My Latest Book

Product Details

Also available on,, and other Amazons and bookshops worldwide! 

To Think About . . .
If you do not die first, you will have time to do it. If you die before it is done, you don’t need to do it. Russian proverb
My Other Books

Product Details

Product Details

Product Details

The Pathway to Awesomeness

Click to order other recommended books.

Find Us on Facebook Badge

Search This Site

Discussion Forum > Which system to start with

I have been using Getting Things Done for years, with some success. One of the biggest struggles I have with it are 1) the weekly review is essential to the program, and I almost never get to it. Therefore, my lists grow stale. 2) It is not that fun. 3) Things stay on it for a long time. I think I need to try something different for a bit.

I use computer software (workflowy) that allows me to make one long list (i.e. I will not be using a notebook to begin with that have separate pages...I may switch to one later if it is more fun).

A) What system would you all recommend for one long list that has no breaks, and for a beginner?
B) Mark mentioned with long lists (in a blog post) "Pick one system and stick to it". How long would you say to stick with it for before abandoning it if it just isn't working or you want to try another one? It seems that there are enough systems Mark has introduced that merit trying to see which one is the best fit.
C) Has anybody else used GTD? I'm curious how calendared items, waiting for's, checklists, and a projects list fits into all of this.

Thanks for your help! I'm at my wits end and want something super simple to maintain yet that is comprehensive.
October 10, 2018 at 0:06 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
Someone else asked a similar question not too long ago. Maybe that discussion will be helpful for you.
October 10, 2018 at 1:03 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Thank you for the response! I've dabbled in this forum and Mark's blog a few years back, but never gave his systems a serious go. I think I'm ready now. I will try simple scanning to begin with then upgrade from there as desired. Thanks Seraphim!

I realize that I have a LOT of questions about how Mark's systems organize actionable from non-actionable items. Basically, my mind has been so entrenched in GTD's organizational structuring that I find it hard to adopt something else. I'll improve for a bit, then repost with all my GTD related questions. You can skip those earlier questions if anyone is still going to respond to my earlier post.
October 10, 2018 at 3:00 | Unregistered CommenterCameron

<< One of the biggest struggles I have with it are 1) the weekly review >>

I love the weekly review/plan. But if it ain't your thing, GTD (or Covey's Weekly Planning/Review) will fall apart pretty quickly.

Most of Mark's systems - that I've used - do not require a weekly review. The problem is choice... there's so much to choose from. I'd suggest starting with Autofocus 1. Give it a good 2-3 weeks trial, and then decide to keep, or try a new system.
October 10, 2018 at 15:54 | Registered Commenteravrum
About GTD I know "by heart" the weekly review is not optional it is a core. Anyway I think every system would have a kind of weekly review. Of course it depends on the amount of stuff you are dealing with but it helps. About your question I think you could start with AF1 it is a good system for me with AF4 if you are a bit intuitive. I never stick with FV.
About paper or digital I think that every paper system could be in digital. it is only a big loose of time someday when you have to get rid of a lot of item with digital. So you better make frequent reviews. With paper you just cross declare a backlog and start a new list with core items. It can also be done with workflowy, Omnifocus, things or any kind of software, it just get less easy and takes longer.
October 10, 2018 at 17:08 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
As a long-time GTDer (and a big fan of Workflowy) I recommend FVP. Think of the FVP list as both an inbox and next action list. Step 1 is to put everything in there, actions, projects, reference, waiting fors, someday/maybes, etc.

Then select, per the process. If it is a project, filter your list for items related to the project. If it is a waiting for, determine if now is the time to follow up. I find using FVP this way means a weekly review is not necessary (just remember to review your calendar regularly) but selecting some items leads to regular min reviews along the way
October 10, 2018 at 22:31 | Unregistered Commentervegheadjones
vegheadjones, it sounds like we are productivity twinners--GTD, workflowy, and FVP. Nice. I love how FVP seems to be an inbox and actions/projects list in one. Good description.

Yeah, I think GTD is good, but not great. I've learned some valuable things from it, but have never been able to keep lists fresh enough to work from them consistently. I found the weak link for me to be the review, both weekly and moment to moment for actions. Weekly review was recommended, but as soon as I completed an action on a project, immediately my lists were not "current". Sure, I could've captured the next action, or gone into my projects list, and pulled the next action, but it just seemed like I was always "reviewing" to keep my list updated. I guess there probably isn't too much difference between that and FVP in terms of capturing and reviewing really often, but for some strange reason, FVP is so much more dynamic of a process.

I have so many other "converting-from-GTD-to-FVP" questions, but for now I'm trying to simplify my former lists. Using FVP, I currently have a "long list" with 28 things on it that I started yesterday. I had a "someday-maybe" list and a ton of other actions, goals, waiting fors that I just dumped into one big "backlog" list. There are nigh unto 200 items in this (personal and professional). I know that there are actually some valuable items in there for me to include in my "long list", but I don't want to overwhelm myself by moving 40 items over right away.

What would you recommend I do so that I can rid myself of my backlog and work from one single list? The funny thing about a someday-maybe list for GTD was that is grew ever longer, but I rarely reviewed it (as in once every 6 weeks) and pulled things forward to my current projects list.

As for the methods, I FVP has been working pretty well for me. It's simple, but getting the mechanics down takes a little getting used to. I've been reading on the blog and seen that there is a Fast FVP, that I want to try, but don't know if I ought to just stick with FVP for a week, then move onto FFVP. Recommendations? I guess there's little risk in doing so.
October 10, 2018 at 23:17 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
For your backlog of items - I would put it in a tickler or reminder system to check it in a week or two. Then just scan through it and see if anything stands out as needing done now, and move those items to the FVP list. Then put it back in the tickler for a week or two.

Personally I think FFVP is a big improvement over FVP. It tends to clear out the list a lot faster, and requires less mental overhead. It strikes a better balance between scanning and doing.

But any of these systems will help, and it’s probably more useful to stick to one system for a week or two and get a good intuition for it, before switching to another. The switching can become a bad habit. There is no “universal perfect system”. Any one of these systems is probably “good enough” and trying to make it “perfect” is “trying to be more accurate than the noise” and reduces overall effectiveness of the systems.
October 11, 2018 at 4:57 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Cameron, in general I found that Mark's systems can be viewed as having all the same stages as GTD, except that you end up doing them all incrementally together instead of in massive clumsy chunks which you never get around to.

You dump everything into the list (inbox), think more about the things that pop out at you while scanning (clarifying), take action on the things you can do now (contexts), think about the next step of things you took some action on (review)... I was a GTD-head too (or tried to be) for almost a decade before finding this site. I can no longer remember all the other parts of GTD, but I went down your path and ended up discovering that FFVP or similar does everything GTD does, except you will intuitively skip the steps that don't matter, until such time as they do actually matter, if that time ever comes. Everything current gets reviewed and refreshed, even if you don't have the time/energy to review THE WHOLE LIST.

It's not perfect, not any more than you are, but it beats the heck out of anything else (which is maybe the proper definition of perfect), particularly GTD. It's even pretty robust to going off-list under stress, which I do sometimes for several weeks. Getting back to that list afterward fills me with dread but turns out to be quite doable, whereas my GTD system would be a desiccated corpse after something like that.
October 11, 2018 at 5:54 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Thanks Seraphim. I'll try FVP for a week or two and then switch over to FFVP and see which I like better. On FFVP, the rules written on the blog state that you just "Dot the first task on the list. You can do it straight away if you want to, but if you don’t want to you carry on scanning through the list dotting tasks that you intend to do." Is this "dotting of tasks you intend to do" the same procedure as "what do I want to do more than X"? Or is it just a general list of "yeah, I'd like to do that, ooo, and that" without regard to order?

It sounds like a someday-maybe list isn't frowned upon then in Mark's system? Or is the goal to eventually get rid of the someday-maybe list? I kind of like the idea of ridding myself of it entirely, trusting that when I'm ready to act on something in the future it will resurface. But there are some items on it right now that I still don't want to lose in the next few weeks while I get a handle on it. Someday-maybe lists just kind of turn into never-maybe lists.
October 11, 2018 at 20:43 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
And Bernie, you are spot on with GTD. It does feel like this desiccated corpse. One of the ironic things I'm finding is that specifying a "next action" can be both a helpful thing, but it can also be a hindrance. So many of my projects are like a system of ant tunnels. I could go here, or there depending on how I feel in the moment. If I just have my top level project listed, then my mind automatically searches for little things I can do given my context. For example, sometimes I would list a next action of "call so and so about X", but I often resist doing it. What I really needed to do is text them, or email them, or talk to them face to face. It kind of varies. If I don't list the action, my mind stays open to the many paths that I can take and I'm much more apt to take them in the moment than if I'm bound to the linear series of "next actions". Sometimes it is a helpful practice, but I'm finding more often than not, it is not helpful.
October 11, 2018 at 20:47 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
Cameron -

<< Is this "dotting of tasks you intend to do" the same procedure as "what do I want to do more than X"? >>

With FVP, there has been quite a bit of discussion about "exactly the right question" to ask oneself when dotting the list.

