My Latest Book

Product Details

Also available on Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, and other Amazons and bookshops worldwide! 

To Think About . . .
Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Mark Twain
My Other Books

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

Click to order other recommended books.

Find Us on Facebook Badge

Search This Site
Latest Comments
Log-in

Discussion Forum > Random RAF

Hi Everyone,

I have been so happy with an ad-hoc system I have been using for as long as RAF has been out, that I had to share. I call it Random RAF.

I use a paper notebook as a catch-all list and I add a line with today's date. I use a randomizer that (as Mark recommends) has a max of the number of lines on a page. Then as you do in Mark's random system, you start at the first page and use the randomizer to pick the line the task is on. When you land on a task, you have three options, Do, Defer, or Delete. You must do one of those things. When done, cross out, add to teh end of the book if needed and continue from where you left off. When you reach the end of the book, you go back to the start. Crossed out items are "slides" which mean that the odds of doing earlier items are greater than later ones.

Why do I call this Random RAF? Aside from stealing the Do, Defer, Delete rule. I have one more rule, I do not leave my work until the day before yesterday is completely crossed out. But I have found I don't need to do it as a block or stop the randomizer because of the slide, those items get addressed a little faster than other items, and I have almost always cleared out that day during the course of my workday. On days where I have many meetings, that page may linger a day, but likely there will only be a few items not hit by the randomizer.

That's the whole system. I played with notation for must do today items, but I find it is not necessary, if the randomizer does't hit a priority item, I see them as I count down the lines on a page and do them when needed.

This balances everything I need in a system, enough structure, but unstructured, a system to keep the list manageable, and a guarantee that items I don't want to get done or are important but not urgent will get addressed in short time. I've tried the simple scanning ideas, but honestly, when I want to work I often get decision paralysis. Here I just look at one item at at time (picked randomly) and say, yes, now, no later, or no, never, freeing up my decision and scanning time to just do or no do.

Works for me!
October 15, 2017 at 21:28 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
Nice!
October 16, 2017 at 6:46 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I find this approach works fine, but skip the dice. Just do an AF1 scan and pick anything that stands out to Delete or Defer. If none, change the question to Do. Carry on!
October 17, 2017 at 3:23 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
The thing about the dice though is that it can remove/diminish resistance so I can see the usefulness of that.
October 17, 2017 at 3:55 | Registered Commenternuntym
Here is my nascent theory on why randomizing is often superior to "standing out".

For decisions that matter, there is something about the random selection that triggers a faster, deeper intuitive response even than the "standing out" process. I think this is partially explained by the phenomenon of "revealed preferences" in relation to "flipism" -- see here for more -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipism#Flipism_in_decision-making

In other words, as soon as the coin toss reveals the decision, you know intuitively and blindingly fast if it's the wrong decision. It makes the right decision "jump out".

But I think there's an even deeper reason explaining how randomized methods make resistance disappear. *** For most tasks, priority really doesn't matter. *** Trying to choose the right priority is usually trying to be more accurate than the noise. It doesn't matter. Any time spent on prioritization is wasted time -- except for the few decisions and tasks that really matter.

If priority doesn't matter, then ANY process, including the "standing out" method, that introduces prioritization overhead for every task, introduces waste and resistance into the system.

Taken together, it works really well:
(1) If randomizer chooses the wrong thing, you know it immediately, and can just go do the right thing.
(2) Otherwise just do what randomizer tells you to do. Better yet - defer, delete, or do. This gives you the flexibility to defer tasks that aren't ready for some reason; delete tasks that don't matter any more; and do.

So I am really interested in giving vegheadjones' new system a good try. But I'm currently doing something else with no-list that has similar effects. :-)
October 17, 2017 at 17:46 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
This is it. I don't know why I didn't think of it before - the DDD really is helping keep the list to a manageable size and I have always loved the Random method. I find when I fully "engage" in the random method I'm automatically fully engaged in whatever task I'm working on. I've already seen an increase in the quality of my work and a decrease in stress. In the past when I used the random method, resistance would slowly build up because I didn't have the option to delete or defer tasks. I think this small combination of RAF and random will be wonderful. Thank for the insight, Vegheadjones! Seraphim, interested in your no-list system as well.
October 18, 2017 at 2:35 | Unregistered CommenterPaul MacNeil
I think you are dead-on Seraphim with your post. Prioritization is an extra layer of stress. And I am the same way Paul, when I use the randomized and do, I am more engaged.
October 18, 2017 at 3:41 | Unregistered CommenterVegheadjones
Basically I've been using no-list for getting started on the right things for the day -- zeroing in on the top two or three things that really matter.

