more.

The one I know best is language learning. As a bit of background I qualified as a French Interpreter in the late-70s. Apart from a bit of school French I was entirely self-taught, with practically no input from teachers and only one short visit to France. It took me four years.

I've also taught myself German and Spanish up to a reasonable conversational standard, though I'm now very rusty in both.

All that is just to show that I know what I'm talking about on this subject.

New methods of learning languages are being developed all the time. Some of them are brilliant, some are a waste of time. Some are a mixture of both. I wish some of them had been invented when I was studying French.

If you read language learning forums you will find that the individual posters are constantly changing systems, combining them, trying them out, modifying them and so on. Just like our time management forum in fact.

Yet in spite of all this changing about many of the posters are very competent linguists. Their constant trying out of systems and methods appears to have actually helped them to learn languages, rather than hinder them.

Or maybe it's just that people who like learning languages also like discussing and experimenting with languages.

And maybe productivity gurus and people who are interested in productivity methods just like discussing and experimenting with productivity methods.
December 4, 2014 at 15:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

As we've discussed, amongst my friends and family, I'm one of the only one's that cares about this stuff. I've found the same thing is true for most of my clients. So while my sample size is small, it would seem that people who actually USE productivity systems, seem to be tweakers (in general).

Alas, if someone is interested in researching this, I would read the study. Er, the abstract anyway.
December 4, 2014 at 17:08 | Registered Commenteravrum
Mark: as I've said already google "productivity porn" and look into the way the brain causes addictive and reward-driven behaviour. Immediate gratification trumps distant gratification in pretty much everyone.

In otherwords, spending an hour surfing the Net gives an immediate hit, when there could be the greater feeling of happiness to be had from having the bathroom cleaned. Eating a bar of chocolate gives an immediate hit, when there could be the greater feeling of happiness to be had from having shed 5 stones. New year's resolutions are broken within days. Even worse, the knowledge that this longer term desire is going to be a long, hard slog, really amplifies the effect of immediate gratification. After all, there's always tomorrow, isn't there?

Then we have systems. Algorithmic productivity systems which take over the selection or which put the selction into context against others. And we have diets, which take over the selction or which mandate how you eat. We have resolutions. All designed to put a rigid framework around our behaviour so we can control it. So we tell ourselves, repeatedly.

But our brains still respond to that immediate hit. At first the system works, but we start working out how we can get the hits AND still follow the rules. Maybe this bit of chocolate will be okay, after all I've been good this week. Oh no, this damn tax return, what if I just get out my documents box, I can say I've "done something" with that tax return now and rewrite it for afterwards. Okay, I said I'd run every morning but it's really cold this morning, so I won't count today.

Congratulations, we have now gamed the system. But do we think that? No, we get a sense of deep down remorse, something's "not working" with this system, and decide a new system is needed. A new diet because the old one "didn't work". A new productivity system because the old one "got stale". Redo the resolution in a few months, right now "it's not the right time of year". And the new one does work, for a while. Rinse and repeat. In my case, for years until I decided no more, it stops now.

This behaviour is observed in pretty much everyone all over the place. In here we have a self-selecting group of people who like playing with productivity systems, and that's fine as a creative exercise and some things will get done. If we want to run every morning then we have to put on our running clothes and run every morning, not "just get out the water bottle", to paraphrase, because that's giving us room to make an excuse, and there will be no shortage of those when the rain's coming down.

Avrum: You're absolutely right about the "so long as" sentiment. If you feel happy that the way you approach your stuff is getting it done, if it feels right in your life, then it is right. If it feels deep down that it's missing something then that for me was an almost subsconscious awareness that I was letting immediate gratification cloud my more pressing work and that I'd gamed the system to the point it 'allowed' me to behave that way. I fixed it repeatedly for a long time with a new system, which always felt good for a while then went the same way.

Tommy: thanks for a fascinating question. The answer is yes, there are ways to rethink time management. Thinking about tasks in terms of risk/reward/perception shows how, in many cases, addictive reward-driven behaviour prevents efficient progress of far off goals, and how we often mask this by using a productivity system as a substitute for changing our behaviour. And what are we actually trying to do with "time management"? Get everything done? Get the most important things done? Get as little done as we can get away with? Not let work prevent home from getting done? It's different things to different people but I bet we don't really try and define it to ourselves, so how can we measure its success without first defining our personal success criteria?

Incidentally I'm also a stock trader (on a personal level). It took me a while to see that making money in trading comes from being okay taking small, stop-driven losses, since these are offset by larger wins over time. And getting the right tools to enable you to do it the right way, like decent company data, charts, access to Level 2, etc. Most amateurs like me won't trade like that, they do it the opposite way around like you say. They don't research, they don't use stops and will grab immediate profits and leave losses on paper until forced to consolidate, kicking themselves because they could have done it earlier.

It's the same part of the brain in action again, emotionally clouding logic and judgement with a desire for immediate reward over longer-term benefit. Small wins are immediate gratification. Losses are 'out there' somewhere.

Human behaviour and perceptions, this is fascinating stuff! It must stem from some evolutionary benefit in reacting like that, eg immediate reward meant you were alive right now rather than possibly dying while waiting to be better off later on. And since it's with us it did indeed confer an advantage. And now, in the developed world, we wrestle with it.
December 4, 2014 at 20:47 | Unregistered CommenterChris
avrum:

<< As we've discussed, amongst my friends and family, I'm one of the only one's that cares about this stuff. I've found the same thing is true for most of my clients. So while my sample size is small, it would seem that people who actually USE productivity systems, seem to be tweakers (in general). >>

My own experience on the other hand - based on years of coaching and training - would be that most people use some sort of system, even if it's only a simple shopping list, and that however well it works or doesn't work they haven't changed it for years. The number of people who ceaselessly experiment is really quite small.

The reason for this lack of experimentation is that people like routines. It doesn't matter whether a routine is a good routine or a bad routine - if you follow it often enough it becomes second nature and very difficult to shift.
December 4, 2014 at 21:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Chris:

Thanks for your long posting. But you still haven't answered my question about whether you have any evidence to support your assertion that "every system talked about on this forum is eventually gamed by every individual who tries it"?
December 4, 2014 at 21:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, I qualified that assertion and then twice explained it in detail.

Chris
December 5, 2014 at 12:28 | Unregistered CommenterChris
In a way, a TM system is a way to organize things, and it is utterly unrealistic to expect to organize any group of things once and for all. Organization systems fall apart all the time, sometimes from changes (major or minor) in life or circumstances, and sometimes because the novelty is gone and our bad habits reassert themselves. (I'm speaking about physical organization as well as task organization.) Pretending that a new system will solve our problems forever is self-delusion because no system can do that ever. But using a new system to get ourselves moving when we've stagnated is a logical and sensible use of the tools available to us.

In fact, I'd assert that the idea that we should find a single system and use it all the time is one of the bits of conventional wisdom that we should possibly be re-thinking and looking at backwards. Why not a weekend system and a weekday system? Why not choose from a handful of faithful and practiced tools at will? (Many of Mark's long-list systems can be switched up without any overhead or task loss.) If the goal is to get things done and not just play with getting things done, then anything that actually gets stuff done is fair game.

I find the question of looking at conventional wisdom and turning it upside down very interesting in general. I think that Neil Fiore's idea of scheduling play first is an example of doing it backwards. And Mark's "standing out" task choice method and the idea of little and often might be anti-conventional as well.

I guess the starting point of that conversation is: what is conventional wisdom about task-management in the first place? Do important stuff first. Do deadline items first. Set deadlines. Write things down.

Okay, "write things down" is one you can pry from my cold, dead hands. I am a person who thinks in words, not pictures, and writing things down is the way I process and remember best, and I've GOT to have reminders. But maybe others could make audio notes on a recorder? Draw pictures? Do interpretive dance? I don't even know, they're all so alien to the way I think.

