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Discussion Forum > New system anyone?

I'm bored of my current system which is working perfectly well.

I will give this new one a go for a week:- split tasks into urgent, quick and long and do them in a rota spending a couple of hours on each.

Anyone else got a new system? I'm bored and need some inspiration. Glad it is Friday.
August 17, 2018 at 13:01 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I’m not currently systematic. I am recording broadly what I’m doing each day (see other thread). I also write important/urgent tasks I must remember to do but might forget. To make this work I take time thinking about what to be doing.

That's the sum of it for me at present.
August 18, 2018 at 0:35 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Rebooting my classic system after a mixed-up summer. Today's goal: an hour of housework, starting with laundry and dishes, with bathrooms if there's time. Also annual update of Registration Instructions and Thank the Planning Team for the teaching guild.

I'm not yet up to triaging my big list or exercise, but know from experience that it's never as bad as I fear.
August 19, 2018 at 18:59 | Registered CommenterCricket
I've been doing a new system since July which I like a lot. It uses Excel and outlook, though you can use other tools.

Excel sheet is my daily driver. It is a list of lists, and includes a DIT (outlook tasks from today and yesterday) an FVP for the past week, FVP for the past month and an FVP for beyond a month old.

FVP lists are saved views set up by created date to mirror the FVP lists avbove. If I work but do not colplete a task I copy and paste it, moving the created date to today (mirroring rewriting an entry to the bottom of this list.

It also includes a link to my project list, a link to daily routine tasks and a link to high priority tasks. I have a few other entries I can share if anyone is interested.
I then work the spreadsheet using time boxing, circling through, each time upping by 5 minutes.

I find that this is creating a good balance for all my work, making sure the important things get done (or at least move forwarded on) and that everything is reviewed and hit upon regularly.
August 19, 2018 at 21:09 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
Thanks all for your ideas.

Yes, I agree with veghead - cycling through the work seems a very good approach so everything gets a bit of attention. A bit like a washing machine cycle! In fact for me that seems to be the only thing that works long term.

Alan - how do you decide what to do next? I can understand always tackling urgent/important tasks, but do you find after a while other things then get neglected. How to you cope with that and it all running smoothly?
August 21, 2018 at 10:23 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
That's why I said i'm not systematic now. How I decide: I think about it.

Yes things are neglected and not everyrhing get done smoothly. Bit mostly it goes.
August 21, 2018 at 13:07 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan -

<<I’m not currently systematic. I am recording broadly what I’m doing each day >>

I'm in a similar place. I use notability to record various thoughts about work and family life. I add sketches and screengrabs when appropriate. At the end of the week, I create a summary of my daily journal entries (1 - 2 paragraphs), and use those weekly snapshots for my year end review.

With respect to "systems", I'm currently reading Scott Adams book, and think he's on to something about systems vs goals. To that end, I'm going to choose to 4-5 things I do every day, without any clear goal attached to any of them. Might look something like:

1. Exercise
2. Sketch
3. Learn about Family Systems Theory
4. Shut down/Wake up Ritual

Rinse, repeat...
August 21, 2018 at 14:43 | Registered Commenteravrum
Interesting. I wonder if this is the only ever (work related) list you will ever need which covers all incoming tasks.
Do them on a washing machine type of cycle. Rinse repeat etc. Work each task for a few hours or a certain number in that category and just go round and round and round (and maybe die of boredom?): -
1. email
2. post
3. tasks on post it notes
4. tele call/meeting notes
5. some urgent tasks
6. something on a project/long term goal list

Record time spent on each so things are balanced and you know where your time goes.
August 21, 2018 at 16:54 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
From what I am seeing, FVP using Urgency (using the question "What should I start sooner than x?") is the best system objectively. Subjectively though it might be not; there will be times that the most urgent thing to do will not be the thing you want to do right now, and if this happens often enough you might just want to chuck the notebook out the window. So what I am trying right now is more of an attitude change "system", a way of making myself want to do what is most urgent no matter how distasteful it is for me normally, using the principles I find in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience."
August 21, 2018 at 20:52 | Registered Commenternuntym
MrBacklog,

If neglecting something will cause a problem, then it's important. If not doing something now (or in the near future) will make it hard to meet a deadline, then it's urgent.

I've tried the washing machine cycle method, but never manage a second cycle. That says something about how well it works for me.

Definitely record time spent, and ask if you're happy with the results. (Happy with that project, and happy with the time it leaves for other projects.) I find things don't take as long as I expect, and regular attention to projects, even for a short time each, gives more progress than I expect.
August 21, 2018 at 22:07 | Registered CommenterCricket
Yes interesting how one thing works well for one person and not for another!

Another point on urgency worth considering is how it can be tricky to manage when you have any sort of backlog. I quite often treat something urgent just because I know if I leave it in my normal system it might take a week or two before it gets actioned (on dealing with things generally on oldest first basis). Now what happens is that tasks that are not urgent at all get dealt with straightaway - e.g. those unimportant email conversations that go back and forwards. That has the effect of pushing back all the other tasks into a bigger backlog. Very easy to get caught up in all the immediate incoming tasks and then older urgent/date depended things can slip through the net.

So, careful thought is needed on what is actually urgent, hence I find it quite helpful to split tasks into truly urgent/date dependent tasks. Then split the rest into quick tasks and long tasks.
That certainly helps me manage things so everything gets equal attention.

As to making a way of doing urgent tasks however distasteful etc, is something I have been training myself to do and I'm getting better but it has been a struggle and really difficult at times. I find the only way that works for me is get into a state of mind that whatever task I pick up I commit to do something on it for a period of time no matter what. It certainly works better if I do something on the task the first time I ever see it. Once it gets picked up and put down again and deferred a few times, it is like my brain puts the brakes on it and it seems more difficult than it really is. If I feel I get that immediate reaction of not wanting to do it, then do the opposite and do something....
August 22, 2018 at 16:11 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Washing machine cycle - funny, I did that yesterday, but today seemed to be completely taken up with urgent things! So the washing machine failed on day 2. Will try tomorrow!
August 22, 2018 at 16:13 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
The "Washing Machine Cycle" sounds very similar to "Do It Tomorrow".
August 23, 2018 at 16:37 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I had an interesting segue into another system while I was testing out the system I hinted at before, and I think it may be better. It is an FVP where I do first the second wanted task, then the most wanted task. I haven't checked though if anybody has done this before.


1. With a task list, dot the first task, then scan down, asking yourself "What task do I want to do more than this?" Dot the task that answers this question, then repeat until you reach the end of the list.

2. Mark the second to the last dotted task ① (circled digit one), then the last dotted task ② (circled digit two). Do task ①, cross out and rewrite at the end if needed, then do task ②, and rewrite at the end if needed (I suggest not crossing out task ② right now as it can serve to mark your position for the next step).

3. Check again the last dotted task before ①, then ask yourself "What task do I want to do more than this?" while scanning tasks AFTER task ② (now crossing out task ②, after serving as marker) dotting as in step 1 to the end of the list.

4. Repeat from step 2.


I based this system from reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" as well as looking at previous experiences.

I had noticed that the previous long list systems where I choose what I want to do the most would ultimately break down for me because I kept on choosing the easiest, most trivial tasks to do, which leads to feeling unfulfilled and, as I realized after reading "Flow", boredom, which then leads to overwhelm and anxiety due to the sheer amount of hard, important tasks I had not done.

It seems that this system (which I tentatively call FVPLT, the LT being the "last two" tasks marked) solves this problem for me in a number of ways.

1) Since it is making me do the second most wanted task first, it challenges my will to do something I necessarily do not want to do right now, but it still is doable for me since it is the second most wanted thing for me to do.

2) The system then subsequently rewards me for doing the slightly harder task by letting me do the task I actually want to do, forming a reward feedback loop.

3) The system is faster than the original FVP because it makes me choose two tasks, not one, each cycle.

4) I noticed that I actually choose harder tasks the longer I use the system, since it seems to strengthen my willpower. I actually did some tasks that had lingered in the list for months.

5) In particular, it is easier to choose the very first dotted task in the list. I was surprised I did them twice in the same day.

6) This cycle of increasing challenges to myself that do not overwhelm me seems to promote "flow" or being "in the zone".
August 24, 2018 at 0:41 | Registered Commenternuntym
Nuntym: great - I think finding anything that cracks the nut of not wanting to do tasks is great. Stick with it.
I found having to review tasks over and over again to decide what to do next did not work for me. Mainly because I have a huge number of very quick tasks. So as a solution, I found it best just decide when I first ever looked at the task when I would roughly like to do it and group those tasks.

