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Discussion Forum > 30 days of Real AutoFocus

I'm going strong with this new system. It has served me well for the past 30 days. Transitioning now from a 48-page Field Notes pocket notebook to a 64-page Moleskine Cahier pocket notebook. Both are free-form; i.e., they contain RealAF pages and other pages of different types of notes.

A few tips or lessons learned follow. These are notes to self, but may help others.

• two-page 'spreads' work better

• don't forget Mark's "little and often" principle, especially when deciding to Do above the line

• it's okay (I think) to dot and do a bunch of small tasks on a page without regard to order or forcing a cycle back to the beginning of the list

• preface work tasks with project-name abbreviations (avoids "what the heck is this?" on Monday mornings)

• add "@W" or "@H" to distinguish contexts for tasks such as "Empty In-Tray"

• consider doing a bit in the evening, on tasks that would otherwise end up above the line tomorrow

August 24, 2017 at 1:05 | Registered Commenterubi

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Have questions:

• two-page 'spreads' work better

What is two page spreads? How to use?

Thanks, Ubi
August 24, 2017 at 3:25 | Unregistered CommenterNanda

You're welcome.

A two-page spread is just two facing pages, so that when the notebook lays open the list continues from the left page to the right page. Because I was interspersing other pages, e.g. general diary entries, project meeting notes, etc., my RealAF pages had to jump over these other pages.

About halfway through the month, I decided to reserve two-page spreads whenever I needed a new RealAF page. The flow was better, but this policy introduced another issue: there could be empty single pages that might never get used, depending on how many other things I was entering. It actually worked out fine - I used all 48 pages. But on the new notebook, I decided to fill the RealAF spreads from the front of the book going forward, and other-topic pages from the end of the book going backward. This will naturally result in using up all the pages without any gaps. I update an index on Page 1 to keep track of what is where.

Hope this explanation makes sense!
August 24, 2017 at 6:56 | Registered Commenterubi
Thanks alot, Ubi for the explanation

Me too, RAF works well for me. Thanks to Mark
August 24, 2017 at 15:16 | Unregistered CommenterNanda
Using a larger 10cm x 15cm coiled book , 100 pages, I write the list in the back and other things in the front. Ripping out pages that are done. Works pretty well when I stick to it.
August 24, 2017 at 21:50 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Actually, "stick to it" is the issue. The other issue is the scale of tasks. I have my life divided into work and home, though there's also a 3rd category of "out" where I don't get anything done except that one outing. The result is that I don't properly get through the list every day, and that is a problem for a ruleset that is based on the day.

At home, if many days I only have time for a handful of things on certain days, I get a couple entries in the book, look at a few tasks. Then on another day, I have a full 16 hours to do stuff. DDD on stuff from 2 days ago takes all of 30 seconds because there's hardly anything there. This results in a very imbalanced book. Two days after that, I'm supposed to run DDD on an enormous list that was generated on my free day. I don't have the time to cover that, and most of that stuff wasn't given a proper amount of consideration to even act on once before this came up.

I remember reading here about a special exemption to combine two days because one day wasn't as productive, but if that scenario is the norm, I think the system needs a major adjustment to account for this.

At work, it's the same issue but different cause. My core tasks (programming) are complex and take a long time to complete. I break them down as much as is sensible, but they still take 30min to several hours to complete, and the minimal amount of effort at a moment is often 30min. I might spontaneously add a pile of tasks one day, but I can hardly be expected to do anything on most of these within two days. I can be expected to do something on them within 2 weeks though, and there are smaller tasks jumbled in with these bigger ones. It's a different scale of operating.

I'm going over remedies in my mind, but it's painfully obvious that processing everything two days old isn't working.
August 26, 2017 at 14:32 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan, I'm facing the same problem. I'm using a separate @home and @work list, and because I have a part-time job I don't want to or can't do work-related stuff several days a week. And vice-versa for the @home list. What I'm doing now is not processing date-based but page-based. Usually I have 1 or 2 new pages a day, so I do D-D-D processing on the first page whenever my list exceeds 3 pages. So far, that seems to work reasonably well. You would need to have an estimate of the amount of tasks coming in every day to decide what your trigger for "above the line" is going to be, but with a paper record that shouldn't be a problem.
August 27, 2017 at 9:50 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
I found the DDD list started to pile up and make the whole system unworkable. I think it's because I have irregular amounts of discretionary time every day, so the 2-day cadence didn't really work. I played around with some different ideas to break away from the day-based cadence, but didn't find anything that worked for me.

RAF feels like AF1 in many ways. So I have been revisiting AF1 and playing around with different ways to handle dismissal and urgency.
August 27, 2017 at 19:55 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
It may be that the *best* task management system is the one that works best for the individual and their individual circumstances. What are the priorities for you? (Plural you).

For example, I need to capture detailed notes quickly, so I have built that in to my system.

I think it is about having an array of other helpful systems. I would be sunk for example without my paper and electronic A-Z filing systems and our menu whiteboard in the kitchen! What I am trying to convey here is designing the system to fit the user and not the othrr eay round, if that makes sense.
August 28, 2017 at 9:59 | Unregistered CommenterLeon

What is this "electronic A-Z filing system" you write about above? I organize my computer stuff generally by project or topic, then search for things using OS-provided tools (mdfind on macOS, locate on Linux, find & grep on either when searching a particular hierarchy). I use a general-reference A-Z scheme for my paper documents, but cannot fathom how this might be done electronically.
August 28, 2017 at 21:43 | Registered Commenterubi

Leon likely has his own method, but I saw the following on Youtube: . Start at 1:40 or thereabouts to skip the throat-clearing. It's pitched at a novice user level but it's useful to see the pictures.

BTW, I also have installed in my browser a video speed extension that lets me speed up replay in increments. So for the slow-talker on this video I would speed up the replay to 2x so I can 'skim' his video for the stuff I really want :)
August 29, 2017 at 0:05 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Hi, I have folders within my outlook accounts by topic and they are organised alphabetically. Hope that helps.
August 29, 2017 at 12:09 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
About the DDD issue, I have found a tweak that serves me well. The normal rule of DDD everything 2 days old was a problem because sometimes it was a tiny amount, and sometimes was a huge amount, and didn't reflect the amount of time I had to devote.

Instead, I now DDD exactly 1 page. I run this process only if the page is more than 3 pages back, and I only tackle 1 page at a time before resuming normal operations. You could choose a number different from 3. For context, I run 2 columns on a page, 50 items. Following this rule, I rarely have even 10 items to tackle on the page so it's quick.
September 21, 2017 at 2:07 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< sometimes it was a tiny amount, and sometimes was a huge amount, and didn't reflect the amount of time I had to devote >>

But isn't this what the DEFER part of DDD is there for?
September 22, 2017 at 11:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I don't believe so, because the amount of time I have varies day to day and is irregular. Deferring after 2 days would at times force me to commit a large number of tasks outside of the system to be dealt with later, and that outside-the-system is not effectively managed as much as inside the system.

This simple adjustment allows my natural variance in available time to even out over time such that very little requires deferring. It's much cleaner.
September 22, 2017 at 14:32 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu