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Discussion Forum > Simple scanning once

I have been using simple scanning for a little while and I really like how I'm getting through lots of tasks with minimal resistance.

However, a snag in my circumstances. As my list is extremely long it does take up a lot of scanning time when reviewing tasks over and over again.

I have now started to scan tasks just once. If they can't be actioned for any reason, I put a marker against them along the lines of "do this week", "do next week" or "do next month". i.e. similar to RAF.

That means I can automatically skip over them during the next scanning session until the relevant time as indicated by the markers.

At the end of the day, the fastest system has got to be one with minimal review & scanning time and as much time as possible spent on doing tasks.

It would be interesting if one recorded the time spent scanning and managing the list on your current system to get a feel for how fast it really is (or even posting on this blog rather than doing tasks!). Deduct that management time from overall time spend doing tasks to work out the efficiency of any system.
November 1, 2017 at 14:38 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
<< At the end of the day, the fastest system has got to be one with minimal review & scanning time and as much time as possible spent on doing tasks. >>

Ever tried Random RAF? :-)
http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2690952
November 1, 2017 at 15:59 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I found Simple Scanning to be more effective than Random RAF, at least in the few days I used the latter system a week ago. It simply is not flexible enough; heck Seraphim had to add a "no list" system into it.

But of course you can still try it. Or you can stick with Simple Scanning until you get it. I agree with Mark Forster that Simple Scanning gets better the longer you use it; I actually might go back to it if I can't find a solution to the "Standing out is No" problem.

MrBackLog: "At the end of the day, the fastest system has got to be one with minimal review & scanning time and as much time as possible spent on doing tasks."

I completely agree, and that is the promise of a "Standing out is No" system, which is why I am trying to find a way to use it.
November 1, 2017 at 17:30 | Registered Commenternuntym
Seraphim, yes good point - I can see how Random would also achieve lots of speed.

I notice there are an infinite amount of systems that we could try as they all basically address the same thing being the order in which tasks are done.

I see Mark's comment on how the last 20 years have gone by with more or less going back to one of the original systems which is interesting.

Is any system really just a bit of a folly and as long as the you push through the difficult tasks without resistance then any system will work as well as another in the long run?

Numtyn: yes I thought RAF was actually one of the best and I can't fault it (in my circumstances) as it makes me do older tasks. Compare that with simple scanning where they tend to get missed. I suppose easy to solve that paying attention to older tasks and they should stand out more.

All good fun!
November 1, 2017 at 17:41 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
All this tagging and skipping seems a bit awkward. It sounds like what you are doing, in effect, is continuous DDD - i.e. making a decision on each task as you scan by once whether it should remain active for the next pass. If you add a fourth D (Delay to later today), and do continuous DDDD, then you can delete a lot of stuff and move everything that doesn't stand out now either off-list (Defer) or to the end of the list (Delay). This approach would shorten the list and keep everything contiguous.

I recommend Delete as a default action if your list is too long. A lot of tasks just don't need to be on the list when you know you're not going to take any action on them soon. Trust yourself that you will remember to enter such tasks again when they are ripe.
November 1, 2017 at 20:08 | Registered Commenterubi
Hi ubi, thanks for useful comments.

I try and do as many tasks as I can on the first pass and only defer tasks when absolutely necessary. e.g waiting on someone else.

Also, nothing gets on the list if it does not need to be done. It is long enough already!

I also have a "today" marker as well which would work similar to your Delay to Later Today. I use that for urgents.

I'm hoping to achieve just one scan on a task and action it there and then and have a marker for deferred tasks so I can forget about them until a later time. I suppose that is similar to the defer bit of Real autofocus, but using a marker instead of the admin time of trying to move the task somehow into a calendar.

I think a system needs to be developed to achieve absolute minimum admin time and then it will truly be fast.
November 1, 2017 at 20:54 | Unregistered CommenterMrBaclog
nuntym:

<< It simply is not flexible enough; heck Seraphim had to add a "no list" system into it. >>

Actually it's the other way around. My default system is "no list". It's only when I feel I'm not getting traction with "no list" that I turn to Random RAF. I find "no list" to be engaging and flow-inducing like the "standing out" methods, but even more so, at a higher and deeper level.

Random RAF is a great backup system, it keeps things moving when I'm having a hard time focusing, it selects things I might otherwise be ignoring or resisting, and it quickly clears away the dross. But I don't like using it for starting my day, it feels far too restrictive. Actually, compared to no-list, *all* long-list systems feel artificial and restrictive to me, even "Simple Scanning".