What are the other conventional ideas we should be poking at?
December 5, 2014 at 15:07 | Unregistered CommenterR.M. Koske
R.M. Koske:

<< In a way, a TM system is a way to organize things, and it is utterly unrealistic to expect to organize any group of things once and for all. >>

Hmm... I'm not sure I agree with you here, either about TM systems or about "groups of things" in general.

As I said in my post to Avrum (4 posts back), my experience leads me to believe that far from changing their TM systems all the time, the vast majority of people stick with how they've always done it, regardless of how well it works. The number of people who fiddle endlessly with their systems is really quite small.

A case in point is my wife - an excellent organizer - who organizes everything using exactly the same methods that she used when we first got married nearly 40 years ago. I'm pretty sure that they are the same methods that her mother used before her [1]. Maybe she should be writing the TM books, not me.

Did you know that the oldest institution in England is the Church of England, which far predates the English monarchy? I used to work for part of it, the Diocese of Chichester. In spite of being founded in AD 681 it is not one of the oldest dioceses. It is still to this day organized much the way it would have been organized then. This is in spite of having changed its religion at the Reformation. In fact the Church of England is organized today more like the pre-Reformation Church of Rome than the reconstituted English RC church is. Having used the same organization for well over a thousand years the Church of England as a whole is the biggest charity in the United Kingdom by a very long way.

Maybe the idea that we can't avoid changing systems is the conventional wisdom we should be poking at.

[1] she read this over my shoulder and confirms that she did learn them from her mother.
December 5, 2014 at 15:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Chris:

<< I qualified that assertion and then twice explained it in detail. >>

I was trying to pin you down because, as I've written in several posts above, I believe all the evidence points in the opposite direction. People don't as a rule change systems very often, many people not at all. Those that do keep changing systems are a tiny minority, who tend to inhabit discussion forums like this one.

What you say about " Immediate gratification trumps distant gratification in pretty much everyone" is true in so far as it goes. But you might have a look at my previous post and ask yourself how that would apply to my wife's use of the same organizational methods over half a century, or the Church of England's use of the same organization over more than a millennium. Both highly successful over a long timescale remember.

The key to it all is in there if you can find the answer. If not, read my new book when it comes out.
December 5, 2014 at 16:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Yeah, the more I thought about that, the more I lost confidence in the assertion.

(What follows is a bit rambly, sorry, as I'm working out what I think as I go. If it seems like I'm contradicting myself, I probably am. I'm arguing with myself and trying to work out what I think. I've tried to make it intelligible.)

I made the assertion because I'm pretty badly disorganized with regard to stuff, personally, and an organizing blogger I read (who is getting more organized but not there yet) shared her excitement to learn that it is perfectly okay to not have The One System that works forever and ever. Needing to re-organizing a space is not a symptom of failure, or at least, not a permanent one.

If you were running in the morning and then get a dog, your system to get yourself run may need to change. But that may not apply to systems dealing with life as a whole. Hm. If your system is one where you keep it in your head and do what needs to be done, then it makes sense that a life change would make that fall apart but a more robust system would stay generally stable.

I was feeling like I see people who don't take into account the differences caused by changes in jobs or family or housing, and then they blame themselves when the old ways stop working.[1] Now I'm wondering how often the system they're using is one of those no-system "just do it" systems. Or maybe I'm purely mistaken about how common the problem is.

When I thought of the holes in my position I was thinking of libraries and Dewey Decimal and how that system is mostly unchanged. Maybe we're discounting small changes in the systems we're calling unchanged? I know Dewey has probably added categories for Computers since it was invented. Whether that counts as a change is debatable, I suppose. Maybe systems for an organization (like a library or a church) can persist unchanged in a way personal ones cannot? But your wife is an argument against that.

I'm not sure I'd agree that your wife organizes things EXACTLY the same as she always did - I think you have children, yes? A family with an infant, or a toddler, or a teen, or a family with adult children living away from home would be organized differently. But that's a distinction that I know is irrelevant - I'm sure she's using the same principles to derive her organization, and there are lots of bits the kiddos didn't affect at all. If principles stay stable while the details change that is basically no change.

I always wonder about people who seem to be naturally organized. I really don't want to believe that the issue is one of simple willpower, though it could be. Unfortunately they frequently can't articulate the differences in what they're doing either.

[1] Like Chris, I don't have any numbers, it's an impression from some sites on the internet. Also like Chris, what I think I see is what was my worst habit which I'm getting better at managing. Could it be that Chris and I both have a hammer and think we see lots of nails? I certainly am beginning to seriously doubt my perceptions as I think about it.
December 5, 2014 at 16:36 | Unregistered CommenterR.M. Koske
R.M. Koske:

<< I think you have children, yes? >>

Three children and now four grandchildren.

But of course my wife learnt from her mother who at the time had young children too.
December 5, 2014 at 16:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

If she's okay with sharing on this forum, can you describe the essence of your wife's system? IIRC, you've mentioned that she never makes to-do lists.
December 5, 2014 at 23:19 | Registered Commenterubi
ubi:

<< can you describe the essence of your wife's system? >>

It's not a system as such. Basically she makes lots of project-specific lists.
December 6, 2014 at 0:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<Most of the ideas on this website came from doing precisely that.>>

Very true, the more I think about it. It is what attracted many of us to your methods. A few examples of Mark's advice that runs directly contrary to mainstream productivity advice:

Stay on top of all your work by putting it off until tomorrow ("Do It Tomorrow")
Don't prioritize by importance ("Get Everything Done" and elsewhere)
"I'll do it when I feel like doing it, and not sooner." ("How to Make your Dreams Come True")

That is just to scratch the surface.
December 6, 2014 at 16:51 | Unregistered CommenterAustin
Tommy

" This has got me to thinking, is there a way to re-think time managment? Can we reverse some failing methods? Can we think backwards? Ideas? "

As a designer, I get the value of this approach to problem solve. Do you have some interesting reverse backwards ideas? Perhaps as jumping off point for others to consider.
December 6, 2014 at 22:17 | Registered CommentermatthewS
Chris, I'm conflicted about what you write. Yes, there is truth to certain people want to try every new system that they read about, and perhaps sometimes the change of systems is actually a drawback. But I also think, that much of that is who actually posts on this board. We are all types who are interested in the systems. And there seems great value in improvement of systems. Discovery of new ones. What you post is a good warning for people to be aware of, yet you also seem to imply that this is the only outcome and that to me implies this entire site and those on it are wasting time. That we don't really need any new systems at all.

Consider a food site. The owner moderator looks at a cookie recipe. Everyone has done it the same for decades. The moderator looks at all we assume to be the normal right way to prepare a cookie, and improves it, testing for dozens of times.
( http://www.cooksillustrated.com/ is my model for a site that actual does this. Real research, in contrast to someone who just tosses up new recipes with little testing. )

Most people who briefly visit will immediately benefit from the new improved way to make cookies. There will however be some who want to play with this new recipe, and keep tweaking it, trade ideas. They may love playing with and endlessly try out new ways to cook. This is not a waste of time. Others may benefit.

So if Tommy asks if we can think backwards, then what is wrong with that? Why do we want to shut that down? If would be as if we told the person who asks to try add coconut to the perfect chocolate chip recipe, they waste their time, they will just get caught up in endless tweak of food. I hope this is not what you really intend?
December 6, 2014 at 22:35 | Registered CommentermatthewS
Hi matthewS, I don't have any ulterior motive and I think you're reading my posts as being 'anti-system', which they are not. I'm simply answering Tommy's question in a way which draws on my own personal journey and which is meaningful to me. In answer to his question "is there a way to re-think time management?" I say yes, in the kind of people for whom improving productivity means putting together some new system of task management, looking open-mindedly at the underlying behaviour that leads to system-hopping can yield interesting insights.
December 8, 2014 at 1:39 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Hi Chris

Thanks for sharing for experience. It took me a while but ultimately reached the same conclusion. Reading your post was validating and inspiring.

Regarding the question of evidence:

Isn't the evidence on the wall?
the evolution website is not evidence?

(The presentation of a new system, afterwards the presentation of modified and improved versions (tweaks) of the system ( af 1 af2 etc)

After a while a new system is presented (dwm ) than some tweaks follow and after a while a new system is presented (utms)

Is this not what Chris described?
Or perhaps I completely misunderstand the question)
December 10, 2014 at 7:50 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
John:

In what way is the fact that I put a lot of different systems and versions on this website evidence for the fact that "every system talked about on this forum is eventually gamed by every individual who tries it"?

One relates to what I do as a professional inventor of time management systems. The other relates to what members of the general public do. My personal behaviour in no way provides any evidence for what people in general do. Nor for that matter does the behaviour of the 30 or 40 regular contributors to this Forum.
December 10, 2014 at 14:01 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

Thanks for the reply & the clarification regarding your role. Indeed your role is different. Perhaps the statement " every system... by every person" is an over_generalization / exaggeration. Indeed The 40 or 50 contributors do not reflect what people in general do. Maybe it's an indication of what "many people do with many systems?"
All the best
December 10, 2014 at 18:42 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
John:

<< Maybe it's an indication of what "many people do with many systems?" >>

Without some evidence I wouldn't myself go further than to say what "some people do with systems".
December 10, 2014 at 20:48 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I've qualified that statement enough by now, and there is plenty of evidence of people gaming the systems and system-hopping on this forum. If you don't agree that's fine, we'll have to agree to disagree.
December 11, 2014 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Chris:

<< there is plenty of evidence of people gaming the systems and system-hopping on this forum >>

John's post and my reply were talking about what people in general do. I don't think that what 40 or 50 people do on this forum is evidence of what people in general do. This is after all a forum specializing in testing systems. What do you expect the contributors to do?
December 11, 2014 at 15:55 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It also makes a difference how often one is switching systems. Switching once every few days is a recipe for disaster. Switching after a few months of sustained use doesn't seem to cause a problem, and that's what many people even on this forum do.

Personally, the times I've dropped systems and taken a "just work hard on what you know matters" approach, I've found I can game that much more easily and fall into lethargy than when I'm using one of Mark's systems. Sustained use of one system takes determination too, and it has the advantage that I actually remember everything, and I make sustained progress on projects that would have been drowned out by pseudo-urgencies if I were working off-system and "just rolling up my sleeves."
December 11, 2014 at 17:46 | Unregistered CommenterAustin
I think the discussion has been fruitlessly sidetracked. As I see it, Chris's point is that "gaming the system and system-hopping" is not valuable but rather a distraction. The dispute is whether most people or few people do this. This might be important to Mark, a promoter of systems, but less relevant to individual users of systems.

So the real question, directed at people trying to improve their self-management, is "How good or bad is this switching?" And to be honest, the answer is in part related to the behaviour of the system, and in part the behaviour of the individual. If following the system produces a cluttered morass, sticking with it would be a bad idea. If the system is reasonable and the problem is consternation in trying to get the work done, then yes changing the system might be an excuse for not focussing on the work.

(Aside: I'm sure there's many people who when faced with drudge work may procrastinate, but don't blame the system, and don't abandon it.)
December 11, 2014 at 20:47 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan:

I'm not sure that i agree that the number of people isn't important. My own observation is that, whatever the behaviour of people who join time-management discussions, most people in the work world at large have some sort of system and stick to it regardless of how well it works or doesn't work.

Even on this forum it is noticeable that once someone finds a system that suits them, often one that they have developed themselves, they tend to stick to it for a long period. A system that's right for them doesn't encourage further system-hopping but instead leads to stability. It may have taken a long time for them to arrive at that point. You can see plenty of examples on this forum if you look for them.

The main point of system hopping therefore is not that it's some sort of neurotic desire for change, but is actually an attempt to find a stable system. There are two things which must by now be pretty obvious:

a) Designing an effective time management system is extremely difficult.

b) Everyone has different requirements.

So it's not surprising that the quest for stability takes a lot of time and effort. But the good news is that many people do find a stable system for themselves eventually.
December 11, 2014 at 21:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Writing the above post made me ask myself "What is your own stable system?"

I think the answer to that is that the original Autofocus (which later went by the name of AF1) was ideally suited to my own preferred way of working. I still go back to it whenever I get really stuck.

The reason I started to develop all the subsequent systems was more to do with responding to the needs and requests of the forum members, rather than to anything I felt was needed for myself. On the journey though I discovered an awful lot of interesting things about time management!
December 11, 2014 at 21:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark: "I don't think that what 40 or 50 people do on this forum is evidence of what people in general do."

You've missed the point. The people in this forum who play with systems for pleasure are not representative of "what people in general do" but I didn't say they were. I said "on this forum" to make that clear in my original statement and in the last reply. I've already explained my stance which is "in the kind of people, for whom improving productivity means putting together some new system of task management, looking open-mindedly at the underlying behaviour that leads to system-hopping can yield interesting insights."

In my case that was, years down the line, letting go of the reward-driven compulsive gaming behaviour and a perceived need for a rules-driven task management system and reverting to what you now just described as "people in general". I get much, much more done now, stuff that actually matters, by rolling up my sleeves for the committments that matter than I ever did pretending to myself that I was getting stuff done by drawing dots and rolling dice and playing lots of little games with lots of different rules.

One has to ask, if you don't think that what the people in this forum do represents what people in general do, who exactly are you aiming your work at? Because I rather thought you felt your work could help people in general, not just 40 individuals.
December 11, 2014 at 22:35 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Mark: the number still isn't the interesting point. However, I think you have finally started to address what Chris was asking, by claiming that it is valid to search for something that fits.

Chris: i think your first paragraph serves only to distract from what you really want discussed, which is in the second two paragraph. Am i right? Now do i correctly understand your current status as /not/ following rules driven systems but rather focusing on commitments?
December 11, 2014 at 22:46 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< I think you have finally started to address what Chris was asking, by claiming that it is valid to search for something that fits >>

I wasn't aware that Chris was asking anything. His posts seem to be pretty well made up of statements to me.
December 11, 2014 at 23:55 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Chris:

<< One has to ask, if you don't think that what the people in this forum do represents what people in general do, who exactly are you aiming your work at? Because I rather thought you felt your work could help people in general, not just 40 individuals. >>

Possibly the 12,000 people a month who visit this website without taking part in the Forum, possibly the people who read my books. I don't know. I'm retired. This is just a hobby for me these days.
December 12, 2014 at 0:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Chris
You stated (rather rudely)
"I get much, much more done now, stuff that actually matters, by rolling up my sleeves for the committments that matter than I ever did pretending to myself that I was getting stuff done by drawing dots and rolling dice and playing lots of little games with lots of different rules.

I've been using the same system since 2007 based on Mark's DIT. Before the auto accident, I pushed myself hard via living out of my calendar because I've always been highly ambitious. Part of the reason that I pushed myself so hard is that I have always had a horrible time dealing with boredom. After the wreck, I lost several years because of many surgeries, rehabilitation and traumatic brain damage rehabilitation and adjustment therapy. That's when I saw the piles and piles of paperwork. Although all of this made me far better off than before, I was still adjusting to permanent damages and chronic pain. I absolutely did not want to be in others' care. I resolved to prove that I was capable of keeping my legal freedoms and take care of myself. I never had any backlogs before. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. I found Mark's site and he generously taught me how to clear the backlog incrementally and systematically (little and often). My old methods of living out of a calendar were useless to me. My brain and body is too unreliable to stick to scheduling. I decided to try Mark's DIT. It went well for me because I related to his principles. It was my saving grace in my mission to stay a free agent taking care of my own money and affairs and personal care. All my life I followed the "conventional rules" of time management. I'm not exaggerating when I say that slogging through boredom was especially painful to me. Worse, I worked my list in order. It was torture to stay on the most important thing for hours on end. I'd use over-time to get the small but important responsibilities out of the way. Mark's DIT was a revelation to me. I had the same WILL DO concept as before except little and often allowed me to work my list however I wanted. It felt like a huge burden was lifted when I realized that I could do a bit of a hated job and then switch to a less onerous task. In fact, it didn't matter how I decided to do it as long as I finished it each day. It's still like that!
I spent decades accomplishing my goals using the conventional method. I only wish that I learned about these things decades ago. I complete my list every day as I always have. There are huge differences now.
I'm NOT PRETENDING to get things done by putting a blue dot next to the most hated task or a pink dot next to another MIT on today's list. I'm getting it done with far less anxiety and cognitive depletion. Better yet, I no longer have to castigate myself when my broken brain accidentally goes off on a tangent. I just redirect myself to my WILL DO list. Call it silly or pretending, but it's not. My list gets done every day because of learning Mark's principles and various coping strategies. I never was much of a rule follower but Mark has never said that my modifying his system ruins it. When I feel resistance, I don't care how I manage to get over the hump.
I usually enjoy your inspiring posts. Now I feel insulted…but I shouldn't. Even if I wasn't fighting cancer and being held together with dozens of sutures and 24 staples and medicine protocol that leaves me green at the gills and fatigued, I'd STILL USE THE DICE, MARK THE TASKS, OR CHALLENGE/GAMIFY TODAY'S LIST to complete my list. It's sometimes my only win for the day. It's not pretending. It's my lifeline to a maintaining a bit of pride and keeping my affairs in order just in case my docs and I actually beat the cancer. This isn't pretend. To me, it's high stakes.
BTW, if you tried some of tricks instead of ridiculing them, you might not have had to close off all communications for an entire day in a reactive environment. Instead of ignoring it "for a couple of months", 15 or so minutes a few times a week during lunch or before or after hours would have seen the thing done.

Your post on this thread you referred to above:

http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2413994


I occasionally block time where needed. I've got something I need to do at work which will take around 12-16 hours and has been outstanding, but not urgent, for a couple of months. It's starting to become more urgent but the reason it's not been done yet is because of reactive things taking precedence (which is fine because that's the nature of my job). So I've decided I'm doing it tomorrow. I've blocked out the day, will set my out of office, disconnect Outlook from Exchange, close Lync, put the phone on do not disturb (which is great because if there's a second call within a few minutes it does ring) and get it all done. There are already some ongoing more urgent things which would take precedence if I didn't, but they'll survive one day.
October 13, 2014 at 14:30 | Chris

Sorry about the rant. Much of what you present, I totally agree with….for me, not for everybody else. What I don't agree with is your holier than thou insults. Face it, Chris. You're one of us and that's not a bad thing. Many of these regulars are highly accomplished, successful people.
Thank you, Mark and all the other regulars for the immense help and support. Especially, thank you for your kindness despite my terrible posts.
December 12, 2014 at 2:16 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
learning:

<< [quoting Chris] "I get much, much more done now, stuff that actually matters, by rolling up my sleeves for the committments that matter than I ever did pretending to myself that I was getting stuff done by drawing dots and rolling dice and playing lots of little games with lots of different rules" >>

Anyway I'm touched to see that one of Chris's commitments that actually matter is writing eight posts on this thread in nine days.
December 12, 2014 at 13:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I don't game the systems. Au contraire, I try to stick as hard to the rules as I can possibly manage. That way I often have to change me ("stretch my muscles".) And this in turn let's my learn something. Every of Mark's systems I tried for a prolonged period of time taught me something about time management. Even the classic systems from Covey, Robbins and Allen gave me big lessons. But this worked precisely because I did NOT game the systems.

