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Discussion Forum > Basics

I'm reading a lot about lists in the forums but I wondered how they are maintained.
I get lots of emails, tele call notes, post and projects with recurring tasks. That is way too much to type out into todo lists so I'm struggling to get a complete list in the first place.
Any thought how to get past the basics?
March 17, 2017 at 15:51 | Unregistered CommenterAlexg
These are, for me, the very basics of Mark Forster's thoughts on task lists.

1. Treat a task list not as a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be done, but as
a wide-ranging list of everything that you might do. This was only recently articulated by Mark, but in my mind this is the most important idea by him with respect to task lists.

2. Use closed lists. Closed lists are lists that you cannot add more items into (hence "closed") but you can only tick off items because you have done them or you decided they are not important anyway.

3. Use "little and often". Doing tasks a little at a time frequently is usually more effective than doing a task all at once, especially when it comes to projects.

4. Use the correct tool for the job. Almost all of the systems devised by Mark Forster and others in this website are for unscheduled tasks only with limited capacity for handling projects. For other types of tasks use calendars, contact lists, reminders, etc. Individual tasks of simple projects can be added into the task management system you are using, but more complex projects need separate notebooks/lists/systems, and the project title or specific tasks of the said project can, if unscheduled, be added into your task management system of choice.

I would recommend using Flexible Autofocus to start,

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/1/9/flexible-autofocus.html
March 17, 2017 at 18:38 | Registered Commenternuntym
Alexg:

Personally I use pen and paper, which I find much more suitable for this type of work than trying to type everything - even though I am a fast touch typist.

The one exception is that I use my Galaxy for The Next Hour. This is because I need to be able to add and re-arrange tasks. This is a No List system though, so I'm only typing enough tasks to take up the next hour (approximately).
March 17, 2017 at 18:42 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Did you go back recently to the Next Hour, Mark?
March 17, 2017 at 18:44 | Registered Commenternuntym
Nuntym,

How do you use close list with Flexible Autofocus?

Thanks
March 17, 2017 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterNanda
Nanda,

Each full page of FAF is treated as a closed list.
March 17, 2017 at 20:05 | Registered Commenternuntym
To turn a batch of email (or other incoming items) into a series of closed lists, consider each month a separate list. Or each week. I sometimes use 10 days, because it's easy to sort 0-9, 10-19.

If you're struggling to get a complete list, it might be time to declare a backlog. Choose a date, usually today, and everything before that is backlog

This is a leap of faith. Is there honestly anything in there that you'd do if you weren't reminded about it? Most of the stuff in there is either unimportant (compared to new arrivals), reference material (which you honestly weren't going to get around to filing), or active projects for which there will be a reminder.
March 17, 2017 at 20:24 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< To turn a batch of email (or other incoming items) into a series of closed lists, consider each month a separate list. Or each week. I sometimes use 10 days, because it's easy to sort 0-9, 10-19. >>

Personally I work on one day.

<< If you're struggling to get a complete list, it might be time to declare a backlog. Choose a date, usually today, and everything before that is backlog >>

I declare a backlog if I don't clear all my email during the day. So I basically have two lists, today and yesterday (the backlog).
March 17, 2017 at 21:17 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
nuntym:

<< Did you go back recently to the Next Hour, Mark? >>

If by recently you mean after March 1st the answer is no.
March 17, 2017 at 21:19 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Yes I found I can't clear the emails and always have 50 - 150 ongoing at any one time.
Loads are cleared with quick reply, the rest are either waiting on other info or need to be done next mont or some future date, hence DIT did not work too well. Some emails need 1/2 - 1 hour work on them. Likewise with post and tele calls. Therefore I find it difficult to put them all on a list.

I suppose I have really been doing autofocus or fvp without even realising by picking out the emails that need action and the rest get actioned later at the right time when I'm ready or able to action them.

Should I try and manage all the emails like they are a list? Perhaps use a flag for ones I pick to action instead of the dot method?

Where I struggle is identifying the urgent things as the emails get too large to keep on scanning them daily and now and again something with a deadline might be missed..

Any suggestions welcome...
March 17, 2017 at 22:25 | Unregistered CommenterAlexG
AlexG:

<< the rest are either waiting on other info or need to be done next month or some future date, hence DIT did not work too well. >>

One of the advantages of DIT is that you can put tasks at any date in the future in your task diary, So what you should do is enter emails as tasks to be reviewed or actioned in the future.

<< Should I try and manage all the emails like they are a list? Perhaps use a flag for ones I pick to action instead of the dot method? >>

I'd do it the other way round. Flag up the emails that you don't action immediately with a review/action date.
March 17, 2017 at 23:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Great thanks for all the comments.
I will re-read DIT. Being a newbie it is easy not to take it all in...
March 18, 2017 at 15:01 | Unregistered CommenterAlexg
Alexg:
"Yes I found I can't clear the emails and always have 50 - 150 ongoing at any one time.
Loads are cleared with quick reply, the rest are either waiting on other info or need to be done next mont or some future date, hence DIT did not work too well. Some emails need 1/2 - 1 hour work on them. Likewise with post and tele calls. Therefore I find it difficult to put them all on a list."

I like to deal with all the 'quick replies' in the morning then flag the ones that will take longer and I want to work on that day.

I have folders set up named after the days of the week (Mon - Fri) and if an email can't be actioned until a particular day then I will move it to the relevant folder. If it's needed later than during the next week I'll just move it to the Monday folder.

Each morning I move all the emails in that days folder to my Inbox so they get dealt with on the right day.

If I still can't deal with an email on that day, I move it back into a folder to deal with on a later day.

If dealing with an email is taking a long time then I'll deal with as much as I can and then move it to a folder that corresponds to the day I'll work on it again.

If I'm waiting for info then I'll put it a in the folder a couple of days from now to remind me to chase up if I still don't have the info.

This has really helped me to take control of my inbox and it only involves using 5 folders - keep it simple!
March 19, 2017 at 11:15 | Unregistered CommenterDAZ
Thanks DAZ I like that!
It reminds me of when we had a shop a long time ago and we had a similar system with pegs on the wall for each day. All the orders coming in were written on a bit of paper and clipped onto the peg for action the relevant day. That worked perfectly.
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I will give it a go and hope for a manageable inbox...
March 20, 2017 at 19:46 | Unregistered CommenterAlexg
Does your email program have a star or important flag? Or tags?

When I triage my email, I star anything that needs action by a certain time. That way, I can filter by stars.

A more-complicated method I tried but didn't like was to add a label for the last responsible time to start. That required more thinking and was harder to do on a small screen. Also, I resist doing things on certain days just because I planned to. (I'm trying to fix that, but meanwhile I get a lot more done by accepting that's the way I'm built.)

(I hide in the bedroom while the kids get ready for school, and triage my email on the tablet while planning my day.)
March 25, 2017 at 22:17 | Registered CommenterCricket
Lately, for email, I've been doing this:

- Take care of each one immediately, even if it breaks the "two minute rule". Just move all the new emails to a new folder, and take care of them in order, newest to oldest. Sometimes a single email will take 10-15 minutes, but that's OK. It's DONE. Altogether I average about 20 seconds per email.

- If I can't figure out what to do, or there are interdependencies with other emails, tasks, etc., then I throw the email onto a "dynamic list". (At work, that means I move it from Outlook to OneNote. At home, I move it from Gmail to Evernote.)

I see the dynamic list is a thinking tool, not just an action tool. It's especially not supposed to turn into a project list or project file. The idea is to keep it light and deal with it as quickly as possible -- ideally, immediately after I'm done with clearing my email.

This works really well for me. It addresses head-on the main reason emails get stuck -- I am not sure exactly what to do, or how much time to give, or how to figure out all the interdependencies. So I move it to a place where I can easily mark it up, think about it, cut and chop and add comments and move around and figure out what to do -- and get it done.

Previously I would leave it in my inbox, or flag it, or star it, or something like that -- but keep it in my email tool. Even with NEO, this didn't give me enough flexibility to process it effectively, and it would just sit there and clog up the email system.

It also helps to unsubscribe from everything, and if there are still bulk emails that you want to get and read, use some filtering tool to put them in a separate folder and treat them as totally optional someday/maybe.
March 26, 2017 at 2:46 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Thank you! You may have solved a headache.

Many of my emails have to do with ongoing discussions or projects, such as assembling a newsletter, or votes for a topic, or comments on a draft. They trickle in over several days or weeks, but are best handled in a batch.

It's not worth creating a folder if it's only 5 email over 3 days. Eventually, when the project is done, they'll be moved to the folder for the club, but I don't want active items there. I'd have too many small folders.

So, I might have 50 email in my inbox that I can't take action on yet.

I'll try a single folder to combine all those smaller quick projects. When the project's done, I can move them to their permanent folder.
March 26, 2017 at 21:14 | Registered CommenterCricket