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Discussion Forum > Eliminating Resistance

Now that the unveiling awaits completion of mark's e-novella, I'm driven to ponder achieving these results in my own practice. Taking http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/11/3/thoughts-on-the-long-list-high-speed-high-volume.html as my inspiration.

- reduce resistance to zero

How would you do that?

Rapid Scanning is one tool, as you don't resist what you don't stop to think about. Provide ready access to "things you want to do next" so there's no resistance due to pressure to do the wrong thing.

Little-n-oftening is another tool, you don't much resist little things.

Beeminder is another angle. If a system provides a visible score that makes you want to win, that positive motivator overcomes the small negative resistance to make you want to do tasks, even the hated ones.

One further trick is to make using the system so effortless that you don't resist picking it upFinally, jettison whatever remains that you really don't want done.

I'm taking an the Beeminder concept as my guess on how to up the tempo. Making success more visible and motivating more success, through the design of the task management system could be the key breakthrough to achieving lasting flow.

Next up, pondering all Mark's claimed ancillary benefits.
November 8, 2017 at 17:34 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< mark's e-novella >>

I wasn't thinking in terms of a novella, more something on the pattern of Proust's "A la Recherche du temps perdu".
November 8, 2017 at 21:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
1,267,069 word count? Pfft weak :p
November 8, 2017 at 21:35 | Registered Commenternuntym
On the topic of the thread, what really makes me crazy sometimes is the pockets of resistance in long lists. I am talking about groups of unactioned tasks surrounded by crossed-out tasks, especially the oldest ones. Lately these kinds of tasks have been "standing out" and I get conniptions breaking them down to lessen their resistance or doing just a little of them to start the ball going, then after that I do not even want to look at the list sometimes.

And yes, I had been using the "noncomparative unbaggaged Standing Out".
November 8, 2017 at 21:50 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

<< 1,267,069 word count? Pfft weak :p >>

Yes, but I write slower in French.
November 8, 2017 at 23:12 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<In Search of Lost Time>>.. An apt title to use as your inspiration. Well, if the protagonist is memorable and the struggle envisioned is notable, I promise to read the whole.

<<And yes, I had been using the "noncomparative unbaggaged Standing Out". >>

If that's what you've been calling it, no wonder you resisted pulling out the list! Such a scary-sounding concept!

I'm early stages of trying a new process aimed at minimizing resistance, and so far: minimal resistance. :) But it's early stages so time will tell.

If anybody else has thoughts on sources of -- and solutions to -- resistance, that is my primary interest in the thread.
November 8, 2017 at 23:53 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
The biggest gain in combating resistance I ever had was using the No List systems (exclusively) for an extended period of time. (5T and No List FVP worked best for me)

That cleared that up for me. I could establish more and better routines, I had systematic break throughs and I got so used to tackle the "hard" stuff, that resistance completely vanished.

When I went back to a catch-all list, the main source for resistance was somewhere in the DDD process. For some tasks this came too fast, for others too late, this somehow gave a slight uproar of the resisters again.
November 9, 2017 at 2:42 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
A line of thought I have been playing around with is that resistance is perceived future effort of a task or a list. It has nothing to do with the size of the task or list, but how you view it.

A solution that helps me view my list in a better light is to take a very small physical step (usually less than 30 seconds) on everything in my list (making sure to re-enter everything). This resets my perception of my list with less resistance, because I have made it more clear to myself of the work that actually needs to be done.

Same goes for a single task with resistance. Do a baby step towards getting the task done (I'll just get the file out) and this step will reorient your mind to the work ahead of you.

I often find the old pespective was clouded with misguided judgements, and as soon as I gain a new, more realistic perspective, resistance fades.

This effect very well may be from the little bit of progress I have made instead of my perception of the task or list, but I think there could be something here.
November 9, 2017 at 3:01 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
<< I'm early stages of trying a new process aimed at minimizing resistance, and so far: minimal resistance. :) But it's early stages so time will tell. >>

I would love to hear what it is!
November 9, 2017 at 3:05 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
I find if I action a task the first time I ever look at it, there is minimal resistance. Even if it is actually quite difficult.

As soon as I put it on a list or mark it as urgent or think about it too much, I'm stuffed - it sits there longer that it should.
Or is that just me being a dummy?
November 9, 2017 at 10:58 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Interesting thread, and most interesting for the assumptions in the title:

1. Resistance exists
2. It needs to be eliminated

There are an awful lot more assumptions in the comments, but those will do to start with.