Mark: yes what I am doing follows most of the DIT principles (in my opinion best ever system). However, I modified it slightly to work better for me and it could neatly be summed up as "do some now, some within a week and some within 3 weeks". That takes the pressure off having to clear everything that comes in and sorts everything into urgency with is more manageable (for me).
I just found trying to do everything tomorrow led to me picking out all the quick tasks and the longer ones tended to be pushed into backlog and lots did not get done as I perceived them to be hard. When in reality, they are not any harder than any other tasks.
I still really like the idea of DIT as it takes away thinking about what to do and just do it instead.
August 24, 2018 at 9:40 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
nuntym:

<< It is an FVP where I do first the second wanted task, then the most wanted task. I haven't checked though if anybody has done this before. >>

Sounds interesting, and no I don't think anyone has tried it before. Can I just check that I've understood the instructions correctly? Basically it is standard FVP, except that before the next scan you do the last two dotted tasks instead of the last one. Is that right?
August 25, 2018 at 2:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
nuntym

<< In particular, it is easier to choose the very first dotted task in the list. I was surprised I did them twice in the same day.>>

Quite apart from your interesting new method above, I don't understand why you were previously having a problem getting back to the first task on the list. The FVP algorithm should inevitably lead you back to the first task, regardless of what question you are asking or indeed whether you are asking a question at all. And it still applies even if you not doing full scans as in Fast FVP.

The only way I can think of to mess that up is by constantly flooding the list with new easy tasks.
August 25, 2018 at 12:27 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Mark Forster:

<<Basically it is standard FVP, except that before the next scan you do the last two dotted tasks instead of the last one. Is that right? >>

Yes that is correct.

<<The only way I can think of to mess that up is by constantly flooding the list with new easy tasks. >>

Being honest to myself, that was, and still is, what is happening to my use of FVP and actually any other task management system I use. I guess it is a personal flaw of mine. But given I have this personal flaw and the system makes me act on the first line of the system I think does say something.

In addition, I did check out how the system would work for random series of 30 consecutive numbers using https://www.random.org/lists/ and using the question "Which number is higher than x?" FVPLT's algorithm does force the first task in the list to be acted upon earlier even if the number of the first line is low. In one instance the first line of the list was the number 2 but was acted upon with around 10 unactioned lines left in the list.
August 25, 2018 at 21:28 | Unregistered Commenternuntym
@Mark Forster:

I wanted to make a correction but the page wouldn't let me edit what I wrote. Anyways for further clarification:

<<Basically it is standard FVP, except that before the next scan you do the last two dotted tasks instead of the last one. Is that right? >>

Yes that is right but it is very important to do the second to the last dotted task first before the last dotted task.
August 25, 2018 at 21:33 | Registered Commenternuntym
I've been using Simple Scanning for nigh on seven months now, and it's been outstanding. Definitely the method I've felt least resistance with over a long term, and I feel like I'm capturing everything important.It feels very intuitive too.
August 26, 2018 at 22:35 | Unregistered CommenterNeil C
"<<Basically it is standard FVP, except that before the next scan you do the last two dotted tasks instead of the last one. Is that right? >>
Yes that is right but it is very important to do the second to the last dotted task first before the last dotted task."

nuntym, I tried your idea over the weekend. This led me to a generalization of the algorithm you proposed, trying to run the last "n" items preselected instead of just the last 2. I'm trying to find a number "n" that represents a good balance between the need to execute the already preselected items and the need not to spend too much time between one scanning and the other of the tail of the list. Now I'm working with n=4 and it seems to work well for me.
August 27, 2018 at 9:08 | Unregistered Commenternick61
nick61:

<< Now I'm working with n=4 and it seems to work well for me. >>

How many tasks on average do you have dotted at any one time? The recommendation has always been not to over-dot, which has usually worked out in my case to about 4 or 5.
August 27, 2018 at 11:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
NeilC:

<< I've been using Simple Scanning for nigh on seven months now, and it's been outstanding. >>

I'm glad you've said that because it accords with my own experience exactly, though I've not been able to have run as long as that because I'm always experimenting with other ideas - none of which prove to be better. Time to stop doing that I think!

I'd be very interested if you were to expand on what you've said here.
August 27, 2018 at 11:37 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Marc:

<<How many tasks on average do you have dotted at any one time? The recommendation has always been not to over-dot, which has usually worked out in my case to about 4 or 5.>>

These are my statistics:
Office list: 39 tasks and 16 dotted (right now!) [and 182 postponed in the future]
Home list: 66 tasks waiting me this evening [and 150+ postponed in the future; and 54 dismissed, to be reviewed sooner or later]

I'm following your blog since 2008/2009 (when I discovered AF1, through lifehacker site, i think) and I've experimented nearly all the systems proposed here...

I'm a list addict..... I collect *EVERITHING* pops up in my mind or that I have to comit to.... and I act only selecting tasks from the list (I'm a long time evernote user, so my task database is always there and evernote gives me the flexibility to change the "selection algorithm" without much overhead....)

Sometimes I think there is something psychologically pathological about my total addiction to lists....But this is another story...

I am constantly looking for a system that allows me to select the items with the greatest added value for me *by making as few choices as possible*!

For this reason "simple scanning" has never been satisfactory for me: it requires too many decisions....
August 27, 2018 at 12:23 | Unregistered Commenternick61
nick61:

<<For this reason "simple scanning" has never been satisfactory for me: it requires too many decisions....>>

Not sure I follow that. The only decision needed in Simple Scanning is "To do or not to do". In FVP the decision is "To dot or not to dot". Isn't that the same number of decisions?
August 27, 2018 at 13:24 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
To do, or dot to do: That is the question.
August 27, 2018 at 14:21 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< To do, or dot to do: That is the question. >>

Glad you got the reference
August 27, 2018 at 17:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

''Not sure I follow that. The only decision needed in Simple Scanning is "To do or not to do". In FVP the decision is "To dot or not to dot". Isn't that the same number of decisions?''
'
Good point ... I wonder if I'm resisting "simple scanning" because of an irrational fear of its built-in lack of structure....
August 27, 2018 at 18:23 | Unregistered Commenternick61
Personally, I find the lack of structure to be Simple Scanning biggest advantage. It allows you to tackle anything when you are ready without binding you to a plan. I like to think of it as guerrilla warfare against your task list - a series of light, agile attacks that allow you to gain an advantage - compared to traditional warfare, which is large, heavy, and inflexible.
August 28, 2018 at 1:22 | Unregistered Commenterjames220
I think I need to qualify my reply to Neil C agreeing with him that Simple Scanning gives the best results for him. For me it's actually a toss-up between Simple Scanning and No Question FVP. I find NQ-FVP faster and more focused, but Simple Scanning more comprehensive.

So far I haven't found a way of combining the best points of both methods.
August 28, 2018 at 10:55 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I moved to a new system I am enjoying, which I call "Random this or that." Basically you do Mark's randomization on a paper notebook, but after you run the randomizer and get a task, you roll a six sided die to get another task. You must do (at least some) of one of the selected tasks. When you finish you use the randomizer again and keep going.
The slide rule is still in effect, so if there is only one item on a page most likely the die roll will slide you back to that item, which you must now deal with. So older (procrastinated tasks) are forced to be dealt with at some point.


Try it, it's productive and fun!
August 29, 2018 at 18:40 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
vegheadjones:

<< So older (procrastinated tasks) are forced to be dealt with at some point. >>

I'm not quite clear what the point is of re-introducing procrastination into a system which was designed to eliminate procrastination. Especially as the procrastinated tasks end up with being forced to be done.
August 29, 2018 at 19:11 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Great question Mark. I am not trying to reintroduce procrastination, but accept that it exists and address it.

The random method (for me) nearly does it by itself. But there are times where I get to a task, feel a lot of resistance and, rather than do the task or break a list rule (I hate breaking list rules), I close the list and do something undecidedly non-productive.

This method allows me to usually pick between two randomly selected tasks (that are in close proximity to each other). But on any page where there is only one open task and the role of the die is low enough to not pass the page, per my rule, I slide back to that one task and address it. So far (this is only day 2), it seems to work in overcoming my resistance and I get (at least some) of the task done.
August 29, 2018 at 20:41 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones