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Discussion Forum > Solving AF1's problems

I am back from vacation and I am back to using my old list. Reading back on the recent blog posts, comments, and threads has inspired me to go and try out AF1 again, which I have been doing for just a couple of days.

http://markforster.squarespace.com/autofocus-system

I always had problems with AF1's slowness, in that sometimes I need to do something that is way forward in my list compared to where I was currently. I would do it then go back to my previous place, and per Mark Forster's instructions this is a legit way of doing things with the system, but still it feels jarring and unnatural. So almost an hour into using AF1 I just changed the dismissal rule: said dismissal rule now only applies to the oldest active page.

It just made perfect sense: I only dismiss items that I have given the most time to percolate in my list to determine whether I want enough to do them or not. It also lets me go forward in the list wherever I urgently need to be like in Flexible AF except when I am in the oldest page, and since I already passed through the newest pages before getting there that sense of urgency to go forward isn't present usually.

I am not the first one to think of this, am I?
September 28, 2018 at 2:12 | Registered Commenternuntym
No, I've used this method with AF1, AF4, FAF and FV (see AndreasE's post on this).

I've also used the AF2 dismissal method with AF1.
September 28, 2018 at 10:18 | Registered CommenterCaibre65
Can't find the post you were referring to Caibre65, was curious to read it.

Anyways yeah I figured somebody would have tried this out. Are you still using this? If so, how is it? If not, why have you stopped?
September 28, 2018 at 10:44 | Registered Commenternuntym
http://markforster.squarespace.com/fv-forum/post/1932921

You actually commented on this at the time nuntym but I think you were using AF2ND then.

I find that I have feelings of overwhelm when I try to work directly from a long catchall list. I prefer to scan my list once and create a shorter day list to work from. Perhaps a little more like Bill Westerman's GSD system than a MF system. Though I use Checkvist rather than paper.

I certainly found that either oldest page dismissal or AF2 dismissal in particular added enough of a nudge to get moving on the older items without slowing FAF down. It made AF1 much faster.
September 28, 2018 at 11:39 | Registered CommenterCaibre65
I always found than AF1 is one of the best system MF has invented with AF4.
I often uses it when things are getting complicated. Just wonder 1 thing.
Imagine an items stand at you. It belongs to a project you must finish quickly.

Rhen you finish the item and think of others tasks to do you think should be done by now. What to you do. ? Do you do them or do you follow the list and then asap go back to theses items ?
Thanks
September 29, 2018 at 15:25 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
@Jupiter:

Mark Forster has repeatedly said to that to just do these items. He said, if it is absolutely clear that something has to be don now, then do it!

(In the context of discussing specific systems he also added to always write everything down, before you do it:)
September 30, 2018 at 21:31 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Jupiter

I tend to think of an action written on a list that relates to a project as more of a bookmark showing where I am with a project. If I had a task such as “Find Joe Bloggs file” I would probably continue with whatever I want that file for after I’ve found it.

Some MF systems seem to work better with the project entered as an item on the list. Some seem to work better with a number of individual tasks relating to a project.
September 30, 2018 at 22:24 | Registered CommenterCaibre65
Caibre65:

That was an interesting read! I actually cannot remember that thread.

AF2 dismissal for other MF systems, interesting.
October 1, 2018 at 4:58 | Registered Commenternuntym
After a month of almost continual use of AF1 with modified dismissal schemes (AF1MD) with some days of dipping into other Long List systems, here are my observations.

1. Do not underestimate both the advantages and disadvantages of dismissal with a highlighter.

The main advantage of using a highlighter for dismissal is how visible those dismissed items are. I find this to be cathartic: it is equivalent to showing me that I have been neglecting these items for the past days, but it's OK, at least now I know, I can come back to them later when I need to. That eases up on the anxiety of dismissing in the first place.

Another advantage is the freeing up of the intuition for processing the list only for "things to do" and does not include "keep the list relevant".

The main disadvantage though is that dismissal can disrupt the flow of the intuitive process, especially when using the highlighter. When doing such, you have to stop the usual AF1 process of "standing out", reach for your highlighter, and mark those you are dismissing. In case of the original AF1 dismissal process, it will also slow down the whole processing of the list.

In light of these observations, I found that AF2's dismissal process,

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2009/6/27/autofocus-2-time-management-system-af2.html?SSScrollPosition=2200

as suggested by Caibre65 above, works best with AF1, as the disruption of AF1 is non-existent since dismissal is done only at the beginning of the day, and also gives impetus to go back to the earlier parts of the list, yet it is not as drastic as dismissing a full page outright.


2. With a dismissal system that only takes effect once per day, AF1MD can be surprisingly flexible. It can be as slow or as fast as you need it to be. It is, in effect, FAF on steroids.