A while back, Mark was searching for systems that were "fast, flexible, and systematic".
http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2016/12/18/systematic-fast-and-flexible.html

No-list systems are fast and flexible but not very systematic. Random RAF is fast and systematic but not flexible. The combination works really well for me. It also keeps me going on the most creative and demanding work when I am feeling most ready for it, and saves all the systematic maintenance and cleanup and "down" work for when I have less energy and focus.
November 1, 2017 at 23:44 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Hmm... So what we really need is a system which will tackle the longest and hardest list and get everything done in the shortest possible time, while involving no willpower or forcing?

I'll see what I can do.
November 2, 2017 at 1:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I believe the "longest" list should not exist, and the ideal system should not try to tackle such. The ideal system would discourage or inhibit a list from ever becoming overlong.
November 3, 2017 at 12:01 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< The ideal system would discourage or inhibit a list from ever becoming overlong. >>

Or get it all done in the shortest possible time.

I was looking back the other day in "Get Everything Done" where I showed a list of what I'd done in a day, and I thought "That seemed really impressive to me then, but I can do tons more than that in a day now".
November 3, 2017 at 12:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I always wondered if counting the number of tasks done is actually the right way to gauge the speed of a system.

If you simply work on one task after another and are always "doing" a task, that would give you the highest possible speed as you are 100% in "doing" mode.

Would a better approach instead be to deduct all the admin time in managing whatever time management system you are adopting, time spend scanning lists, manually writing out tasks, procrastinating, resisting, day dreaming etc.
i.e. keep a record of your "admin time" and deduct that from the 100% efficient starting point of simply doing any task one after another in no particular order?

That way you get a true reflection of how fast a particular system is.
November 3, 2017 at 16:38 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Mr Backlog:

<< keep a record of your "admin time" and deduct that from the 100% efficient starting point of simply doing any task one after another in no particular order? >>

You're right that the number of tasks done is only a very rough indication of the speed of a system. However it's the easiest to measure. But what is far more important is how long it takes for all tasks in the system at a certain moment in time to be actioned. Using the number of tasks allows one to get a good picture of that.

The problem with your idea is that "doing any task one after another in no particular order" is very far from being 100% efficient. It takes no account of the fact that different tasks need to be done with different frequencies, some tasks can't be done at certain times or locations, one's energy levels are higher at certain times of day, and many other variables.

<< procrastinating, resisting, day dreaming >>

These refer more to the speed of the operator than to the speed of the system!
November 3, 2017 at 17:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I often count in Points, from Agile Programming, rather than hours or lines. (Well, something like points. It's easier to describe the official system.)

https://www.sitepoint.com/whats-point-agile-points/

Start with the best guess of hours for an average programmer. Rather than agonize over 1.75 or 2 hours, pick one of 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 21 (Fibonnaci sequence). Actual hours of work, after subtracting interruptions. (4-6 is typical). Break down projects enough so there are no surprises.

Ann Average takes 1 hour to do 1 point. Sam Student takes 2. Ethel Expert takes 1/2. Assign tasks and plan the sprint accordingly. (Those numbers will change over time, as people get faster or slower. It gets more complicated if there are different skill sets. Ann might take 21 hours to research something Larry from Legal can do in 1. Or Sam is faster in the new language than Ethel.)

After a few cycles, stop thinking of hours.

Mark said that what he used to consider a very productive day is now not so impressive, he might have started at only 2 points a day (like Sam Student), and now he's more like Ethel. Or maybe his boss learned to keep the daily meeting short, so he can do more points per day.

If something goes faster than expected, take credit for the points completed, but next time use the new knowledge to make a better estimate.

If something takes longer, take credit for the time it actually took. (1/2 hour per point for Joe, 2 hours per point for Ethel.) (Did I flip those?) Also increase the total goal for the sprint. (Then look at the remaining points for the sprint and, if it's not realistic to finish them all, decide which ones get deferred to the next sprint.)

+++

I inflate the points of things I'm resisting. It started as a reward, but now I see it's realistic. It might take only an hour to do the task, but before the task I spend time resisting, and after I need time to rest. If I want my estimates to be accurate, I need to use the real me, not the ideal one.

Burnup charts are useful. Points vs day. Top line is the total points for the sprint. Bottom is points finished. Difference is points remaining. If the total goal changes, the top line bends. Burndown charts only show work remaining, and don't show whether the problem is increase in goal or a slow day.

https://pm.stackexchange.com/questions/6529/how-does-one-build-a-burnup-chart
November 3, 2017 at 18:22 | Unregistered CommenterCricket
Errata:

4-6 is typical number of points per day, for average programmer.

Burnup chart: Top line is total goal for the sprint, which might change over the sprint if the customer changes his mind, or you realize you're behind. If you realize you're ahead, keep the goal the same, and then use the extra time to go over it (or deal with non-project things, or with technical debt (things you did "well enough" first time, but want to go back and improve, or document, or otherwise change).
November 3, 2017 at 19:38 | Registered CommenterCricket
The points thing is rather elaborate for personal work, but it is important to not discount a day where you spent 6 hours on a single thing if that thing was important. If you also kept other things moving, even though not as many as if you spent all day doing little things,, that would be a very good day.
November 4, 2017 at 16:46 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< it is important to not discount a day where you spent 6 hours on a single thing if that thing was important. >>

True. But you've still got all the other stuff to do, so in that case the statistics are only meaningful in terms of a longer period than a day.
November 4, 2017 at 19:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
With the points or hours system, if I did a 6-hour task, I'd get credit for all 6 hours, whether or not I broke it into smaller tasks, and whether I did it all at once or spread over several days. Some projects work best as larger chunks, others as smaller ones, still others vary with stage. At first, my master list shows "get comments from each reviewer". A week later, when just a few stragglers are left, each of them gets a line on the master list, so I can nag them between other projects.
November 6, 2017 at 19:27 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

You're misunderstanding my meaning.

If you're working a 6 hour day, then spending 6 hours on one task means that nothing else gets done that day.

Therefore how much the 6 hours is a good thing or not depends on whether you do in fact get all the other stuff done within the appropriate time periods.

Therefore the 6 hours is only meaningful in terms of a longer period than a day.

As I've said many times if time management were just a matter of doing tasks in FIFO order then we wouldn't need time management systems at all. But unfortunately there are a whole raft of other factors to be considered.
November 6, 2017 at 21:35 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I suppose the perfect TM system is then having all those factors is perfect balance with the least possible admin time.
Quite a challenge!
November 6, 2017 at 22:17 | Unregistered CommenterMrBackLog
Mark, I think we're misunderstanding each other.

I was assuming that the six hour task was worth doing for all six of those hours. If I spent six hours on a task that I that was only worth one, then it counts as one hour productive plus five unproductive.

(Productive procrastination is more complicated. If I'm behind in other things, then it's a problem. No points earned. If it was shuffling tasks of equal importance and urgency, so I can still meet my goals for the week, I might count them.)
November 7, 2017 at 19:54 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket:

<< I was assuming that the six hour task was worth doing for all six of those hours. If I spent six hours on a task that I that was only worth one, then it counts as one hour productive plus five unproductive. >>

I understood that, yes. But it's got nothing to do with what I wrote.
November 7, 2017 at 23:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
MrBackLog:

Additionally it would maximize the speed of the operator of the system!
November 8, 2017 at 5:40 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
I'm finding my list is getting shorter as I'm using it for general things rather than lots of detailed small tasks like: -
do today's post
do today and yesterday's email
do oldest emails,
do today and yesterday telephone call actions
do post its notes,
work on project x,
etc

About 15 main tasks into total, rather than a really long list made up of all the individual sub tasks that might arise from main tasks.

I'm then spending bursts of time on each main task in a rota system based on what stands out. Plus one checklist for all the small tasks that need to be done every day. e.g. check spam folder.

Is anyone else doing a similar thing with their lists?

I suppose we need to balance our time to get everything done in the end, so a much shorter list does not get too overwhelming and points me in the right direction.
November 8, 2017 at 9:37 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I suppose that matches my process MrB.
November 8, 2017 at 15:26 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
MrBacklog:

Your system is very similar to what Mark describes in his first book "Get Everything Done".
November 8, 2017 at 16:39 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Where would I find the instructions for Simple Scanning AF?

I did some searching and only found the comments here returned.

Thank you!
November 13, 2017 at 23:41 | Unregistered CommenterKantban
November 13, 2017 at 23:49 | Registered CommenterSeraphim