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Discussion Forum > 60 Days of Real AutoFocus

I just realized that I've stayed with it now for just over 60 days. Not much new to report. Still very satisfied.

Here's a bit of detail about how I handle Delete-Defer-Do (DDD), after drawing the line and completing the first pass below it:

1. Dot, count, and scan all the remaining tasks above the line. Think a bit about available time, which items can be moved forward by doing just a little. But don't decide just yet.

2. Decide which ones can be deleted without serious consequence. Put an X next to each of those dots and then cross those lines out. (I always leave a space between the dot and the first word of the task description.)

3. Decide which ones need to be deferred. Put > next to each dot. Put –> and a date to the right. Rewrite the tasks on cards (one for each deferral date). Put the cards in the corresponding Tickler folders. Then cross out those tasks.

4. Do the remaining tasks in order. Remember to stop after doing a little on any long task, so that they can all be completed in one session. (Of course reenter any unfinished tasks at the end of the list.) Cross them off as they are worked.

How does this compare to your DDD method?
September 26, 2017 at 0:54 | Registered Commenterubi

Congratulations on the 60 days!

What interests me is how far sticking with one system consistently has effected your work.

For instance:

Do you do more work than before?

Do you do better work than before?

Are you able to focus better on particular projects?

Are you able to keep up to date with your work?

Have you been able to firm up good routines?

etc etc
September 27, 2017 at 10:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, are you still posting on your blog? It seems to be stuck on the letter from your daughter. Or am I looking in the wrong place? Ta. 🐨
September 27, 2017 at 12:54 | Unregistered CommenterSavannah Banks

That was the last post, but I will be posting again soon.
September 27, 2017 at 13:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Thanks. Some answers to your questions . . .

"Do you do more work than before?" - Yes, a bit more.

"Do you do better work than before?" - Yes, I think so.

"Are you able to focus better on particular projects?" - Yes, but I have recently taken on more projects at work, so some are necessarily not getting full attention. Using the system does facilitate keeping abreast of them all.

"Are you able to keep up to date with your work?" - Yes.

"Have you been able to firm up good routines?" - I am improving.

Two things that have really helped - but have little to do with this specific system - are my recent trials of your 'no-list' systems, and the decision to go back to paper & pencil. The former has given me confidence that deleting somewhat-important tasks is OK - I will remember to reenter them at the right time. The latter has helped me to think and be calm - no more fretting about sync between smartphone and computer; less fidgeting.
September 27, 2017 at 16:42 | Registered Commenterubi
Ubi, when I read your post, I was reminded to some other posts (can't remember where exactly) which say something like "My experiences with the No-List-systems have improved my abilities and skills to deal with these kind of systems." You are saying something similiar. I've never managed to stick to a system for more than a couple of weeks. Is it because I lack some specific capabilities? So isn't that an interesting question: What skills are required to work successfully with these systems?
September 28, 2017 at 14:02 | Unregistered CommenterWowi
Wow! :

<< I've never managed to stick to a system for more than a couple of weeks. >>

Can you give some indication of what caused you stop working with a particular system?

<< Is it because I lack some specific capabilities? >>
September 28, 2017 at 17:59 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Yes, I think it is important to realize that sticking with a system for a while changes one. When using Mark's earlier AF systems, I had issues with the dismissal process. After sticking with SMEMA for a year or more, I learned that there was little to fear when simply deleting a task that might actually be important. So the DDD process in RealAF is easy and pleasant for me now. But if I went back to AF1 instead (for example), the dismissal process might not seem so bad.

So I do recommend sticking with one of the systems - it builds character!
September 28, 2017 at 19:07 | Registered Commenterubi
Mark: Interesting to get a response from you that starts with "Wow!" :-).
Well, why didn't I stick long enough to systems? I think, the main reason are frequent changes in the kind of work. A few days in the office with lots of time for working with the list, then much travelling where it is difficult to use the list, then project chaos days, where everything has to be done immeadiately or where you are depending on people, and so on, and when you start with your normal work in the office once again, you have forgotten to use the list. Another situation occurs often after a few weeks where some problems in following the rules lead to just doing something and cirumventing the rules which then leads to less and less earnestness in following the rules afterwards. Sometimes the quick change of the favorite system in this forum and blog also gave me a slight feeling of relief in my failure to stick to systems. "Obviously, every system has its problem, so it is clear that I will fail".