Currently I don't accept either of those assumptions.
November 9, 2017 at 12:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Unless you've changed your thinking entirely in the last week, I don't believe you. Quoting from your blog: "a system which reduces resistance to zero is a real game-changer." Tell me, did you not mean by this that resistance is a thing that a system can eliminate?

Now even if you have a new perspective, I don't agree. I consider resistance to be a state of mind where two ideas are in conflict and not smoothly resolved. In the worst situation you have a state of paralysis.

The most overt example is when you instruct a child to clean the floor. The child, who does not want to do the cleaning, but also doesn't want the consquences of disobedience, takes a full hour to do the job when it could have been done in 5 minutes. This behavior is resistance.

Such resistance would be eliminated in a mature individual by thinking through these things and making a decision that Doing is the right course of action, and so we might as well do it
efficiently, without hesitation. Any time we fail to do something in timely fashion, though we knew it was important, and afterwards we regret the choice and the consequences -- I would name that decision to delay, and the reasons behind it, Resistance. Whether there were good reasons or weak reasons, those are the Resistance. And whenever the reasons are Weak, we should endeavor to overcome them so that the better things are done more efficiently and more often.
November 9, 2017 at 13:49 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
If resistance doesn't exist at all, then what is stopping us from completing tasks?

Is it that we are not in the perfect context, such as mood, location, energy, time of day? And if we can just line up the contexts better with when the task should take place, both internally (energy, mood) and externally (location, time of day), there is no resistance and never will be?
November 9, 2017 at 17:18 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
I'm very interested to see Mark's response to this. So far, the discussion reminds me of Eli Goldratt's thesis that "conflicts do not exist in reality" -- rather, they are the result of incorrect assumptions. By challenging the assumptions and showing at least one of them to be invalid, the conflict is not merely resolved, but is shown to have never actually had any substance at all.

Perhaps "resistance" is similar.
November 9, 2017 at 18:20 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I have a feeling Mark's response will be in the lines of two of his previous blog posts,

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/2/6/the-natural-selection-of-tasks.html and
http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/2/7/natural-selection-changes-the-emphasis.html

And if so then yes it would be very similar to what Seraphim said, but less of incorrect assumptions and more of a different paradigm.

Basically, if you think of your task list as "A comprehensive list of everything that needs to be done" then that will necessarily give you more resistance because there are things you have to do, whether you like to or not.

But if you look at your task list as "A wide-ranging list of everything that you might do" then there simply is no resistance because you don't <have> to do <anything>, much less everything, but the things that you want to do. The things that you were "resisting" to do just become things that you don't want to do, or those you want to do but you're not ready to do yet.

Of course, I might be oversimplifying things and stating things what Mark wants to say incorrectly.
November 9, 2017 at 20:08 | Registered Commenternuntym
Alan Baljeu:

<< Unless you've changed your thinking entirely in the last week, I don't believe you. Quoting from your blog: "a system which reduces resistance to zero is a real game-changer." Tell me, did you not mean by this that resistance is a thing that a system can eliminate? >>

The only reason a system can eliminate resistance is because resistance doesn't really exist.

<< Now even if you have a new perspective, I don't agree. I consider resistance to be a state of mind where two ideas are in conflict and not smoothly resolved. In the worst situation you have a state of paralysis. >>

The conflict is between the perception of resistance as real versus the reality that resistance doesn't exist.

<< The most overt example is when you instruct a child to clean the floor. The child, who does not want to do the cleaning, but also doesn't want the consquences of disobedience, takes a full hour to do the job when it could have been done in 5 minutes. This behavior is resistance. >>

You've changed the context here. We were discussing our internal resistance to what we imagine we should be doing. In other words resisting ourselves. The perception that we can actually resist ourselves is faulty.

This has got nothing to do with resisting someone other than ourselves. Of course that is possible.
November 9, 2017 at 20:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Connor:

<<<If resistance doesn't exist at all, then what is stopping us from completing tasks? >>

Nothing, except our faulty belief that resistance is real. Or the fact that the context so far has been wrong as you go on to say..

Once I dropped my belief that resistance is real, I found that that the tasks I thought I was resisting just got done.
November 9, 2017 at 20:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

„Once I dropped my belief that resistance is real...“

How did you do that?
November 9, 2017 at 21:29 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
Does resistance exist for tasks we don't want to do? (I don't want to do that task, I resist it)

If this is the case, then selecting the task we want to do right now, is just finding the task which has no resistance at this moment. (I don't want to do X right now, I don't have enough energy, I resist it)
November 9, 2017 at 21:44 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
Laby:

<< How did you do that? >>

Every time I was tempted to think that it was real, I just told myself that it wasn't.
November 10, 2017 at 0:37 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Connor:

<< Does resistance exist for tasks we don't want to do? (I don't want to do that task, I resist it) >>

Reframe it as "I don't want to do that task now". That's all there is to it. You don't want to do it now. So don't do it now. But don't then go on to tell yourself that you're resisting it.

<< I don't want to do X right now, I don't have enough energy, I resist it >>

Not wanting to do a task right now because you don't have enough energy is a perfectly valid reason for not doing it now. Why do you then find it necessary to tell yourself you are resisting it?
November 10, 2017 at 0:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< << The most overt example is when you instruct a child to clean the floor. The child, who does not want to do the cleaning, but also doesn't want the consquences of disobedience, takes a full hour to do the job when it could have been done in 5 minutes. This behavior is resistance. >>

You've changed the context here. We were discussing our internal resistance to what we imagine we should be doing. In other words resisting ourselves. The perception that we can actually resist ourselves is faulty. >>

I disagree here. There is no force on my part. The child can clean the floor, quickly or slowly or not at all according to its state of mind. The state of mind is muddled between two desires: that of doing what is fun (and not this cleaning), and that of not getting in trouble from failure to do the work. This is the source of the resistance.

I agree with a lot of what you are writing here, but I much prefer a different way of expressing it. Resistance is a state of mind, but with the right attitude you don't have to engage in it. In this respect I think Frank Herbert (or his character) was mostly correct in this famous quote from Dune:

<<I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.>>

Fear exists until you dismiss it. And then it doesn't. Likewise resistance.

Maybe in the end the semantics don't matter. What matters is, are you getting done the things you want done? And if not, what's stopping you?

Also, why did you write "a system which reduces resistance to zero is a real game-changer", if you don't believe in resistance as a reality to be reduced?
November 10, 2017 at 3:23 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Huh, looks like I was right. That's rare.
November 10, 2017 at 3:57 | Registered Commenternuntym
Alan Baljeu:

I'm not going to argue about nothing. My meaning is perfectly clear. You either take advantage of what I'm saying or you don't. The choice is yours. It makes no difference to me whether you do or you don't.

That's an example of making a choice without needing to bring resistance into the equation.

In the case of the child, the parent is invested in the result. Therefore the child's emotions are because of resistance to the parent.

We may of course find ourselves in the position of not doing or going slow on some work because we are resisting our boss or someone else. But as adults that should be a conscious choice - something a child is not emotionally capable of doing.
November 10, 2017 at 8:37 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
nuntym:

<< Huh, looks like I was right. That's rare.>>

Generally speaking I only pick up on posts where I've been asked a question, or where I disagree with something that has been said.

If I agree with what's being said I don't comment!
November 10, 2017 at 8:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

<<Every time I was tempted to think that it was real, I just told myself that it wasn't.>>

Sounds like fun. I‘m going to try that.
November 10, 2017 at 10:38 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
<<My meaning is perfectly clear. You either take advantage of what I'm saying or you don't. The choice is yours. It makes no difference to me whether you do or you don't.

That's an example of making a choice without needing to bring resistance into the equation.
>>

And yet somehow I feel myself (albeit irrationally) resisting this here choice. On thinking through this, I accept the operational message you convey. It's the way it's described that bothers me.

Thinking some more... the problem with the term "resistance" is it's nebulous and frames the reality as a thing outside your control. It's better to think of the thing explicitly by naming your desires and making a decision based on that. And then accept your decision for what it is. Which I think is what you had in mind just expressed in different language.
November 10, 2017 at 13:26 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Wait, Mark, are you saying that if a task "stands out" do not even think about it so as to eliminate the possibility of "resistance" (whatever it is) to get into the picture, just trust your intuition to know more than your conscious thoughts and do it?
November 10, 2017 at 14:38 | Registered Commenternuntym
After some reading, inspiration from Alan Baljeu's posts and some trying out of it, I have a working hypothesis.

Let us suppose that our subconscious does know more than our conscious mind when it comes to choosing tasks we want to do, and thus "standing out", when done right, actually works. Then how do we reconcile the times that, when we use "standing out", we pick tasks that causes "resistance" in us?

But as Mark is saying, the real question is, is it really "resistance"?

What is "resistance" anyways? As most will agree, "resistance" is what we feel when we have to do a task, but we don't want to, and so we would rather not do it.

This, to me, sounds suspiciously close to the classical definition of "fear." Fear is what we feel towards a future evil which we deem either not surmountable or barely so, and the response is to escape because the cost is too high. This is opposite of the emotion "daring" or, as we moderns call it, "excitement": it is what we feel towards a future great evil, and the response is to fight because the rewards are highly desirable.

And yet we all have heard that "fear" and "excitement" are actually almost the same physiologically. In fact, modern medicine calls the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system the "fight or flight response", whose function is, as the name implies, to place the body on high alert and make available its emergency reserves of energy. Thus, the only main difference to fear and excitement is how we will use this excited state, either to flee or to fight.

Now here is the thing: if the subconscious really does know what we truly want, and yet it triggers our sympathetic nervous system on picking a task, is it because we actually want to escape doing the task, or is it because the subconscious wants us to be energized for a hard but rewarding task ahead?
November 10, 2017 at 20:42 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

<< Then how do we reconcile the times that, when we use "standing out", we pick tasks that causes "resistance" in us? >>

I don't know. That's never happened to me.
November 10, 2017 at 21:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Alan Baljeu:

<< Thinking some more... the problem with the term "resistance" is it's nebulous and frames the reality as a thing outside your control. It's better to think of the thing explicitly by naming your desires and making a decision based on that. And then accept your decision for what it is. Which I think is what you had in mind just expressed in different language. >>

Not really, no.
November 10, 2017 at 21:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Mark Forster: <<I don't know. That's never happened to me. >>

LOL it's happened more than a few times lately. I'm starting to like it.
November 10, 2017 at 21:39 | Registered Commenternuntym
This reminds me of the STRESS acronym used by our ADHD/Aspgerger's support group. If you (or your child) is resisting something, it's often because of one of the things in STRESS. Steps, Thinking, Research, Emotion/trauma, Sensory issues, Self-care.

Like NAs, context, energy, and all the rest of GTD's categories, most people don't need to think about them for every single task. However, it a task is not getting done, looking at those reasons often explains why. Once we know why, we can do something about it.

If I notice a pattern, I work on it. Currently I'm resisting things that need high-accuracy, since I haven't been sleeping well. The problem isn't resistance, it's lack of sleep and lack of confidence. Change the system so I catch mistakes sooner, and am able to fix them more easily. Also, get more sleep!

Steps : Pretty much DA's Next Action idea. Thinking : Negative self-talk making you feel worse about the project. Research : Need more data (ask Bob what store he went to). Emotion/trauma : Is it associated with a negative experience? Often simple, but can get complicated. Sensory issues: For Aspergers and some ADHD, this can make a huge difference. Both understimulating (it's too boring to hold our attention) and over-stimulating (too hot, too itchy). Self-care : food, sleep, rest, socialization, exercise, etc.
November 11, 2017 at 0:22 | Registered CommenterCricket
Well, Mark, those responses leave me baffled. I thought I was close, and I don't know what to make of your response to nuntym, unless you simply are imposing your present belief of "there is no resistance" on past experience and ways of thinking.

To anyone else: What doyou think? Does my explanation make sense to you? Does my confusion make sense to you?
November 11, 2017 at 17:47 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan:

When I read your last comments, I thought we have the same understanding. Except the last one, to which Mark answered "no".

FWIW, I don't have the feeling I get what Mark is up to.
November 11, 2017 at 18:38 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Alan:

I believe Mark is saying that using the term resistance to justify why you don't want to do a task is unhelpful. You should just say I don't want to do this now and move on.

What your saying (correct me if I'm wrong) is we should find the reasons we don't want to do a task at this moment (energy, mood, time of day, location) and try to correct for them. And these reasons we don't want to do something at this moment make up this feeling of resistance to doing a task, which is just to say you don't want to do the task now.

Where Mark would say 'I don't want to do this now, I will move on', your saying, 'I don't want to do this now, let me figure out why, and make myself want to do it.'