(I don't think the particular mechanics make any difference -- any no-list system will do. The point is to rely on your intuition -- you already know what you need to do, just give it a few moments' reflection before firing up the calendar and email and reminders etc. and getting sucked into the void.)

But then, when I would get tired, or interrupted, or distracted, and my intuition isn't working very well, I would do things like email, clearing reminders, clearing out action items from my meeting minutes in OneNote, and any other odds and ends that came to mind, following no particular system. And try to get back into a good flow with stuff that really matters. But not worry too much about the details, since I had already made good progress on the stuff that really matters.

This afternoon, I decided to try Vegheadjones' Random RAF when I got into that "tired zone", and it worked great! The resistance melted away, and I got a LOT of stuff cleared. Even though I was tired, I wanted to keep going and going. Randomizer methods always seem to trigger that.

This can be their downside, too, at least for me. There is such momentum to charge forward, I don't want to slow down too much if I come to a task that requires too much time or thought.

No-list for deeper work, and Random RAF for more fragmented work, was a great combination today. No-list got me focused on the stuff that really matters when I had the energy and attention to focus on it and get it a good flow. And Random RAF helped me be more systematic and resistance-free when I was tired and get a high volume of work done.
October 18, 2017 at 6:53 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim,

this combination of having a no list system for the important and urgent tasks and the long list system for the many small tasks might really help me to keep working inside a system. It resembles the situations which often appear (when using a long list system) where I feel that I cannot follow the rules of the system anymore (because of project pressure, additional unplanned work, etc.) and start to just follow my intuition. Then I get the impression that I have broken the rules, thus it becomes difficult to go back to the system.

In your system this is not breaking the rules but following the rules: Switch to a no list system when priorities are obvious, switch to a long list system when you have to do a lot of small things and when you need the "guidance" of the long list - and don't feel like breaking rules.

Great! I'll give it a try.
October 18, 2017 at 16:13 | Unregistered CommenterWowi
@vegheadjones: "...if the randomizer does't hit a priority item, I see them as I count down the lines on a page and do them when needed."

You can actually call that rule "Divert", i.e. divert from your randomizing/counting and do the urgent thing to be done. Therefore you have four D's, in keeping with the theme.

This seems really tempting, I'm going to try the system out.
October 19, 2017 at 6:27 | Registered Commenternuntym
Wowi I agree with you. If I feel that I must go against the system rules, I start to lose faith in the system, and ultimately this leads to resisting the system.

But lately I've been approaching it differently. My "system" is just to use my best intuition and reason and whatever other capacities I can bring to bear to my current reality. The method I use at any given time is a tactical decision. Using no-list for thinking, deep work, "current initiative" work, etc., is a tactical decision. And switching to randomizer is a tactical decision. Deciding how to manage my calendar and meetings is a tactical decision. I'd prefer to develop these into useful habits so the decision what to do in any given situation is more-or-less automatic, but still reserve the freedom to override my habits with whatever my reason and intuition etc. guide me to do. I think this is what we all do anyway -- but sometimes we wish we could just turn it all over to a simple algorithm completely. I wonder why we do that.
October 19, 2017 at 6:37 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim, I think there are several reasons to do that.

One is clearly a morally upright one: better focus. You know it, if you have written down your stuff and put it over there, you can better concentrate on whatever we are doing over here.

Also, fear of doing the wrong thing.

Also, well, a lot of the things we have to do, wen don't really want to do. So we try to help ourselves over that by maintaining a system.

Also, geekdom, having all those cool gadgets and stationary, wann use them for something cool, Mr. Special Agent Topster, right?


What else?
October 20, 2017 at 14:14 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
I think this article is relevant to this discussion:

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2006/9/14/making-decisions.html
October 21, 2017 at 16:28 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
vegheadjones:

I've been away in Wales for the last week or so, and have come back to this interesting discussion. I'll confine myself to commenting on a few points.

<< I've tried the simple scanning ideas, but honestly, when I want to work I often get decision paralysis. Here I just look at one item at at time (picked randomly) and say, yes, now, no later, or no, never, freeing up my decision and scanning time to just do or no do. >>

If you're getting decision paralysis when using simple scanning, you're doing it wrong. "Standing out" is much more like the third exercise with the pencil in the article I linked to in my comment above.

Choosing between Do, Defer or Delete requires much more decision energy than "standing out". That would be even be the case if you used the right order Delete, Defer or Do, though not to quite the same extent.
October 21, 2017 at 17:18 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< If priority doesn't matter, then ANY process, including the "standing out" method, that introduces prioritization overhead for every task, introduces waste and resistance into the system. >>

If you are doing it right there is NO prioritization overhead for the "standing out" method.
October 21, 2017 at 17:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< The method I use at any given time is a tactical DECISION. Using no-list for thinking, deep work, "current initiative" work, etc., is a tactical DECISION. And switching to randomizer is a tactical DECISION. Deciding how to manage my calendar and meetings is a tactical DECISION. I'd prefer to develop these into useful habits so the DECISION what to do in any given situation is more-or-less automatic, but still reserve the freedom to override my habits with whatever my reason and intuition etc. guide me to do. >>

I feel tired just reading it!
October 21, 2017 at 17:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Great article on Decision Making - I'm going to be sharing this one! I don't remember running across it before!

(I just held the pencil for 1 second without dropping it, each time, so I didn't find the exercise very enlightening. I'll have to try it with a more consequential decision and see what happens!)

In my obtuse post you cited, I was trying to say something like this: Sometimes we try to elevate a tactical method (such as algorithmic time-management systems) into a complete framework for our lives. But this has ultimately proven to be disappointing, or at least unsustainable. It doesn't get us to the point of revealing our deep intuitions, which is where we find the way to the most impactful results in our lives, as you describe in your Making Decisions article.

The No-List methods have helped me with this more than any of your other methods. I always like to start my day with this. It gets me in touch with the stuff circulating below the surface in my mind, heart, and gut, and helps me get it out in the open and make it actionable.

The Random method is also helpful in a different way -- it eliminates the decision and just elicits an immediate response. I think this is also a way of prompting our intuitions to reveal themselves. The responses are usually something like these, and they are immediate:
- "This is wrong!" -> OK, stop and try to identify what's right
- "Delete!" -> This isn't needed, get rid of it
- "Defer!" -> I really can't do this right now - do it later
- "Do!" -> Just get it done, and quickly!

I think this is even faster and more accurate than the Standing Out method. Perhaps the fact that it relies on random selection is obfuscating what is really happening under the surface. It is really working with your intuition in a deep and immediate way.

I always try to start with the no-list approach and sustain it as long as I can. But when my day is too fractured or doesn't have enough discretionary time, or when I just start to feel tired and "wandering", I've been switching to the random method. Together, these give me a "fast, flexible, systematic" combination that keeps me focused on the things that matter, and help me keep up with all the maintenance and little details that need to be dealt with.

The TOC Thinking Processes are really helpful here, too, especially when my intuitions are pulling me in different conflicting directions. They help verbalize the intuitions and put it into a logical framework so I can see what's really going on. This isn't meant to rationalize the intuitions -- coming up with the "reasons" -- but rather to clarify the logical dependencies and conflicts to help figure out what the intuition is really saying, validate the logic of it more rigorously, and pre-emptively identify and avert undesirable side effects of decisions and actions. The Evaporating Cloud conflict diagram is especially easy and fast to use, and has an amazing ability to resolve those intractable vicious circles.
October 22, 2017 at 5:20 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
By the way, I've been reading the book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives
http://smile.amazon.com/Messy-Power-Disorder-Transform-Lives/dp/1594634793

It makes many observations relevant to this discussion, how randomness can be very healthy for sparking new ideas and solutions. Similar to Taleb's observations how antifragile systems are made stronger by random stresses. I think these are additional factors that make the random methods so strangely effective.

In fact, it makes me wonder, if perhaps "standing out" might be susceptible to "confirmation bias" and other self-reinforcing negative effects? That had never occurred to me before, but perhaps it can help explain how some list systems that use the "standing out" method were susceptible to processing large amounts of trivia while leaving high-resistance work to languish.
October 22, 2017 at 5:55 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

<< I just held the pencil for 1 second without dropping it, each time, so I didn't find the exercise very enlightening. I'll have to try it with a more consequential decision and see what happens! >>

The fact that you made the same decision each time doesn't matter. The exercise isn't about the decision. It's about how it feels to make the decision and how easily the action flows out of the decision. What were your answers to the questions posed at the end?

- Which was the easiest way of making the decision?

- In which did the action take place in the most graceful and natural way?
October 22, 2017 at 13:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< I think this is even faster and more accurate than the Standing Out method.>>

I'm racking my brains at the moment to see how one could construct an objective test of this. Any ideas?
October 22, 2017 at 13:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< It makes many observations relevant to this discussion, how randomness can be very healthy for sparking new ideas and solutions. Similar to Taleb's observations how antifragile systems are made stronger by random stresses. I think these are additional factors that make the random methods so strangely effective. >>

I haven't read "Messy" yet, but my understanding of Taleb is that when he says an antifragile system is made stronger by random stresses he's giving the definition of an antifragile system, not describing the method by which it becomes antifragile.
October 22, 2017 at 13:56 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

I've constructed a rather rough and ready test with a shelf of 25 books, which range from the very easy (Guys and Dolls and Other Stories by Damon Runyan) to the extremely difficult (Summa Theologiae in Latin).

The rules are:

For both methods I will read each book selected for as long as I want and no longer. I will also use each method for as long as I want and no longer.

For the random method I will select by setting the Randomizer for a range 1-25 and will count from the left end of the bookshelf each time. Books which are Done or Deferred will be replaced in their original position. Books which are deleted will be removed from the shelf and the range of the Randomizer reduced accordingly.

For the Simple Scanning method, books will be replaced at the end of the shelf. No books will be deferred or deleted.

I will report back after each method.
October 22, 2017 at 14:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Tossing for going first
HEADS Randomized
TAILS Simple Scanning

TAILS!
October 22, 2017 at 14:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Here's the simple scanning results:

17 mins. The Reivers (Moffat)
13 mins The Bed of Procrustes (Taleb)
14 mins Otterburn 1388 (Armstrong)
14 mins Par le sang versé (Bonnecarrère)
12 mins Το βιβλίο της Εσθήρ (Septuagint)
9 mins The Bed of Procrustes (Taleb)

Total: 79 minutes

Verdict: A good selection of books, though wider than I would normally be reading at one time. You will note that I read in The Bed of Procrustes twice, which is facilitated by simple scanning. I had no difficulty choosing the books. It was fast and effective and I'm happy about the choices I made.

"The Reivers" is the only one I am currently reading.

I enjoyed this so much that I might actually adopt it full time. I would use the general task "Reading" and then select in the way indicated.

I'll have a bit of a rest and then try out the Randomized Method.

"Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment" (Taleb)
October 22, 2017 at 16:21 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
And the Randomized results:

Deleted Voyage au bout de la nuit (Céline)
12 mins The Koran Interpreted (Arberry)
Deferred The Koran Interpreted (Arberry)
Deleted Catechism of the Catholic Church
Deferred England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings (Bartlett)

At this stage I gave up, having spent nearly 5 minutes messing around trying to choose the next book..

There's no doubt in my mind which method I prefer - by a long way.

"Life is about execution rather than purpose" (Taleb)
October 22, 2017 at 17:11 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thank you for engaging on this Mark, and welcome back.

I like using the random method in my workday because I can be assured of two things, 1) everything will get addressed (sooner or later but I find generally sooner) and 2) I always know what to do next. But what you wrote in http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2691631 along with the fact that I have been following your advice since AF1, I am going to try "standing out" this work week and will report back.
October 22, 2017 at 21:40 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
One last thing Mark as I read your experiment again. You wrote:

Books which are Done or Deferred will be replaced in their original position.

When I do Random RAF, I adopt two principles from you that run counter to that: 1) From your Random method, if I do, defer or delete I cross it off and that become a slide. This puts pressure on the earlier items. It also puts tasks that I am still doing at the end of the list, in the case of the difficult books, it would reduce the probability of them being read again soon. 2) As you had said in your instructions for RAF, when an item is deferred it does not go on the end of the list but on the calendar for a future date. So if you landed on one of your 25 books and got a visceral "NO!" reaction, but you felt that you want to read it later, it should not stay on your current random list.
October 22, 2017 at 21:48 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
vegheadjones:

I wasn't trying to construct the entire system, just enough to get a feel for what the decision making process is like in both cases in response to Seraphim's remark "I think this is even faster and more accurate than the Standing Out method."

Certainly it would now take a lot to convince me that Seraphim's method would be faster for me.
October 23, 2017 at 12:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim;

<< In fact, it makes me wonder, if perhaps "standing out" might be susceptible to "confirmation bias" and other self-reinforcing negative effects? That had never occurred to me before, but perhaps it can help explain how some list systems that use the "standing out" method were susceptible to processing large amounts of trivia while leaving high-resistance work to languish. >>

The original Random Method processes everything on your list, good, bad, easy, difficult, trivial, important and everything in between. It makes no judgements about your work. It simply processes what you have written.

You've now introduced a method of second guessing the Random Method which relies on "standing out" but with additional complications.

Maybe we should just accept that you like systems to be complicated, while I like them simple.
October 23, 2017 at 13:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< Similar to Taleb's observations how antifragile systems are made stronger by random stresses. >>

I've been thinking a bit more about this.

Taleb does not say that random stresses make systems stronger. He says that they make antifragile systems stronger. Random stresses on fragile systems will break them, not strengthen them.

In fact it's relatively easy to break the Random System - I've done it several times. You just add more and more difficult things to your list and one day resistance will hit you like a sledgehammer. The system is fragile.

Now what happens in that situation with Simple Scanning? Nothing. The system will survive quite happily because you don't have to do any of the really difficult things - least of all at a difficult time. You just carry on with things you are capable of doing at that time. Simple Scanning is robust. Robust means that random forces won't break it.

It may even be anti-fragile since the more you use it and learn to trust it the better it works. I will need to work with it longer to find out if that is the case.

You're trying to get past the problem of the Random Method's fragility by introducing a triple choice. Do, Defer, Delete (DDD). But this triple choice was never intended to be used with every task. It was a means of clearing out tasks which already had been through a sifting process. I suspect that you may have added to the system's fragility, but only time will tell.
October 23, 2017 at 13:38 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Interesting experiment with the books. Simple scanning got a lot accomplished. Randomizer weeded the list. Both very useful.

One thing is missing from the experiment: Pressure. It looks to me like the books on your list are for entertainment, learning languages you are interested in, and understanding the human condition. All things chosen by you. That's very different from things required by your family, today's job, or your future career. Would that difference of pressure would make a difference in resistance?

I use them both, usually starting with Simple Scanning. Simple Scanning doesn't work when I'm unable to settle down and work, or when whatever choice I make is wrong because something else feels more important (usually a sign of overwhelm). In those cases, Randomizer often breaks the block. I sometimes make it more powerful by taking a few minutes to prepare myself to accept the results (Buddhist Equanimity), or praying that God direct the dice.
October 23, 2017 at 21:31 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< Interesting experiment with the books. Simple scanning got a lot accomplished. Randomizer weeded the list. Both very useful. >>

The experiment wasn't about how much got accomplished or weeded. It was about how fast and accurate the decision making process was. I found the simple scanning to be both fast, accurate and flowing, while the random method with DDD was slow and laboured.

With added pressure which would be more likely to work well, the fast accurate and flowing one or the slow and laboured one?

<< Simple Scanning doesn't work when I'm unable to settle down and work, or when whatever choice I make is wrong because something else feels more important (usually a sign of overwhelm). >>

Wouldn't it make more sense to accept the results of the "standing out" with Buddhist Equanimity, rather than do some completely random task?
October 24, 2017 at 1:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
When nothing (or everything) stands out, there are no results to be equanimous about.

The task isn't completely random. It's on a closed list -- often on a short list of things for the next few days.

Randomizer breaks through the overwhelm. Unlike the book experiment, I rarely use defer. Otherwise, I might defer them all and take the day off.

It also surprises me sometimes. I might be avoiding several tasks because I don't think I can focus. Randomizer encourages me to try it anyways, and often I can do more than expected. Simple scanning would let me postpone them.

I don't remember if I used simple scanning on a long list, so can't comment on that.

These days, I'm working with short lists of things I want to do each day - just enough planning that I don't end up with five urgent high-focus tasks on Friday. Simple scanning usually works well for those short lists. I usually do them in close to the order written. Again, when it doesn't work immediately it's better to roll the die than stall.
October 24, 2017 at 2:20 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket,

<<One thing is missing from the experiment: Pressure...Simple Scanning doesn't work when I'm unable to settle down and work, or when whatever choice I make is wrong because something else feels more important (usually a sign of overwhelm).>>

To be honest, it seems that in such instances you do have an inkling of the things you have to do but because of the pressure you are not clear on what exactly those things are. In such instances Simple Scanning might not work because the voices in your head and heart clamor for your attention too loudly for you to notice the things that "stand out" in the list. You then use Randomizer to at least get you going but you might be hit and miss on what you need to do, but hey at least you use DDD so you move on if it's a miss, right?

I think in such instances probably it's best to try out the Panic List, also called, as Seraphim wisely pointed out, AF2.

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/10/5/thoughts-on-the-long-list-the-panic-list.html

You do not need to use a different piece of paper or notebook from your other main list because you can go stalactite/stalagmite.

1) Abandon your main list for now.
2) Starting from the bottom of the last page of your main list, list three or four tasks that are currently giving you pressure. What are the voices in your heart and mind clamoring for you to do?
3) Scan from the last item of this short list and do whatever stands out.
4) Keep on adding tasks that are pressuring you whenever you realize them. If the main and short lists meet somewhere in the middle of the page, draw a line between them and go to the next page.
5) Once you finish an item start scanning again from the last item of your short list. If needed and they are not that urgent anymore, add them to your main list.
6) Keep on doing it until you have done them all, then go back to your main list.

I have to attest that this works at least for me, because I got through a need for it just now, and it worked great. I then remembered your post here and I just had to share it with you.

Now I am trying to think of clear, objective criteria for using PL/AF2. Mark already gave two: emergencies and time pressure. I think the one you gave, Cricket, and what I experienced is "resistance to Simple Scanning", i.e. if I don't want to use my main list.
October 24, 2017 at 3:56 | Registered Commenternuntym
Well I just thought of clear criteria for using the Panic List/AF2 over Simple Scanning, just after the Edit Post timer ran out on my previous post:

1) Simple Scanning would be disadvantageous or even disastrous, for example emergencies or time constraints.
2) Simple Scanning would be advantageous but we absolutely cannot use Simple Scanning, for example the main list is not with us.
2) Simple Scanning would be advantageous but we virtually cannot use Simple Scanning, for example "standing out" does not seem to work or high resistance to even picking up the main list.
October 24, 2017 at 4:20 | Registered Commenternuntym
All:

One of the best ways to get out of a sense of paralysis is just to write down the next thing you are going to do and do it. It doesn't matter what it is, however trivial, but the act of writing forces you to focus enough to make a choice.

Repeat for as long as necessary.
October 24, 2017 at 14:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
nuntym:

<< 1) Simple Scanning would be disadvantageous or even disastrous, for example emergencies or time constraints. >>

I would agree where there is a large group of tasks which need to be done together. But Simple Scanning is perfectly capable of dealing with time constraints for single tasks. If you are consciously aware of the situation enough to change to a Panic List then your intuition should also be aware enough to make nothing else stand out until you reach the task in question.

Btw it's called a Panic List, not Panic List/AF2. With the Panic List the whole idea is that you write a new temporary list. AF2 is a means of processing your full list.

<< 2) Simple Scanning would be advantageous but we absolutely cannot use Simple Scanning, for example the main list is not with us. >>

Agreed, though I personally would be more likely to write a temporary Simple Scanning list if there was no actual panic involved.

<< 3) Simple Scanning would be advantageous but we virtually cannot use Simple Scanning, for example "standing out" does not seem to work or high resistance to even picking up the main list. >>

I think you'd find that in those circumstances a Panic List wouldn't work either. See my previous comment for a solution.

I should add that to use Simple Scanning consistently and powerfully requires practice, like anything else.
October 24, 2017 at 14:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

On a Simple Scanning List, do you find that a "weed list" task is needed?
October 24, 2017 at 15:25 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Bernie:

I haven't got one on my current list. I just delete anything that I notice is no longer relevant. But I often have had one in the past. It's really a case of have one if you think it would be useful.
October 24, 2017 at 18:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark Forster: <<One of the best ways to get out of a sense of paralysis is just to write down the next thing you are going to do and do it. It doesn't matter what it is, however trivial, but the act of writing forces you to focus enough to make a choice.

Repeat for as long as necessary.>>

Actually this is what I was driving to when I suggested using the Panic List when there is a sense of paralysis, at least in my experience. It is not that I have one task I want to do next when I have decision paralysis, I have a few or several. Listing them out and then doing them them all one at a time lets me get back into the grove of using the main list.
October 25, 2017 at 1:47 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

If it works for you, it works. But I have definitely had times when my sense of paralysis has been so bad that I wouldn't even have been able to write the list out!
October 25, 2017 at 11:59 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Reading over Mark's book experiment, I had a different reaction. It seemed to me the random method was effective, though in a different way than simple scanning. Scanning got some books read, while random got some books removed from consideration. If Mark had persisted he might have gotten to a rather short list of books and got some interesting reading done.

That said, I don't feel randomness is a good approach to a question of choosing what you want to do (e.g, read a book). It can be an approach to a short list of things you don't feel like doing but should do anyway.
October 25, 2017 at 19:58 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< Scanning got some books read, while random got some books removed from consideration. If Mark had persisted he might have gotten to a rather short list of books and got some interesting reading done.>>

You think The Reivers, The Bed of Procrustes, Otterburn 1388, Par le sang versé, Το βιβλίο της Εσθήρ, and The Bed of Procrustes (again) weren't interesting enough already?
October 25, 2017 at 20:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It's certainly interesting to me to see such an eclectic list of books, but not interesting to me to read. The question is whether to you they are interesting. You seem to think so.

But further discussion is probably moot as I'm not defending random selection for a bookshelf.
October 25, 2017 at 22:27 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
<< At this stage I gave up, having spent nearly 5 minutes messing around trying to choose the next book >>
As others have already pointed out, I think the results of the test say more about the rules employed in the test than about the value of randomization as a selection method in general.

<< my understanding of Taleb is that when he says an antifragile system is made stronger by random stresses he's giving the definition of an antifragile system, not describing the method by which it becomes antifragile. >>
Yes, exactly.

<< Certainly it would now take a lot to convince me that Seraphim's method would be faster for me. >>
I don't think the rules of your test lend themselves to getting any value from random selection. It's certainly a lot different than VegHeadJones' Random RAF method or my variation of it.

I have some ideas on how to do a more rigorous test, but need to think about it a bit more. And this post is already long enough. :-)

<< Taleb does not say that random stresses make systems stronger. He says that they make antifragile systems stronger. Random stresses on fragile systems will break them, not strengthen them. >>
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying too.

<< In fact it's relatively easy to break the Random System - I've done it several times. You just add more and more difficult things to your list and one day resistance will hit you like a sledgehammer. The system is fragile >>
I stopped using your original Randomizer method precisely for the same reason. The combination of Randomizer and RAF that VegHeadJones describes gives different results. I found when I combined it with No-List, it gave even better results (for me).

No-List always gets to the heart of whatever is on my mind -- whether conscious/rational or unconscious/intuitive -- and that has always had the same feel of "rightness" as "standing out" but taken to a deeper, more engaging level -- more visceral, more alive, more in-the-present. I think it uses the same positive mechanism as "standing out" -- recognizing the things that are important and valuable, even if I can't articulate WHY they are important and valuable.

One problem with No-List (for me at least) is that it can be mentally exhausting. When I'm tired, it's much harder to get going with it. Or sometimes I just don't get any traction with it -- it feels like I am having an "off day".

Those are the times I turn to Random RAF. It seems to engage the brain much differently. When it selects a task, I almost always just do it or delete it immediately. It isn't a deliberative or even meditative process at all. It's very fast. I can process 20-30+ tasks very quickly before I hit a task that gives me any kind of pause. Random RAF gives me an easy way to deal with it -- just defer it. It's probably giving me pause for a good reason. Once I realize I am pausing and deliberating, I just defer it and move on. This isn't so much a conscious decision as making an observation.

Actually that's true with almost all of this. With No-List, I am observing what comes to mind, what arises out of the depths, and writing it down where I can see it and intuit my way through it to decide where to focus. But even this "deciding" is really a matter of trying to find the thing that "stands out", that "feels right" -- again, it's a matter of observation, not so much rational decision-making.

The same is true with Random RAF (at least for me). I'm not *deciding* whether to "do, delete, or defer". Like I wrote above, if it's do or delete, it's just obvious, and it gets done. If it's defer, again, it's obvious (by the fact that I'm pausing over it), and once I realize that's what I'm doing, I defer.

Also with Random RAF, I am doing things that I might otherwise not ever choose to do. Either because I just don't want to do it, or because it doesn't seem important, or whatever. But with Random RAF, most of the time, I just do it. Or it is now obvious it's not needed, so it's deleted.

I am trying to say that it selects different stuff than "standing out" does. It makes me look at things that would not stand out. This makes a lot of things get closure much faster, by either getting done or getting deleted.

These two approaches (No-List and Random RAF) work really well together for another reason. At the end of the day, I can look over all the stuff I've deferred -- it's easy, I just look at the last page or so of work. This gives my unconscious mind fodder to process overnight, so when I start No-List the next day, some of that stuff just comes up naturally and gets done. So later on, when I am in Random mode, I find a lot of that stuff that was deferred earlier, got deferred because it needed more deliberation and intuiting, and got handled appropriately during the No-List time.

Anyway, that's what is working for me at the moment. The key thing I am learning is how powerful it can be just to *observe*, rather than try to *decide*. I think Standing Out works on a similar principle, but it doesn't clear the dross as quickly, or process the boring stuff as quickly.