Eventually, Mark himself (and many others) started to use the "standing out method" to dot things. When you've finished something and are beginning to scan your list to see what to do next, dot whatever pops out as needing to be done. Just let your intuition do the work. This generally takes care of the ordering automatically, without the need to verbalize a specific question.

For me personally, it's helpful to pause for a moment before beginning to scan, and consider whatever larger context I am in. Maybe I have only 15 minutes. Maybe I know there is a nasty email I am neglecting. Maybe I have a looming deadline. Maybe there is some larger objective I need to consider. Etc. So I spend a moment to reflect on that. And then begin scanning. I find this makes the "standing out" work better - really engaging my intuition and preventing reactiveness.

When Mark introduced FFVP, this "standing out" method for FVP selection had already become a kind of standard practice.

Hope that context helps a little.
October 11, 2018 at 23:28 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Cameron, that is a great observation about Next Actions. I remember feeling stunned when I realized that Next Actions can be a trap! It does help to visualize the next action, but as you said, you have to remain open to alternatives.

In Mark's long-list systems, you can write several next actions and act on any that happen to stand out, or let them give you inspiration to write down a totally different action at the end of your list and do it immediately. Or if you don't have any action ideas, you can write down an open problem or question, and after one or two scans, you suddenly know what to do about it. Or if you still don't have any inspiration about it and it starts to rankle, you can cross it off and rewrite "Think about Problem X for 5 minutes." If that really gets you nowhere, you can progress to journaling about it for 10 minutes, talking it through with someone, etc. As long as it keep moving, you'll eventually do it.
October 12, 2018 at 3:41 | Unregistered CommenterBernie
Hi Cameron, I find Mark's systems a lot more intuitive and user friendly compared with GTD. I like to work my daily task list and incoming items mostly from one notebook as I find it efficient. I use a daily simple scanning list method for each day so that I can keep it fresh / focus on priorities and use the following pages for daily notes.
October 12, 2018 at 6:36 | Unregistered CommenterLeon
Next Actions should be considered a help, not a trap! In a Forster system you do as you wish. You could write any of these to the same effect :

Clean kitchen
Clean kitchen - wash dishes
Wash dishes

And if you write the second, that doesn't mean you can't instead mop the floor first. It's merely a helpful suggestion.
October 14, 2018 at 0:24 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Cameron, rarely pulling things from your someday/maybe list is good. It means you've accurately separated "nice to do" from "must do" and put them in a place where they won't be lost and, more importantly, won't distract you from what you need to do now. I slowly extended my review cycle, and it's now twice-a-year. I've re-activated only two things in several years. One was because I was tired of my current hobby, but didn't want to start something entirely new. The other was reviewing old project files so I had room on the shelf for new ones. (Discovery: It's very easy, and even amusing, to read a 5-year old file and toss it. Much easier than a newer file. I now let all files sit a few years before purging.)

FVP didn't work for me. All my someday/maybe (aka shouldn't do this week) were at the top, so at the end of each chain I worked on them. (It might work better now that I've moved them off the active list.)

I used to think needing a weekly review was a sign of a system that was too hard to maintain. Now I find it's necessary even though I maintain things well during the week. A weekly review and planning session makes the entire week go better. It's very fast. Pull important things forward. Identify which projects need more planning. Identify which tasks need to be done earlier than others. I schedule things by day, not by hour, and count up the hours per day and see if I need to make tough decisions. I don't empty my inboxes as part of the review, but have a recurring "empty inbox" project. I often shift things at the last minute -- which I can do safely because I know which can or cannot wait. Also review last week for what worked / didn't work, and ask myself why I didn't do everything I'd planned. Some of those answers were surprising and helpful.

Every few weeks, I review my weekly plans as a whole, to catch low-urgency things that dropped and look for more patterns. I haven't made monthly plans in a while, but think things are smooth enough again that it will be worth it.
October 14, 2018 at 20:06 | Registered CommenterCricket
> FVP didn't work for me.

Maybe because you didn't do it according the rules?

> All my someday/maybe (aka shouldn't do this week) were at the top, so at the end of each chain I worked on them. (It might work better now that I've moved them off the active list.)

Well, according to FV you shouldn't have worked on them but crossed the off the list.
October 16, 2018 at 14:45 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
If I had correctly identified them as someday/maybe, yes, I would have crossed them off the list. At that time, though, I still thought I had time do do them. (I suspect that experience, and the mess I had after 3 weeks, was one of the reasons I finally identified them properly.)
October 16, 2018 at 16:47 | Registered CommenterCricket