ubi: I think the missing ease in deleting or dismissing items is one of the main problems. This leads to overloaded lists (regardless of the system) and that is also a starting point for not following the rules anymore and to use the list less and less. Currently (after only using it one week), my list with this approach is quite short - so I have some hope. Looking forward to my experience for your 90 days post :-)
September 29, 2017 at 13:21 | Unregistered CommenterWowi

If you think you may still struggle with DDD or dismissal, I suggest you try to stick with one of the so-called 'no-list' systems -

- for several weeks at least. I particularly like SMEMA (Simplest and Most Effective Method of All), which Michael B. succinctly summarized:

1. Write down three tasks.
2. Do two (in order).
3. Add two (so there are three tasks again).
4. Repeat from step 2 (do two, add two) ad infinitum.

This system usually doesn't involve any deletion or deferral, but it does rely on your memory and knowledge of what's important to do. If you gain confidence that you will remember what's important, and choose good tasks at appropriate times, you can then switch to RealAF or another list-based system and not have major issues with DDD or dismissal. SMEMA also involves minimal overhead and can be done electronically or even with small scraps of paper - no special notebook or software is needed.

Good luck!
September 29, 2017 at 14:46 | Registered Commenterubi

It seems we have the same type of job. I have been using RAF for close to 60 days and I am really happy with it. I use paper- for me it works better. I defer tasks to a sticky note I place on my calendar.

When I am traveling out of the office on business and can't work on the list- I just make a line and start on the next day in the office. The method even worked through Hurricane Harvey.

If you have not read Marks book Do It Tomorrow, I would because a lot of what makes his systems work are based on the ideas in this book. For example, he writes in his book:
"When I am away from my workplace for whatever reason, it is very important to make sure that I have left enough time over the following days to catch up."

This has always been a problem for me because of how often I am out of the office. This particular system has really helped me a lot with over-scheduling and sorting out my "defective" systems.

Best regards,

September 29, 2017 at 15:43 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
<< Can you give some indication of what caused you stop working with a particular system? >>

For me, the problems arise when my intuition comes into conflict with what the rules of the system are prompting me to do. I feel a strong need to do some particular thing, but the rules of the system "don't allow" whatever it is I feel I need to do, or is strongly prompting me to go in a different direction.

These often start out as little conflicts and diversions that don't really cause any trouble. I can easily get back "on list" and back into the flow of the system, after I finish whatever prompted me to go "off-list".

But sometimes the conflicts happen more frequently. Or I see they are building in a direction that the system has no mechanism to handle. The conflict builds. This leads to tweaks and adjustments, which ultimately just add complexity and don't solve the fundamental problems.

So then I go back to "no list" or "no particular system" till something else comes along.
September 30, 2017 at 1:18 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
ubi: <<So I do recommend sticking with one of the systems - it builds character!>>

As far as character is concerned, I think the following quote is quite pertinent:

“If you have compassion on yourself, you will learn to budget your hour; every hour will have its own task. You should decide before you begin how much time you want to spend at even mundane matters…Your hours should not be left open, but should be defined by the tasks you set for them. Write out a daily schedule on a piece of paper and don’t deviate from it; then you will reach old age with all your days intact.-- Kalonymous Kalman Shapira"

This opens the never ending debate between lists fan and calendar fans....
September 30, 2017 at 10:02 | Unregistered Commenternick61

<< I feel a strong need to do some particular thing, but the rules of the system "don't allow" whatever it is I feel I need to do, or is strongly prompting me to go in a different direction. >>

Perhaps I should put an extra paragraph in the rules of every long-list system:

"The aim of this system is to get you to the point where you feel a strong need to do some particular thing, but the rules of the system don't allow whatever it is you feel you need to do, or is strongly prompting you to go in a different direction. When you reach that stage you have arrived at a point where you are able to act without the aid of the system and should follow your instinct without reference to the system. You can return to the system whenever you feel it necessary."
September 30, 2017 at 11:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster