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Discussion Forum > Problem with Randomizer, and Possible Solutions

As you can probably guess from my posting pattern, I'm having trouble keeping my nose to the grindstone these days. All is well, but everyone's schedule and health keeps changing, and we're definitely the sandwich generation.

Randomizer works well for times like that, for me, but it has one problem.

If I list several subtasks, taking up several lines, that project or life area has an unfair advantage over projects with fewer lines.

Possible Solutions, focusing on reducing chance of doing too much on a project.

1. If they're listed in a group, put a bracket around them. When counting, count the entire group as only 1 or maybe 2 lines. If I land in the group, use a method that works at the time to pick a line in the group and do it.

That doesn't work for me, since they're often not listed together. Sometimes I think of a subtask when doing something else, or there isn't room, or I do one and write the repeat or next step on a different page. If I notice the group, I'll bracket it, but that isn't enough to solve the problem.

2. Have a page for each project, to enforce grouping. Roll once for page, then once for line within the page. For me, finding the right page adds too much overhead to recording the task, so I don't use this one. (Although, that extra discipline helps some stages of some projects. It can keep me focused. It can help me see the bigger picture. If so, I do the sensible thing. Sometimes.)

3. Define eligibility criteria. Projects that are / are not eligible at the moment. Time and energy constraints.

Roll as normal, but only count eligible lines. This means I need to consider whether each line is eligible. Not time efficient.

4. Define eligibility criteria. Ignore eligibility while counting (unless there's an obvious group of ineligible lines).

Once on a candidate, decide whether it meets the criteria. If it is, do it. If not, either roll again and continue counting or slide to the next eligible line. I think rolling again works better. If I have a block of ineligible lines, the next eligible line has an unfair advantage, and, worse, I know what it will be and have time to build resistance.

5. As for 4, but if I land on a line in an eligible project, but I can't do the line due to time or energy or things that need to be done first, do something on the project, my choice of what. I use this sometimes. It's a nice bit of freedom within the rules.

All the above solutions decrease the chances of doing too much on a project or life area (in comparison to others).

6. Add stars to lines in projects I want to give more attention.

7. Add some lines with just the project name. If I land on one, choose a task within that project.


It's not worth the work to add a project code to each line. Yes, it would avoid landing on ineligible lines, but it doesn't take into account time and energy constraints.

(I do add project codes if I want to ensure all lines for a project are visible, but usually copying them to a project page works better.)

Adding context or task type to some lines can be worthwhile, especially for phone calls and errands. I can then find them easily and batch them.

Marking somehow which tasks cannot be done until something else is done would also reduce the risk of landing on one, but that means, when I do a task that opens several others, I need to remark them. Instead, when I land a blocked task, I try to unblock it. That has the effect of increasing the chance of doing the task that's in the way, which is a good thing.

I need to declare eligibility criteria before rolling. Randomizer's magic depends, in part, on doing what it tells me.

Now, is it time for supper, or should I roll the die again?
August 6, 2016 at 21:15 | Registered CommenterCricket
Can't say I'm doing as much as I'd like, but I am doing more than before.

Two new tweaks:

Post It note for higher priority tasks. I'm thinking the note is at the end of each page. At the beginning has similar odds, but feels like it's putting them first. I'm resisting that right now, so will keep with the system that keeps me moving.

Areas. Instead of listing each task on a large list, move towards a pyramid. Task in the main list, possibly taking more than one line to balance the odds: Deep cleaning. If get that, roll again to see which room, then roll again to see which area in the room. If room or area is in much better shape than the rest of the house, then either move to the next in line or re-roll, whichever has the least resistance.

I've used a separate page for each area before, but usually as feeders to the main list, not this way. I'm thinking as the list for a second roll and/or a diary. Will probably vary with area.
August 9, 2016 at 16:01 | Registered CommenterCricket

It all sounds a bit like using a hammer to crack a nut to me.

<< If I list several subtasks, taking up several lines, that project or life area has an unfair advantage over projects with fewer lines. >>

If you have two identical projects each consisting of six sub-tasks and you enter one of the projects as six tasks and the other project as one task which you re-enter five times, there is not a huge amount of difference between the speeds at which you will get them done. Certainly not enough to warrant adding large amounts of complication to a very simple method.

<< Deep cleaning. If get that, roll again to see which room, then roll again to see which area in the room. >>

Surely it's much easier to have a chart of what areas you want to deep clean and just move around that in order - or even simpler just go round rooms in order without using a chart at all?
August 10, 2016 at 8:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Ah, but if I go around the rooms in order, I know what's coming next and resist. Rolling for room then for wall prevents that. (If something calls to me, do it instead of rolling.)

I don't actually make a list of each wall. The walls themselves become the list.

I could just consider them all one big list, but I think I'll like how this method gets me into each room more often, without knowing which one in advance.

There are two reasons for using sublists.

1. Some of my projects have 10 subtasks, others have only 2 (although those 2 might be repeated). That unbalances the odds. I don't know how many lines to add to each project to make it balance. Moving them to a sublist, and so project takes one line in total, keeps the balance.

2. Grouping them all in one place helps me plan and see the big picture.

Currently, I'm using solution #5, since it has the lowest prep time. Let the list be ugly; don't spend time improving it. Roll, and if the line isn't eligible, roll again. Sublists where the project or my sanity would benefit. Post It note that moves to the bottom of each page with urgent tasks (but not urgent enough to do right away).

Not totally balanced odds for each project, but it's the right balance of overhead and unpredictability for now. (There have been times when I prefer to plan in more detail. I miss those days, but have to accept that, for now, I need the excitement of random.)
August 10, 2016 at 21:44 | Registered CommenterCricket
In regard to the original problem:
<< If I list several subtasks, taking up several lines, that project or life area has an unfair advantage over projects with fewer lines. >>

You could list unstarted projects, each on one line. But once a project is started, you could break out the sub-tasks for that project and enter the sub-tasks on the list. And every time you work on a sub-task, ask "What's next?" and add one or more additional project sub-tasks to the list. This would make it more likely that you'd keep working on the already-started project (and drive it to completion) rather than starting new projects all the time.
August 17, 2016 at 2:05 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Some people could keep each project to one line, and never write the next dozen steps, especially not write a step for the project on a different page. I can't. When I think of a step, it has to be written down, or it won't let me work on anything else for fear of being forgotten. Trying to find the right page sometimes works, but often doesn't. My list ends up a mess, but tidying it turns into procrastination.
August 18, 2016 at 1:42 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket wrote:
<< When I think of a step, it has to be written down, or it won't let me work on anything else for fear of being forgotten. >>

I used to do that all the time, and for the same reason.

But the no-list methods have taught me to ask a new question: "If I delete this task, will it come back by itself?"

I found that this allows me to delete a surprisingly large percentage of tasks with no fear. It also helps me whittle the list down to the essential core.

Project sub-tasks are almost always among the ones that can be deleted with no fear. In fact, I think I actually get better results this way. Whenever I work on the project, I am thinking about the current active state of the project, rather than whatever it was that I wrote down in the past. This gives me a more current, more creative, more active engagement with the project.

(This is basically the same thing that Mark has said, in regard to Dynamic Lists.)
August 21, 2016 at 0:08 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Ah, yes, your 400 item list.

Whether a task will come back by itself is a good question, and the answer varies with task and my state of mind. I've found, though, that unless there's a trigger, they won't, and worrying about whether they will distracts me.

Why I err on the side of writing things down:

- Stop it from saying, "Remember me, remember me!" so I can focus on something else. I'm not good at dismissing them, but am very good at doing something else that's more important.

- Quick way to think through a project. I may not follow the plan, but thinking through it reassures me that I will start each step in time.

I agree, when I actually get to work, sometimes it helps to start with a blank sheet. I'll do some work, then check the safety net before doing the next bit. Sometimes what's in there is useful, sometimes it's the precursor to a better idea. Other times, reading the list helps ease me into the work session.

- Peeling the onion to get to the good ideas. Similar to Mark's process of asking the same question several days in a row, and trying for more than one answer. I think it's in his latest book. Each time I write it out, it's another chance to improve. (Also another chance to procrastinate. It's a judgement call each time.)

(My Everything Book sometimes has several versions of a plan for the same project. Sometimes a new brain dump on a blank page is useful.)

- Everything for the day / week visible at once so I can plan.

- Remember which bits I've done and which I haven't.

- Dump my brain, so it can do what it's good at (thinking) and the paper can do what it's good at (remembering). David Allen describes my brain very well. If it thinks it has to remember things, it panics, even if the rational part is trying to say, "But that's not even worth remembering!"

Some things are obvious. "Clean kitchen shelves." The shelves form their own list, and I either do the one that annoyed me most-recently, or work one side to the other.

I'm currently uncomfortable because I didn't keep notes over the summer about a relative. I just know there are several things I should mention to the specialist, but can't remember them. If I had kept notes, I would probably have cut and combined down to something short, but because there are no notes, I'm worried I forgot something important.
August 31, 2016 at 22:25 | Registered CommenterCricket

<< I'm currently uncomfortable because I didn't keep notes over the summer about a relative. I just know there are several things I should mention to the specialist, but can't remember them. >>

Write down the things you should mention to the specialist as bullet points on a list. Read the list through every day and add anything else that comes to mind. Once you start doing this you may also find that things spring into your mind during the day, so make sure you've got something to capture them on.

I can't guarantee that you'll get 100% recall, but you should get somewhere close to it.
September 1, 2016 at 10:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Finally back to the board. Yay for holidays!

Mark, I wish I'd read that earlier.

Meanwhile, this system didn't gain any traction. Possibly too much overhead. Looking at the date, it was also before summer travels, so it never got a chance to become habit. Results of experiment: Inconclusive. Current enthusiasm to try it again: Less than my latest system.
December 26, 2016 at 22:27 | Registered CommenterCricket