I tried Simple Scanning for a few days last month also, and I have to say, it is fast. But that is the problem for SS: it can only run fast. Mark may disagree with me on this, but this actually is a disadvantage of SS for me. Once you go past a certain task, according to the rules of SS, you have to go around the whole list before getting back to it. Of course, you can just go back, disregarding the rules for a bit, but at least for me that can be jarring.

This is mitigated with AF1MD, since I can go back to the beginning of the same page I was working on before, and usually that is enough because of the effect of clumping. "Clumping" is the observed effect that recurring tasks that get worked on together tend to clump into groups in the task list. Of course, this happens in SS too, and clumped tasks usually get worked together without going around the whole list, but that is only if you tend to work these tasks together in sequence. AF1 can work clumped tasks that may or may not be worked on sequentially all the time.

And yet, I find AF1MD to be only slightly slower than SS if needed, and I can think of two reasons. One is that I am using a small notebook of only 19 lines; since dismissal is not a big consideration anymore in determining how many lines I need to have in a page, AF1MD still works well with a small page size. Another is the dismissal process. As I noted earlier, this frees up the intuition to do only the "standing up process" and not also the "cleaning up", and as Mark Forster has told me many times, the intuition is as good only as what you instruct it to do.

In fact, I tried FAF for a few days, which is the same as AF1MD apart from not having any dismissal process, and I find myself missing the dismissal process for making both the list and the process more streamlined. Of course that can only be confirmation bias, so take this last observation as you will.
November 10, 2018 at 19:07 | Registered Commenternuntym
nuntym:

Thanks for a very interesting report.

One question:

<< With a dismissal system that only takes effect once per day, AF1MD can be surprisingly flexible. It can be as slow or as fast as you need it to be. It is, in effect, FAF on steroids. >>

That makes me wonder whether you are using the original AF1 selection process or the FAF selection process. They are slightly different, as follows:

1) AF1. When you come to a page you read through the tasks then go back to the beginning of the page and scan through the page for tasks that stand out.

2) FAF. You do not read through the tasks on the page, but start scanning immediately.

In any case I might give your suggestions a try myself.
November 10, 2018 at 22:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@Mark Forster: <<That makes me wonder whether you are using the original AF1 selection process or the FAF selection process. They are slightly different,...>>

Ah, then I was using FAF's selection process then. I actually forgot the two were different!
November 15, 2018 at 4:09 | Registered Commenternuntym
It's been said several times recently that, if we want to do an earlier task, we can't just do it. We have to scan everything in order.

Is this really part of the rules? (Or does the answer vary by system?)

If I know something will stand out when I get to it, and I'm confident there is nothing else on the list that will stand out even more, why go through it? Why not just do it while we have momentum?

If I'm not confident there's nothing hiding, then, yes, scanning the intervening lines is necessary. (Even if I am confident, scanning at least daily is a good idea. Which leads to another thought: If I know I'll only scan it daily, then I need a hotlist for things due in the next few days. If I know I'll scan it several times a day, then I don't need the hotlist. I'll see urgent tasks in time to do them.)
November 15, 2018 at 17:57 | Registered CommenterCricket
<< If I know something will stand out when I get to it, and I'm confident there is nothing else on the list that will stand out even more, why go through it? Why not just do it while we have momentum? >>

This works fine for me, if it's occasional. But the problem is ensuring it stays occasional. Doing it even occasionally slowly becomes a mental habit triggered by pressure, urgency, or spontaneity. Those triggers cause me more and more easily to go down this same mental pathway - jump to the end of the list and choose that desired item. The list becomes gradually less effective as a gate between stimulus and response. After any sustained period of chaos, this "jump to the end" mode becomes my default mode, and it takes a complete restart to break out of it.
November 15, 2018 at 18:08 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Cricket:

<< It's been said several times recently that, if we want to do an earlier task, we can't just do it. We have to scan everything in order. >>

You can do whatever you like. At least you can until my task "Install World Surveillance System" gets actioned.

<< Is this really part of the rules? (Or does the answer vary by system?) >>

It varies by system, so the answer is that you should scan however much of the list the system which you are using asks you to.

<< If I know something will stand out when I get to it, and I'm confident there is nothing else on the list that will stand out even more, why go through it? Why not just do it while we have momentum? >>

Basically because the more often you scan something the more your resistance to it falls. If you consistently skip the scanning part you will end up with a load of unmovable tasks.

<< If I'm not confident there's nothing hiding, then, yes, scanning the intervening lines is necessary. (Even if I am confident, scanning at least daily is a good idea. Which leads to another thought: If I know I'll only scan it daily, then I need a hotlist for things due in the next few days. If I know I'll scan it several times a day, then I don't need the hotlist. I'll see urgent tasks in time to do them.) >>

This is pre-scanning, as in FV and FVP, which actually increases the amount of scanning required.
November 15, 2018 at 18:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< This works fine for me, if it's occasional. But the problem is ensuring it stays occasional... >>

Yes, I agree.
November 15, 2018 at 19:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster