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Discussion Forum > A modified Autofocus 1

For anyone who is finding themselves not getting much done I would like to suggest a modified version of autofocus 1 which might be helpful. The setup is basically the same, where you get a lined notebook and you write down everything you have to do 1 item per line. The difference is that after 10 items draw a line underneath.

To start working you look at the first 10 items and you try to get as many of them done or worked on as possible. If an item is complete you cross it off. If an item is worked on but incomplete, cross it off and add it to the end of the whole list. Items from other groups can be worked on as well but the emphasis is to work and complete the oldest stuff first. If an item from another group needs your attention, work on it and get back to your first group. If an item sits too long without being worked on it can be deleted by scribbling it or highlighting it the way Mark Forster does.

What I find what works with this system is that it takes advantage of the closed list effect with less items to tackle and your overall list won’t grow out of control because you are focused on finishing. I hope you give it a try. See for Autofocus 1.
April 17, 2018 at 20:20 | Unregistered Commenterlouisyurman
Good idea. I'm toying with how to make closed lists out of my long lists. I'm going to try a "days worth" for a while but if I find that too hard to gauge, I might try a strict number of items as you have.

April 17, 2018 at 21:16 | Unregistered CommenterBrent
I have gravitated towards something similar - pulling out a small number of tasks from a longer list and working through to a finish. Simple but very effective.
I like the feeling of completion it gives each time a batch of tasks are done.
Carry on with that general principle and you can't go wrong, especially with focus on oldest things.

I have 2 lists - one for urgent things and one for everything else and I pull out a batch of tasks from both lists based on oldest and work through to a finish. It means the urgent things get done quickly and all the not so urgent still gets worked on (before they become urgent). Works perfectly for me.
April 18, 2018 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I do that often with batches of low-urgency projects, such as email. Clearing that small batch feels good. I often add a deadline or reward for finishing it. I'm more likely to delete tasks without doing them, or do "good enough" rather than spend too much time.

The more interesting things in the next batch are often a good reward.

Instead of a firm number, I sometimes use a fraction. Currently, for my reading backlog I'm reading (or deciding not to read) the oldest 1/5 each day. That evens out the flow. If the oldest is more than 5+2 days, or my sublist for the day is much higher than average, I know I'm adding faster than I'm reading (or deleting).
April 18, 2018 at 21:54 | Registered CommenterCricket
As I understand it, what louisyurman is proposing is AF1 with a page of ten lines. There's never been any specified number of lines on a page for AF1, though 25-30 was recommended as the ideal, so this falls firmly within the normal definition of AF1. Personally I've always used the number of lines that the notebook I'm using happens to have. Of course there's nothing stopping anyone from dividing up a page into a lesser number of lines, or combining pages for a greater number of lines for that matter if they wish.

However I've recently been doing something very similar to this ten-tasks-to-the-page AF1, though I've departed from the AF1 rules quite a bit - so I wouldn't call my method AF1.

I've divided the list up into groups of ten tasks just as louisyurman proposes, but instead of ruling a line under each group I've been marking the divide with a short line in the margin. The reason for this will become apparent in a moment.

I've processed the "pages" of ten lines in the normal AF1 manner, but when I have reached the end of the list and gone back to the beginning, I cross out all the short dividing lines and re-divide the list into tens. So unlike AF1 in which the pages have fewer and fewer tasks in them each time you visit them, you always have groups of ten tasks on every pass through the list.

I find this works extremely well. Urgent and time-specific tasks need to be processed separately, but that's not really a problem because you just do them when they're due and then go back to the list.
April 26, 2018 at 1:41 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I forget to mention two things in my previous comment:

1) There's no dismissal, so you don't have to do any of the tasks on a "page" of ten tasks. This means you can move fast through the list if you need to.

2) Only count off the ten tasks for one "page" at a time. Don't divide up the entire list at one go. This is in case you find duplicates, decide to weed out some tasks or enter a task in error.
April 26, 2018 at 10:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Just restating what I think you are saying, to make sure I understand it... You work through your list by grouping the next ten active tasks into a set of 10, cycling through those ten tasks as long as you want, then moving on to the next group of 10?
April 27, 2018 at 0:04 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

Sorry, I missed this comment.

Yes, you've understood correctly.
April 30, 2018 at 14:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Tasks can be dismissed if circumstances make it impossible to accomplish or for total lack of interest. Tasks from other lists can be worked as well if they become urgent or pressing and even if a golden opportunity makes it easy to complete. What I was trying to get at with this modified autofocus is to keep the list fresh so tasks don’t sit too long. To give an example when you go to the grocery store to buy milk. The older milk is usually towards the front of the shelf which most people grab. Who is to say that you cannot grab a milk that is towards the back of the shelf.

I felt that with original autofocus it would take too long to look through an entire page of tasks and that the list would grow long too fast. So I felt breaking the list up into groups of 10 would narrow the focus with the intent to finishing each task.
May 1, 2018 at 4:18 | Unregistered Commenterlouisyurman