Personally, I think Mark is more on target here, given my description. We should not try to change ourselves to get us to do something. My list is long, I'm sure there is a task on it I want to do right now. If I wrote down the reasons why I didn't want to do a task I would probably come up with ten to twenty. Thats too many variables to try and control. Instead lets just line up the task where all those variables are true, and move forward on the task.
November 11, 2017 at 20:16 | Unregistered CommenterConnor
Alan Baljeu:

<< I don't know what to make of your response to nuntym >>

In my response to nuntym I said that it had never happened to me that I've picked a task that caused resistance in me.

Here's an extract from the instructions for the original Autofocus, which go back to 2009:

"Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.

"This is the heart of the system. Don’t try to prioritise items mentally - this will interfere with the balance between the rational and intuitive parts of your mind. Instead wait for a feeling of release about an item. It’s hard to describe but easy to recognise. You just feel that the item is ready to be done. If you go on down the page, you may find that you feel drawn back to that item. Once you get that feeling about a task all resistance to doing the task vanishes, and it becomes easy to do."

That's what I though about it then - that resistance to doing the task vanished. Now I prefer to think that resistance was never there in the first place. It was just that the time or the energy or the opportunity or whatever wasn't right.

If you think in terms of the "right time" then the fact that something hasn't yet stood out for you doesn't worry you. You just carry on until the time is right. No need to analyse why - your intuition will already have all that well in hand. Conscious examination will only get in the way.

If you think in terms of "resisting" a task then you will actually start to believe that you are resisting it and the resulting emotions, worry, frustration, etc will start to actually prevent you from doing it.

In support of this, several people have reported that Autofocus is more effective when the "dismissal" rules are removed.
November 11, 2017 at 23:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Connor:

Yes, you've said it pretty well.
November 11, 2017 at 23:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Interesting post!

I recall in "do it tomorrow" Mark wrote something about resistance and a test on the lines of:-
If you do an easy task one day and succeed and then do another task the next day and make it slightly harder and repeat. Eventually you will actively resist the task.

Doe that mean resistance is linked to difficulty?

Fess up Mark - are your tasks too easy!
November 12, 2017 at 8:06 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
PS Mark - I get where you are going with this, but I think resistance exists for too many of us (sadly).
November 12, 2017 at 9:16 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Mr Backlog:

<< Fess up Mark - are your tasks too easy! >>

There are no hard problems, just poorly sliced ones.

There are no hard problems, just oversized slices.

~Khatzumoto
November 12, 2017 at 12:14 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<< wait for a feeling of release about an item. It’s hard to describe but easy to recognise. >>

Remarkably, I don't ever recall reading this description of "standing out". I had generally taken the phrase to mean that as I scan by, the task seems to go "pick me, pick me", and then upon picking it (if it is indeed doable) I attempt to work it. And yes, sometimes the task is not one I particularly cared to do at the moment, but it is one which seems important to do.

This then is where notions of resistance and my present discussion of thinking through the wants comes into play. I was finding this approach effective, but clearly is different from "feeling release".
November 12, 2017 at 20:19 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Mark & Alan - I can now report of doing 6 straight days of no resistance to any task whatsoever!
I simply pick up a task, do it, then pick up the next one. It feels very refreshing.
The tasks don't tend to stand out much - as by the time I have understood what needs to be done, I make a start on it.
I feel a bit like a robot, but it certainly takes all the worry about what to do next or if it is urgent or not, etc. Hoping for this state of mind to continue....
November 13, 2017 at 14:04 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Hmm, upon re-reading this whole thread and especially the responses of Mark Forster and Connor, it reminded me of three things.

One is a story about Alexander the Great. He and his army encountered a city that he wanted to conquer, but it had excellent defences. Alexander decided to skip invading the city and went further east. He then conquered the rest of the known world with only that city untouched. If he had mounted a siege of the city he would have lost more time, men, and resources than he could afford and he would have not had conquered such a great area.

Second is "Structured Procrastination" as first proposed by Stanford Professor Emeritus John Perry, http://web.archive.org/web/20060713000820/http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/index.php

Third is this interesting Youtube video by a Catholic priest about the relationship between procrastination and the sin of sloth/accedia (hint: one does not necessarily lead to the other): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MS2tFZd2xk
November 16, 2017 at 5:07 | Registered Commenternuntym