I switched systems often for the search of stability as another poster has so well described, but also to find systems with greater fun factors. I am a list nerd and I don't use a list because it helps me (however great a benefit that is), but because it is _fun_.

----

@learning:

You once stated that DIT is Mark's masterpiece. I cannot say I disagree per se, but the Autofocus algorythms are genius, aren't they? However, with DIT you finally have that "today list" thing working properly. None of the classic time management systems accomplished that.

Anyway, with your above post I finally could understand more about where you were coming from with that. A good post, IMHO.
December 12, 2014 at 15:02 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Hi Mark
LOL! In truth, I can't fault anybody for visiting this site. This is my favorite place on the net. The only reason I have only lurked lately is because I had about three dozen sutures plus an additional 24 staples in my arm. Even moving my fingers aggravated it. I wasn't alone. As you stated, there were about 12K plus lurkers this month.

I'm not claiming that the genesis of our challenges are the same, but what we do share in common is our gratitude to your generous spirit. You've helped thousands of people through your books, seminars and this website. The regulars have also contributed to the wealth of knowledge and support your wonderful website offers. (I also love the spirit of camaraderie and the wonderful personalities.)

THANK YOU MARK AND THE REGULARS for teaching me the various tricks that help me to complete my WILL DO list each day. Especially, thank you Mark for sharing the overriding principles that help me tremendously. Probably the best gifts I have received by visiting this site is 1) When I veer off course, there's no purpose in castigating myself. I know how to get myself back on course. There's also no need to shroud my guilt in plausible excuses. Because of what I've learned here, shame or guilt doesn't last too long because I don't need to ignore work because there are too many ways to get it done on time without putting myself through too much agony. LOL! hmmm....back to the die and the list with colored dots. Let me set my timer...
December 12, 2014 at 15:27 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
learning:

It's always good to hear that I've succeeded in helping someone! Thanks for what you have written in this post (and indeed all of them).
December 12, 2014 at 18:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Christopher:

<< I don't game the systems. Au contraire, I try to stick as hard to the rules as I can possibly manage.>>

That raises the question of what "gaming the system" actually entails. Personally I wouldn't class doing the absolute minimum on a task and then re-entering it as gaming the system. That's little and often at work. The problem only comes if there is too long a gap between the instances of working on the task so that the resistance threshold has reverted back to where it started.

My advice has always been to people using my systems is that there is nothing wrong with adapting a system to suit themselves, but they shouldn't try adapting it until they have done it according to the rules for a week or so. I used to get really annoyed about how many people would change the rules before they'd even started!
December 12, 2014 at 19:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark

You stated:
"It's always good to hear that I've succeeded in helping someone!"

You have helped thousands of people. The internet is loaded with people on various sites extolling the virtues of your principles, systems and tricks and giving testimony of how much you have helped them. Some of the posts have such zeal that it almost sounds like a form of proselytizing! LOL!


I suppose that this is as good a time as any to correct a type/ omission. (I'll ignore the fact that I forgot to break it down into paragraphs. LOL )
*** I forgot to number the second gift.

*** 2) There's also no need to shroud my guilt in plausible excuses. Because of what I've learned here, shame or guilt doesn't last too long because I don't need to ignore work because there are too many ways to get it done on time without putting myself through too much agony. LOL! hmmm....back to the die and the list with colored dots. Let me set my timer...

Christopher
I always completed my will do lists but it was far more torturous! Mark's DIT principles allowed me to accomplish the same thing with far less smoke blowing out of my nostrils! LOL!

Personally, I think everything Mark offers us has a spark of genius. Whether we personally benefit from the various things he offers does not change it's overall value. He offers so many options because he wants to address many peoples' challenges…..and he does just that brilliantly. pssst….I also love his subtle yet very wicked sense of humor. LOL!
December 12, 2014 at 20:27 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go

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