<< You're trying to get past the problem of the Random Method's fragility by introducing a triple choice. >>
I've tried to make it clear that (for me at least), it's not so much a matter of conscious choice, or "making a decision". If I find myself thinking about it too long, that means it's a "defer". It's more a matter of the right thing to do appearing almost instantly in my mind. The change is that I am explicitly allowing myself these three options.

Following a "standing out" method can also work the same way, for all practical purposes. As you scan, something might jump out at you as "ready to delete". So it gets deleted. (Right? I mean, this is what you do also, right?) And then you carry on looking for whatever stands out. Things that *don't* stand out are deferred. It's not conscious -- it is simply how the system works. The items that don't stand out just stay there on the list, deferred at least for the moment, till you cycle round to them again. The Random RAF method makes this all happen more quickly, at least for me.

<< I suspect that you may have added to the system's fragility, but only time will tell. >>
You might be right, of course! But in practice I am finding it to work in exactly the opposite fashion.

<< paralysis >>
There was lots of discussion on that. I don't seem to have a problem myself with this, neither with No-List, nor with Random-RAF. Both of these methods get me going pretty quickly, but work best in different circumstances, and using different mechanisms.


Not sure if any of this helps clarify what I was trying to say...
October 27, 2017 at 7:05 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

I was trying to get a feel for what your decision-making process felt like without having to construct an entire list. It doesn't sound as if i succeeded very well.

However the crux of the matter appears to me to be the difference between 1) saying "yes" to some tasks and leaving the rest and 2) saying "no" to some tasks and doing the rest.

"Standing out" as in Simple Scanning is an example of 1).

Rejecting the throw of a die is an example of 2)

One could in theory have a simple scanning method in which, instead of doing what stands out, one does every task _except_ those that stand out.

For some time now I've been experimenting with a method that does just that. It has the advantage of being very fast. But the problem with it is how to get it sufficiently flexible.

I've just had an idea about how one might do that.

I'll get back!
October 27, 2017 at 14:54 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Sounds very interesting, Mark!

I have always been intrigued that both these types of systems have proven to be valuable:
- Go with whatever stands out
- Go with whatever you are resisting the most

These would appear, on superficial observation, to be opposites. And so one conclusion could be that it doesn't matter how we prioritize at all! I think this is probably correct more often than we would be inclined to believe, but it's not ALWAYS correct.

And that conclusion misses something deeper and more valuable, I think. A different conclusion is that BOTH approaches are giving you valuable information -- but it's different kinds of information -- useful in different contexts and for different reasons.

I am looking forward to whatever you discover! :-)
October 27, 2017 at 17:38 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

I've been testing my new idea since my previous comment six hours ago. It's working extremely well at the moment, but of course the real test is whether it can keep that up. I'll keep you (all) posted.
October 27, 2017 at 21:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Very excited Mark about your new idea.

Seraphim, as always you explain the workflow thought process better than I ever I could...

As promised I tried "simple scanning": this week. I have to say Monday was very stressful and I felt both paralysis and then a sense that I was making the wrong choices. Tuesday I went back to Random RAF to calm my nerves and then stuck with simple scanning for the rest of the week. Thursday was a good day and today (Friday) was pretty good but I ran out of steam...

Here is my "big insight" everything on my list can fall into a matrix of have/want to do. There are things 1) I have to do and I want to do, things that 2) I have to do and don't want to do, things 3) I don't have to do and want to do and things 4) I don;t want to do and don't want to do

Simple scanning gets me to do 1) and 3). I do some 2)s, but not many. with random RAF, I do more 2)s but maybe at the deficit of 1) and 3) and perhaps some 1) and 2)s don't get acted on soon as they should.

At this point I cant say which works best for me...
October 27, 2017 at 22:27 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
Very interesting Mark!

After thinking about it for a while, the two approaches you listed have different effects to a list.

1) "Saying 'yes' to some tasks and leaving the rest" seems to make the system flexible: it allows the user to jump to whatever task is needed to be done.

2) "Saying 'no' to some tasks and doing the rest" seems to make the system fast: it cuts down on the decision making.

Maybe the best way is to use both approaches? Maybe like a modification of FAF?

1. Scan the whole list until a task "stands out".
2. Once you have done the task, do all the tasks in that page except those that you don't want to do.
3. Once you have done all the things in that page that you want to do, go back to step 1.

EDIT: I completely agree with what Seraphim said: "And that conclusion misses something deeper and more valuable, I think. A different conclusion is that BOTH approaches are giving you valuable information -- but it's different kinds of information -- useful in different contexts and for different reasons."
October 28, 2017 at 5:35 | Registered Commenternuntym