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Discussion Forum > Confused by Choice

I have read Mark’s books on Kindle over the last week or so, having found the Autofocus videos on YouTube. I am the typical SME owner with a feeling of overwhelm and that the business controls me. Add in busy family life, hobbies and charity work and it is clear I need a proper structure in place to maximise productivity AND feel in control.

My confusion is: Which system do I use? I came for Autofucus but there seems to be many options. I can’t work out which came first?

Bottom line is I need to adopt one and get on with it immediately. I see life as one, personal & business so which system should I use and is there a concise guide to the method please?

Thanks, Mark.
September 2, 2018 at 11:51 | Unregistered CommenterMark C
Just to add, I would prefer a paper based system and have just bought a page-a-day mode-year diary. Google calendar records my recurring tasks but beyond that I am open to suggestions.

Procrastination is my worst habit and seriously big problem of late. I need a list, preferably just one, that I can constantly refer to and just get stuff done!
September 2, 2018 at 12:03 | Unregistered CommenterMark C
For newbies I think I’d recommend starting with Simple Scanning.
http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2017/12/2/simple-scanning-the-rules.html

Most of the other systems build on this basic concept by adding additional rules. The rules can help provide more structure and different focus on unfinished, urgent, etc. but also can have negative side effects.

If you find Simple Scanning doesn’t provide enough structure, I’d recommend FVP or Fast FVP before any of the others:
http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2015/5/21/the-final-version-perfected-fvp.html
http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2016/12/21/fast-fvp.html
September 2, 2018 at 15:58 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Many thanks for such a swift and full reply. It was in truth the one I was hoping for, to start simple and build/experiment from there.

I will crack on starting right now and let you know how it goes.
September 2, 2018 at 20:34 | Unregistered CommenterMark C
I found most of my procrastination was caused by overwhelm and having too much to do over long periods of time. Too much fire fighting etc.
I worked on reducing commitments to get to a much more manageable workload and the procrastination seemed to disappear.
Add one of Mark's excellent systems and you can't go wrong.
September 3, 2018 at 14:01 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
I've been away in France for the last five days, but now I'm back I'll put up some thoughts about this later today.
September 4, 2018 at 1:29 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Many of us switch often, sometimes between related systems, and sometimes big shifts. It keeps it fresh. Many of the systems work off a big, trusted list that's easy to capture things on. Others encourage intuition in the moment. Some of us work off the big list for part of the day or some projects, and intuition at other times.

A big part of all the systems is reducing commitments. Sadly, none of the systems add more hours to the day.
September 4, 2018 at 22:13 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket and all:

Cricket's post has given me the intro I needed for my thoughts on the subject.

<< A big part of all the systems is reducing commitments. >>

Yes, absolutely. As I have said many, many times you can't squeeze a quart into a pint pot however hard you try. However a good system should make you more efficient at dealing with your commitments, so the reduction in commitments may not need to be as drastic as first appears.

<< Sadly, none of the systems add more hours to the day. >>

This is true, but I would say that a good system enables you to do a hell of a lot more in a day than you were able to do before, with considerably less fatigue too. It's a bit like telling a couch potato and a marathon runner that there's only so many hours available to cover so many miles.

I've quoted Edmund Burke more than once:

“He has nothing to prevent him but too much idleness, which, I have observed fills up a man’s time much more completely and leaves him less his own master, than any sort of employment whatsoever.”
September 4, 2018 at 22:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Excellent and pleasingly brief thoughts, thank you.

I have started with Simple Scanning and three days in it has already lifted my productivity and focus/stamina considerably. That question "What am I ready and able to do right now?" spurs immediate activity.

I did use GTD with Todoist in the past for around 6 months, but it became a chore in itself to be honest and, ironically, I found GTD just didn't encourage the actual doing.

I will need to adopt a system beyond SS, firstly to handle projects better, but also to make sure the most important things really do get done and on time.

My commitments are considerable, but the stress they bring is often self-inflicted by going right to the wire before suddenly kicking in with a burst of activity. It's as if I need that pressure to spring into action and I really want to change that with a forward-looking "little and often" approach where applicable.

Every journey starts with a single step, so it is good to be at least purposefully walking again after a very negative couple of months stewing in my own juice, a vicious circle of inactivity and guilt.

I will keep you posted on how my system and process develops. Thanks again.
September 5, 2018 at 9:35 | Unregistered CommenterMark C
Mark C:

Every time you start to scan your list (or are tempted not to) say to yourself - aloud if possible: "Discipline!".

Every time you have finished some significant phase of a project say: "Victory!".
September 5, 2018 at 11:43 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark C:

Part of my core system isn't Mark's, but it primes my brain so I make good choices when scanning: Stever Robbin's Daily Alignment. The process -- all the steps! -- is worth it, even though it takes more than five minutes the first few times. It keeps appropriate pressure on important projects, helps me make the hard decisions about what to drop, and even tells me which weeks I have time to work on less important things.

Description: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/productivity/project-management/keep-on-track-with-a-daily-5-minute-check-in-with-your-boss

Forms: https://www.steverrobbins.com/wp-content/uploads/getitdoneguy/359-check-in/5-minute-daily-alignment-checkin.pdf

(Add more status columns to the form, so you don't have to copy the list every day.)

I put anything that would affect my energy on the timeline, including travel time for appointments, covering for a coworker on holiday and stress I inherit from the kids during exam week. The timeline also shows if I have too much of one type of project in a row. I work best with a mix.
September 5, 2018 at 16:13 | Registered CommenterCricket
Three weeks in and I thought I should update you:

Using SS with an A4 pad, I have certainly become far more productive and focussed, in a word "unstuck".

I have always used To Do Lists, but they were usually half-finished before writing another one - more of a Wish List to be honest. The simple difference of one continuous list makes a profound difference.

Another huge learn has been simply starting a task, even if it's only for 5 minutes. Those projects/tasks that just sit there and nag are getting done. As we all know, those "impossibly complex" or long ones actually take between 30 minutes and 3 hours, having spent longer than that worrying about them!

I have flirted with ToDoist once more, a fine piece of software with infinite capabilities, but it's just too damn complex and becomes a chore in itself. I have also quickly ditched the page-a-day diary purchased, reverting to Google Calendar all-day entries for future reminders.

Longer term I suspect FVP will become the preferred method, but for now an A4 pad and Simple Scanning has got me out of a rut, reduced procrastination and given me renewed sense of purpose, self-worth and achievement. I am so glad I discovered Mark's books and this Forum.
September 23, 2018 at 11:17 | Unregistered CommenterMark C