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Discussion Forum > Combining and Improving on DWM2 and FAF

After reading Dino's thread about "Revisiting AF3/RAF," I was inspired to revisit an old favorite system of mine, DWM2, and see if it can be improved. I then realized that the method Mark made for my then-favorite system, Flexible Autofocus, could just be easily used for DWM2. After improving DWM2 based on the principles outlined by Mark Forster in "The Natural Selection of Tasks", which incidentally removed most of the problems of DWM2, and combining it with the method of FAF, I came up with the system I could call "Flexible Day, Two-Weeks, Month" or FD2WM.

It has been a week since I started using it without further tweaks, the bare minimum time I gave myself to try this system before I publish it here. It theoretically would be actually better to test it for a week more just to see how the dismissal works (see below) but there are actually no more recurrent tasks more than five days old so I thought today will be as good as any unless I want to wait for two or even three more weeks.

As such, this system is well into the early stage of testing, but I have stress-tested it by starting it with my previous list. For now it is working well, and I present it here for others who may want to try it out.

Here are the steps as I use them, followed by discussions about the rationale of the steps. You will need a pen and notebook or paper pad.

1. Have one continuous list of tasks as in Autofocus.

2. Newly entered tasks are written with no marks before it.

3. Re-written tasks that ought to be done within two weeks are marked with a dot •.

4. Re-written tasks that ought to be done more than two weeks from now but less than 31 days are not marked, but dates indicating when they ought to be done (if needed) can be written beside them. Any other recurrent tasks that need to be done more than 31 days from now should be added to a calendar.

5. Daily obligatory or daily initiative tasks (DOITs) may be added enclosed in /virgules, also known as slashes/.

6. At the beginning of each day, leave a blank line and write on the next line a label using the recurring series A-N and 1-31, for example H24. Since you will only number days when you are actually working on the list, this automatically allows for days when you are not using the list without needing any complicated adjustments.

7. Delete all tasks of the previous day with the same NUMBER as today.

8. Delete all dotted • tasks of the previous day with the same LETTER as today.

9. Delete all tasks /enclosed in virgules/ yesterday.

10. Scan down the list, ignoring the dividing lines, until you come into a task that stands out as ready to be done. Mark with a angle bracket > and do it, then cross out and, if needed, re-write at the end of the list per the rules outlined above (steps 3 and 4), or as a DOIT (step 5) if you feel you need to be reminded to go back to it today.

11. You are now "trapped": repeatedly scan for and do tasks that stand out in the same "day" you found the previous task that stood out.

12. Once no other tasks stand out in that "day," you are "free" to scan the rest of the list until you get "trapped" again.


1. MONTH: The 31-day deletion is the part that is least changed from DWM/DWM2, I just added one more day to the previous thirty.

Pruning the list of tasks more than a month old is a relaxed way of keeping it relevant, satisfying "The Natural Selection of Tasks" criteria of "pure housekeeping" and "no pressure" on tasks. It can, however, result in a long scattered list. Nevertheless, the "Flexible" part of the system should have this "list bloat" controlled. Also, one can always prune old tasks that are less than a month old if needed or wanted.

Tip: If you want to use a pre-existing list, you can divide it using lines into "days" each containing 20 or so active tasks.

2. TWO-WEEKS: Many (including myself) had complained that one week deletion is too "blunt" an instrument for some recurrent tasks. It seems reasonable then to just double the number of days to two weeks before deletion for most recurrent tasks and just exclude the rest of the recurrent tasks that have too many days in between doing them. This again satisfies "The Natural Selection of Tasks" criterion of lessening pressure to do tasks.

3. DAY: The Daily Obligatory/Initiative Tasks (DOITs) labelled with virgules is a completely new mechanic which personally gives me a sense of closure I have never felt before with other systems. These tasks have to be done today, and will be deleted the next day if not done.

Many have felt the need for a "daily dashboard" of their most important things to do today. Some need a reminder for finishing a task they had to leave unfinished some time ago. Others need a reminder of an upcoming event later that day. DOITs can fulfill these and other functions.

Per "The Natural Selection of Tasks", DOITs should not imply any commitment: they are either reminders for scheduled events, tasks that you would do even if they are not listed anywhere, or things that you really want to do. As such, DOITs are the least essential parts of the FD2WM and the system will still function without using them.

Tip: Nevertheless their non-essential characteristic, do not underestimate using rewards or mundane scheduled events such as mealtimes, relaxation periods, and sleep times as DOITs. The most satisfying act I have ever had from a time management system is to mark /Sleep/ at the end of the day.

4. FLEXIBLE: I have noted many times before that, because of its dismissal structure, one can be extremely flexible in processing a DWM2 list. One can use the processing method of AF1, AF2, AF3, RAF, Randomizer, FV, or others on it, and they can be used also on this iteration of the system without any problems. However, the method outlined in Flexible Autofocus fits the structures of DWM2 and FD2WM so well that I consider it the "default" processing mode for these systems.

Advantages of using the FAF method on FD2WM and DWM2:
a) It is a fast way of processing the list which handles "list bloat" very well.
b) The "clumping effect" noted on tasks of similar priority and/or time requirement in FAF becomes more pronounced in DWM2 and FD2WM since each "page" is a group of tasks entered on the same day.
c) The clumping effect is so pronounced that I have been using FD2WM to make and establish new habits.

Tip: Try starting the day from yesterday's task list. I found this to be amazing in establishing a morning routine.

5. FD2WM: I remember people complaining about DWM2 as a hammer that tries to do all the work of other tools. FD2WM, on the other hand, feels like a toolkit that can handle multiple types of and circumstances for tasks.

The system's characteristics for me overall are:
a) It is a system that cleans itself up because of its time-based dismissal, yet is lenient and does not put undue pressure on doing tasks because of the generous deadlines. This is especially seen in its handling of recurrent tasks compared to DWM and DWM2.
b) It demonstrates a good synergy of the principles of "list-all" and the "no-list" with the DOITs.
c) The clumping effect is so good it encourages the user to do the "have to's" early so they can focus on the "want to's" right after.
e) The clumping effect is also surprisingly effective in establishing new habits.
f) The feeling of closure that I get from marking a mundane scheduled DOIT like /brunch/, /dinner/, and /sleep/ is something I have never felt before from other systems. It is the feeling of choosing to wind down because I have done what I can do for now. It is frankly amazing.
g) It seems to still have the disadvantage of "list bloat" since it is so lenient in dismissing tasks, but this is handled well by the "Flexible AF" method and by manual pruning of tasks every once in a while. We will see if this still is the case a few weeks from now.

Reference links

Dino's thread about "Revisiting AF3/RAF"



Mark Forster's Reviews of DWM and DWM2

Flexible Autofocus

"The Natural Selection of Tasks"

Labeling days in DWM2

FAF's Clumping Effect
June 26, 2017 at 18:56 | Registered Commenternuntym
I am testing this out. Second day, or should I say "B2", at home and work. I know it's too early to tell, but I think I'll like it. (I'm actually really excited about this system, but I often feel that way when starting out! Haha.) One thing I've stuck to for the last couple months at home was having a daily checklist, a single page that is always in view. So, I can see the benefit of the "clumping effect" of the previous day's daily tasks. I was also finding that some "daily" tasks were not really daily, and started removing them from the daily checklist, but with this system, having them dotted in lists from the previous few days would be great for things that need to be done less frequently.
June 30, 2017 at 18:13 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
I'm really struggling to understand this system.
I got stuck on point 4. The logic on that does not seem to work?
Numtyn - can you review the steps and amend if necessary as I'm interested to see how the system works. Thanks
July 1, 2017 at 11:38 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Since I've been working the system for the last 4 days at home and at work, I'll make an attempt:

<< 4. Re-written tasks that ought to be done more than two weeks from now but less than 31 days are not marked, but dates indicating when they ought to be done (if needed) can be written beside them. Any other recurrent tasks that need to be done more than 31 days from now should be added to a calendar. >>

As you know since you are using a variation of one of the AF systems, tasks which have had some work done on them, but are not complete, or are recurring, are re-written at the end of the list and crossed out from their current location.

Thinking about WHEN the task will recur is where the DWM part comes in. Rewritten tasks can be considered to be due within a day, a week, or a month, or greater than a month. However, in this variation, the possible due date is within a day, TWO weeks, or a month, or greater than a month (31 working days of using the system, not counting skipped days, technically).

"Re-written tasks that ought to be done more than two weeks from now but less than 31 days...": When you rewrite, you are supposed to consider when you "ought to" do the task again, and mark it accordingly. Let's consider each possible time range in order:


If it is to be done today, mark it with slashes according to rule 5.

2 weeks or less:

If it is 2 weeks or less, mark it with a dot according to rule 3.

Greater than 2 weeks but less than 31 (working) days:

Rule 4 deals with tasks that "ought to" be re-done in a time that is greater than 2 weeks, but less than 31 days. "... are not marked, but dates indicating when they ought to be done (if needed) can be written beside them..." So they are written unmarked, just as if they were new tasks. (New tasks have no marks, according to rule 2.)

Greater than 31 (working) days:

"Any other recurrent tasks that need to be done more than 31 days from now should be added to a calendar."

If it is greater than 31 days, it doesn't fit in the DWM system, because a task which sticks around for 31 working days would get deleted before the time to act on it. The fallback is to put it in a calendar to remind you of it later. (You should probably add a task to "review calendar" in that case.)
July 3, 2017 at 7:18 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
For me, the one thing missing that would help me is a separate daily checklist. I'm still using this system but I am going to add that, as mentioned in Cricket's thread here:
July 7, 2017 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
I just reached day "A15" on this which means I can look for dotted items from 14 days earlier. This seems to be a system I can stick to so far. Days A1-E5 have the following number of unstarted (no dot) items: 0, 2, 2, 4, 0. F through N have a mixture of dotted and undotted items. I am also using daily checklists per Cricket's thread that I linked to.

Still liking this system, since I have stuck with it. I've had the week off of work but I'm planning to keep using it there when I get back.

I also have a note/document on my phone to capture new items when I am not near the notebook. I have a task on the list to transfer new items from the phone.

Are you still using it too?
July 15, 2017 at 16:52 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Ugh, sorry for the lack of ANY input for the past weeks guys. Life just peppered me with personal problems to the point that I couldn't think straight, much less think of good responses to this thread.

MrBacklog: "Nuntym - can you review the steps and amend if necessary as I'm interested to see how the system works. Thanks."

I am really sorry I did not answer your question in a timely manner. Don R did give a great explanation of step 4 onwards; if you need more information I can clarify some more.


Don R: "Are you still using it too?"

Let me put it this way: I got through all of my troubles for the past few weeks with the help of my D2WM list. It is outstanding in presenting to me the things that I need to do in an orderly manner, thus helping me not get paralyzed with uncertainty and fear.

I am glad this system has helped you with your work.


On a side note: I think I prefer the name DWWM instead of D2WM since the former is easier to type!
July 19, 2017 at 23:37 | Registered Commenternuntym