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FV and FVP Forum > No satisfaction from finishing a list of todos

Just one more point to confirm my understanding.

This process never gives the satisfaction of finishing a list of items. There is no point where someone can say I finished my task list because it is constantly changing.

November 1, 2015 at 15:40 | Unregistered CommenterSteven
That is correct. If you're using FVP as intended, most likely you will never finish your list, especially if you are using it as a method of universal capture, as I am.

This is good! This means you aren't wasting time doing stuff that isn't important. If you need to finish your list to get peace of mind, you may want try Mark's 5T or Do It Tomorrow system.

Are you running into dissatisfaction? If so, when?
November 1, 2015 at 18:05 | Unregistered CommenterJesse
Jesse, Hi,

No, not experiencing dissatisfaction. Just wanted to know if I understand FVP correctly.

November 1, 2015 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterSteven
The master list of your FVP is not a todo list, but, as Jesse has noted, a universal capture list, a place where you can dump all of what you want to, could, need to, should, might, etc. do. Therefore, you are not supposed to do everything in that master list!

Rather, your "todo list" is the list made by the FVP algorithm, and you get your satisfaction not by finishing any list but by doing what you want to do.
November 1, 2015 at 18:56 | Registered Commenternuntym
You could see it as a System 1 (everything on my mind) interacting with system 2 (reason) issue:

"System 1 “is the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach, System 2 “the mind’s slower, analytical mode, where reason dominates.” Kahneman says “System 1 is...more influential…guiding…[and]...steering System 2 to a very large extent.” "


Mark's systems deliberately exploit this balance of non-logical processes and rational thought.
November 1, 2015 at 19:56 | Unregistered Commentermichael
I do miss the sense of closure that DIT provides -- or any sort of "closed list". Our development team at work uses Scrum -- you get a real strong sense of accomplishment and closure at the end of the sprint when the sprint commitments are DONE. And the sprints are short enough that you don't feel the need to be changing direction all the time.

I've been thinking about a way of asking "the question" that might help give some closure like this. (More on this below.)

One thing that often gets missed in my personal implementation of FVP is the higher-level views, like GTD's 10,000 to 50,000 foot views. FVP helps me find so many good things that need ACTION and pulls me into those things. This is good because stuff gets done; this is bad because I never leave the "runway" (working at task level) unless I step away from FVP altogether. When I get rolling with it, it's really hard to break away and focus on tasks like "think about priorities" or "goals for the quarter" or any other kind of reflective thinking and planning.

This isn't FVP's fault -- at least, I don't think it is. FVP can handle all those things, but with the way I've been asking "the question", they just never get dotted.

I have had the same problem with DIT -- the only time I'd really put any deep thought into the higher-level commitments and vision is when I get into a crisis and have to do a "commitment audits". Otherwise I just never found myself working on those things. I'd always be working on the lower level tasks.

In fact, I find it hard to break away from any of these task-based systems and do any kind of deep thought. I always have to get away from all my systems completely, and go hide with a blank notebook somewhere for a couple hours.

I think this is a problem, because I do my best work when I have time to do deep thinking about things. It also gives real clarity about my overall vision and objectives -- WHY I am doing all these tasks.

My idea for asking the question a bit differently might help with this, too, in addition to giving more closure.

The basic idea is to close out each week by asking "what do I want to accomplish next week" as my FVP question. Then "dot" whatever stands out. Maybe highlight them for extra emphasis. Then draw a heavy line, essentially starting a new FVP list with everything below the line. Then when the week starts, my new question is "what do I need to do first to finish those things above the thick line". Copy one or two of those tasks down below the line, then keep using this question till those things are DONE. If other things come up, OK, they come up -- they just go on the list as usual. If regular things like email need to be done too, OK, they go on the list as usual. But nothing above that thick line gets any attention at all till the weekly commitments are done or no longer needed.

I have no idea if this will work -- it's something I've been thinking about over the weekend, and it seemed relevant to this thread.
November 2, 2015 at 0:59 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I also use a horizontal line at certain points, like Seraphim. The main purpose is to roughly gauge task age and for a sense of completion.

At the end of the day, every few days, I draw a dotted horizontal line at the end of the list with tomorrow's date below it. This makes a "soft closed list". It helps me judge the rough age of tasks. I can see which tasks I've been resisting and should get started on. It also helps motivate me to do at least a little work on each task above the dotted line so I can close out that chunk and move on. Getting a chunk done gives me a big shot of relief and sense of progress.
December 4, 2015 at 0:40 | Unregistered Commenterflight16
I use AndreasEs DSAF System to close my FVP list every week and dismiss the entries older than 2 weeks. Some of them I allow to escape to the new list if I think it's worth.

Here the link to the highly recommended really dead simple DSAF:
December 5, 2015 at 15:53 | Unregistered CommenterJens
I've been adding a second level of scanning question to my FVP list, with a distinct marker (a cross (+) instead of a dot.) I do this "strategic" scan first -- the last item on the list with a cross becomes my "current initiative". I then work the list following normal FVP rules, except I don't scan anything on the list earlier than the current initiative, and I don't delete the current initiative till it's finished. Whenever FVP brings me back to the current initiative, and it's not done yet, I just add the tasks that are needed to get it done, and carry on.

The result is a deeper focus and drive toward completion on the "current initiative" (=the last item with a cross) while still maintaining the flexibility and responsiveness of FVP.

There are still some problems I am trying to work out -- mainly with context switching between work and home. But it's been really working well, generally.
December 5, 2015 at 18:38 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

That sounds a very interesting idea. Now that I'm back from my six weeks in Australia (where I didn't use any lists at all), I might give it a go.

What question (if any) do you use to identify the current initiative? While I was away I came up with the idea of significance - though I haven't tested it out yet. But I can see some possibilities in a question like "What is more significant than x?" or maybe "What is the most significant thing I could do today?"
December 7, 2015 at 10:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

One problem I've run into straight away trying to implement your idea is that my "current initiative" has turned out to be the second task on my list. Which means, if I've understood your instructions correctly, that I can range over the whole list with the exception of the first task. This doesn't seem to give much advantage over the normal way of doing FVP!

Am I doing this wrong?
December 7, 2015 at 11:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
No, you're not doing it wrong.

Generally it will give you more focus than that. Even in this case, it gives you marginally better focus (skipping that one first task). But probably the main advantage I've found with this approach is the "not deleting it till it's done" rule. If you do continue experimenting with this, let us know if that rule delivers more focus for you or not!
December 7, 2015 at 15:50 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
<< Now that I'm back from my six weeks in Australia >>

Welcome back!!

<< What question (if any) do you use to identify the current initiative? >>

I usually ask "What will have more impact than X?" This is shorthand for "What will be a more impactful accomplishment when I get it done than X?" Sometimes I ask "What's more important to get done this week than X?"

Either way, it tends to select the kind of things that you list as good Current Initiatives in the DIT book: spinning up new projects, knocking out important deliverables, and clearing out backlogs. Sometimes, if KTBR/maintenance items like email are feeling like they aren't getting enough attention, then those are the things that stand out.
December 7, 2015 at 15:56 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
BTW, with regard to context-switching... I've been finding that if my selected "current initiative" isn't relevant in my current context, it works fine just to cross it out as completed, and re-enter at the end of the list. Then, when I am back in the right context, I usually pick up that item as the current initiative again.

I had a similar issue with a "blocked" current initiative. I was making travel arrangements for a business trip, but got to the point where I couldn't do anything more till I got formal travel approval from my management. I had already sent requests for approval and had checked for responses -- there really wasn't anything else I could do. So I just crossed off this current initiative and re-entered it at end of list. As it turned out, this was just fine. I had got the thing spun up, and now it just took some maintenance to keep it going -- which is handled fine with standard FVP.
December 7, 2015 at 16:04 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

Thanks for your replies. I'll see how it works out.
December 7, 2015 at 16:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Further to my last, I'm trying something based on what you describe but a bit different. Instead of identifying a "current initiative", I'm using it as a method of handling tasks which I've begun but not completed.

Basically what I do is FVP as normal, but with the one change that a task which I have worked on but not completed is left where it is - i.e. dotted but not crossed out. I then scan forward from that task and carry on as normal from there.

I'm not sure how much in practice this differs from your method, but to my mind what I am doing is getting tasks which I've started finished, rather than having a current initiative as such.
December 7, 2015 at 17:45 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Interesting! Sounds almost like SFv3. Let us know how it works out!
December 7, 2015 at 17:48 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
I'm glad you can remember how SFv3 worked because I can't!
December 7, 2015 at 18:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Last week I experimented with Mark's "Ultimate Time Management System? (Improved)". In that system unfinished tasks remain dotted in the old list and must be worked on during each pass through the old list.

I used two changes:

1. When making a pass through the old list (where there may be many unfinished dotted tasks) you must do at least one dotted task before moving into the new list—and if nothing was already dotted in the old list, you must dot and do at least one task.

2. The highlight, review, and rewrite smaller rule from AF4 is brought in:

If no task in the old list is worked on during a pass, all old list tasks are crossed out with a highlighter, a new line is drawn at the end of your list, and the new list becomes the old list. You now have three sections to your list:

Highlighted for Review
Old List
New List

You skip the highlighted for review section during this pass and make a pass through the newly defined old list. During your next pass through the list, start at the top and work down through the highlighted tasks, rewriting any still relevant ones as smaller tasks at the end of your list, then cross out the reviewed tasks. If a reviewed task is irrelevant, delete it by crossing it out. After passing through the review section, continue on through the old list as usual.
December 7, 2015 at 19:41 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
So, to be clear, if there are any previously dotted unfinished tasks in the old list—even if you dot and do other tasks in the old list—you must work a little on at least one of them before moving into the new list.

Note: You do not need to work on an unfinished task when you come across it during the course of your pass through the old list. You must however go back and work a little on at least one of these unfinished tasks before moving into the new list, and no task may be worked on twice in succession before moving into the new list.
December 7, 2015 at 20:25 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
A pass through the old list, at minimum, looks like one of the following scenarios:

1. Old list has a previously dotted task: Work on it then move into the new list.

2. Old list has no dotted tasks: Dot one, work on it, then move into the new list.

3. Old list has a previously dotted task, you dot another task and work on it before reaching the end of the old list: Go back and work a little on the previously dotted unfinished task, then move into the new list.

4. If no dotted tasks are done, or none are dotted and done: All old list tasks are dismissed with a highlighter.
December 7, 2015 at 21:07 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Hi all,

I have a thought on the current initiative posts earlier in this thread, and building on Seraphim's idea and Mark's comment that if the current initiative is early in the list then the whole list is up for grabs before the CI becomes the focus.

I've been getting into the habit of doing a little morning thinking time. During this time I journal a few things such as 'What was better yesterday?" and "What am I grateful for this morning?". I also touch on my vision, my current goal (initiative) and finally I jot down some answers to "What would make today a really good day?".

I then draw a line in my FVP list, date it and add first the current initiative and then the other answers to "What would make today a really good day?". I dot the current initiative and start my day from that task, using FVP as normal. This means I tend to get to the CI very early on, if not immediately, and even if I work on it and re-enter it, it is always right there at the business end of the list.

The downside of this method is it can lead to lots of duplicate tasks in the list, although in practice that rarely bothers me. The upside is a comforting feeling that the tasks that are really on my mind are being given due attention.

Hope this is useful,

Warm Regards

December 8, 2015 at 9:04 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Gregory
Really enjoying this Current Initiative hack. Thanks for posting it, Seraphim. Today is day one, but it has really helped keep my day in perspective.
December 8, 2015 at 20:37 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher E.
Glad to hear it, Christopher E.! I just finished writing up a more complete description of how I'm doing this, here:
December 9, 2015 at 6:21 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Matt Gregory - I do something similar - when I first get to my desk in the morning, before looking at my computer, I open my list and start asking questions. (I'm learning some great questions from Marks' new book!!) And just write whatever is on my mind. I then look at my calendar for the day, and then write down whatever else comes to mind. And then I scan back to see what my current initiative is, and write down whatever comes to mind that will help me get it completed. This gets me fired up and motivated to get going! And that's what I have been finding myself doing! It's been great. So much better than starting the day by opening my email. :-)

Before I stumbled upon this current initiative hack, I was doing something very similar to what you describe - processing my current initiative as any other line-item in FVP. But I found it would quickly get lost among all the other details, and all the other things that seemed like major-impact items. I might even forget about it completely for several days, while I bounced around between several other major projects / priorities. This problem was exactly what my hack was trying to solve -- how to stop the bouncing around, get more focus and keep hammering on things till they are done. My lists tend to get really long, and I always have lots of different things going on. Not everyone has my problem of getting lost in the list, and doesn't need this extra level of focus. But for me it's been really helpful.
December 9, 2015 at 6:29 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Hi Seraphim,

I adopted your idea of crossing the Current Initiative this morning and treating it as 'undeletable' until done, but I already had it in mind so I haven't yet used your first pass with the crosses to select the CI. I hope to try that tomorrow. I'm intrigued to see how it affects today.

December 9, 2015 at 12:12 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Gregory