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FV and FVP Forum > Improving Standard FVP

I'm currently working on a couple of possible improvements to FVP which I think might make it more responsive. I haven't got very far in trying them out yet, so they are totally unproven - but I'm mentioning them in case anyone else wants to try them out at the same time as I do.

Both improvements are aiming to keep the list both short and relevant:

1) When a new task is added to the list it is immediately dotted. This means that it is going to be the next task that is worked on. Only one new task can be added at a time.

2) Tasks can only remain on the list if they are worked on every day. If they are not worked on during a day they are removed from the list and can only get back on the list by being re-entered as a new task as above. This is effected by deleting all tasks at the end of the day still remaining on the list from the previous day. If you prefer to delete the tasks at the beginning of the day, then it's the tasks from two days ago that are deleted. Example: Starting work on Thursday, delete tasks remaining from Tuesday.

You will of course have to date the start of each day on your list.

N.B. The removing of tasks which have not been worked on is not intended to be a form of "dismissal". It is simply to ensure that the tasks on the list are live. A task can be reinstated at any time just by working on it again.
January 14, 2016 at 13:22 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Interesting. I think I'll try the second, as I've let things slide and am ashamed to look at my list, which isn't a productive mindset at all.

The first is also interesting, but one change at a time !

Rats: It's worse than I thought. I have an empty list. (SORELY tempted to try the first change now!)
January 14, 2016 at 14:55 | Unregistered CommenterWill
Quick question: when re-entering an incomplete task, does this count as a new task, to be dotted immediately?

By "only one new task can be entered at a time", do you mean that when you've entered a new task and gone back to work on your current task, you then cannot add any more new tasks until you have done work on the new task?
January 14, 2016 at 14:59 | Unregistered CommenterWill

<< when re-entering an incomplete task, does this count as a new task, to be dotted immediately? >>

No, a new task is a task that isn't currently on the list. Only if an incomplete task is allowed to lapse does it need to be re-entered as a new task.

<< By "only one new task can be entered at a time", do you mean that when you've entered a new task and gone back to work on your current task, you then cannot add any more new tasks until you have done work on the new task? >>

Yes. When you add a new task it is the next task you work on. You can't either add another new task or work on any other task (except the one you are currently working on) until you have done some work on it. In fact I usually don't add a new task until I am in-between tasks, so I just add the new task, dot it and start working on it straight away.
January 14, 2016 at 15:39 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< The first is also interesting, but one change at a time ! >>

They are designed to work together, so only doing one may not have the desired effect.
January 14, 2016 at 15:46 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

So you wouldn't use the FVP list for universal capture? Very often I'm working on a task and something either occurs to me that needs action or somebody interrupts me. I normally note the resulting task or action at the end of the list and continue with what I was doing. Would you rely on memory to add the task or jot a quick note somewhere else?
January 14, 2016 at 16:40 | Registered CommenterCaibre65

<< So you wouldn't use the FVP list for universal capture? >>

No, the whole ideas of these modifications is to make the list represent what you are actually working on in the present - rather than be a compendium of everything you might or might not do in the future.

<< Would you rely on memory to add the task or jot a quick note somewhere else? >>

I'd probably make a note of it with the date I want to add it to the list. Evernote reminders are very good for that sort of thing.
January 14, 2016 at 16:48 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

This feels very different. As I am the poster child for putting things on a list rather than doing them, I do see the point.

My first task was a mind map of my open commitments. Which I am returning to frequently. This is likely to become my grass catcher.

I will also have separate lists of individual activities rather than breaking down tasks in the list itself. All a bit weird. Fortunately, my notebook has a back as well as a front.


January 14, 2016 at 17:50 | Unregistered CommenterWill
I didn't say anything in my first post about how you can start this off. Basically there are two ways:

1) Use your existing list. At the end of Day 1, everything you haven't taken some action on that day will be deleted - though if you started late on Day 1 I'd leave the mass deletion until the end of Day 2.


2) Build up the list from scratch, which is what I have done. Every task I have on my list has been worked on today by definition. At the end of tomorrow I will delete any of them which I haven't worked on tomorrow as well.

The end result of both is the same, so pick whichever one suits you best.
January 14, 2016 at 17:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
At the end of my first day trying this out, I feel that I had a very focused day in which I got a lot done.

My list as it will be carried forward to tomorrow is 30 tasks long, all of which by definition have been worked on at least once during the day. I also did another 7 tasks which I have finished completely - so they don't feature on the list any more. All in all I have used 97 lines in my task book today.

The big test of course comes tomorrow when I see how many of these tasks will survive another day and how many new tasks will join the list.
January 14, 2016 at 23:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

How would you approach this scenario:

Frequently, in the middle of completing a task you think of many new tasks that are best started today. You write each one down at the end of your list, add a dot in front of each, and proceed working on the current task. When finished, you scan down the list and dot a few tasks that need doing next, but find there are 7 new tasks dotted ahead of them all the way to the end of the list.

What are some good ways to approach this?
January 15, 2016 at 1:14 | Registered CommenterMichael B.

Ha. I missed this bit, "Only one new task can be added at a time." I have no idea what to do with all those same-day tasks within this framework though.
January 15, 2016 at 2:15 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B.:

<< I have no idea what to do with all those same-day tasks within this framework though. >>

There's no difficulty with that at all. In fact it's exactly how I built my list of 37 tasks from scratch yesterday.

Just add them one at a time throughout the day. Jot them down on a separate bit of paper if you must, but it's best to rely on your mind's answer to the question "What do I want to do now more than x" (or whatever question you are using).
January 15, 2016 at 8:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

I suspect that a lifetime of being Mick Cool has left Mark with a slightly skewed view of just how easily we Joe Slobs can lose track of what we should be doing. But writing ideas down on a separate sheet (or in the task breakdown lists) seems fine.

Or you could:
1. accept that your focus has wavered for long enough to have the idea,
2. strike through and re-enter the current task,
3. add the idea on your list (dotted, of course)
4. define what you are actually going to do with the idea
5. this counts as doing something, so strike through and reenter your new idea
6. get back on task

It sounds ridiculous written down, but this is what you are actually doing mentally if you capture ideas during a task. I think I can hear Mark's eyes rolling heavenward. :0)
January 15, 2016 at 10:17 | Unregistered CommenterWill

<< accept that your focus has wavered for long enough to have the idea, >>

This would probably work fine for one new task in isolation. But the problem as raised by Michael wasn't about one idea but about many (specifically 7). If you're going to enter seven new tasks without really doing anything about any of them, then what you are doing is normal FVP - and it would be better just to acknowledge that.
January 15, 2016 at 10:54 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Sadly, I've already given up on this. The attempt has reminded me that it's just as easy to get submerged with trivia using a short list as it is using a long list!
January 16, 2016 at 11:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

May I ask which system you have gone back to? I am having a lot of success with Reverse FVP.
January 16, 2016 at 16:11 | Registered CommenterWooba

I've not gone back to Reverse FVP, though I think it's an excellent system, because I'm trying to improve another new system, as yet unpublished.
January 16, 2016 at 16:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
A simple change to Rule 1:

1. When a new [resisted] task is added to the list it is immediately dotted. This [does not necessarily mean] that it is going to be the next task that is worked on. [More than] one new task can be added at a time.
January 16, 2016 at 17:07 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
The above amendment to Rule 1 may accomplish the following:

1. Prevents a pure focus on trivia.
2. Prevents resisted (important/impactful) tasks from building up more resistance by getting them started quickly.
3. Allows for universal capture.
4. Quickly cracks away at resisted tasks and gets them finished sooner. This may keep the list more trim. Long lists are often due to unstarted resisted tasks piling up near the beginning of the list.
January 16, 2016 at 17:42 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B.

I'll be interested to hear how that works for you.
January 16, 2016 at 18:10 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

To be clear, this is the system I've been using this morning:

FVP using Mark's two test improvements but with the amendment to Rule 1 I posted above.

What I'm finding so far:

1. I'm starting same-day resisted tasks earlier in the day.

2. I resist a lot of new tasks and tend to think them up rapid-fire, one after another, so a lot of new tasks are being dotted and forming resistant groups (sounds like battle!).

3. I'm finding these resistant blockades interfere with the sequencing of earlier dotted tasks that have newly become urgent. Usually those earlier tasks are small but necessary daily recurring tasks. So while these smaller tasks are not exactly trivia, I have felt a bigger sense of accomplishment starting the resistant tasks, but at the expense of the smaller tasks not always being done in an optimal sequence. If it occurs to me to start one of these earlier dotted tasks, I simply write them at the end of the list with a dot and work on them next, but I can see how I could forget about them as my list grows longer.

4. I'm finding that these groups of resistant tasks are encouraging me to plow through them quickly using the little and often principle so I can get to the non-resistant tasks dotted earlier in the chain.
January 16, 2016 at 22:01 | Registered CommenterMichael B.

Did you start a new list from scratch or apply the new rules to your old list?

I started a list from scratch, so every task on it had been worked on at least once the first day. But I didn't find that that meant that I wasn't resisting the more difficult tasks the following day.

In other words the first day was absolutely fine, but the second day was a big disappointment. I didn't get as far as the end of the day, but if I had I would have had to delete just about every non-trivial project I have.

Of course it's just occurred to me that I could then have reintroduced them the following day, so they would at least get worked on every other day!
January 17, 2016 at 0:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

Kind of both. I started a new list Thursday and used your two test rules, then I applied the amendment to Rule 1 today, Saturday. I have about 400 tasks on my old list! Only 19 on the new one.
January 17, 2016 at 1:54 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
I've been using this two days and so far, it's my favorite version of FVP. It provides a good 'throttle' to prevent taking on too many things at once and the sense of completion I get with moving everything to the new day mitigates the feeling of burnout I had with 'vanilla' FVP.

I'll try this about a week and see how it works, but so far, it's been an excellent fit for me. Thanks Mark for posting this experiment, even though it didn't work for you.
January 17, 2016 at 4:49 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
Michael and Ryan:

Perhaps I should have kept going a bit longer!
January 17, 2016 at 10:21 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
For myself I try the instruction except "Only one new task can be added at a time".

I have all centralized my datas on omnifocus and it is perfect for following my projects. But acting is still a lack with me. Contexte never worked with me. any kind of them. So extraction each day from projects a short list of 10 is nice and seems to be working for now.
January 18, 2016 at 21:44 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I've ended my trial of Mark's two test improvement rules as well as my trial of a Rule 1 amendment. I'm now giving this a run:
January 19, 2016 at 3:12 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
The forum software apparently ate my last post, but we'll try again.

I've been using this for about 9 days now and it seems to still be working fine.

What works well with it?
• Sense of completion as the end of the day comes close
• Provides focus on large projects without letting the trivial gum up the works
• Great sense of momentum as I work on tasks
• Sense of freedom since I know I can just reenter anything that 'garbage collects'
• Flexibility as I always ask "What do I want to do before X" at the end of my list, in addition to dotting them. It gives a good sense that the list is simply one 'map' of things I do.

What works poorly with it?
• Don't write down high resistance tasks on it until I'm actually able to do them. I worry this is preventing them from getting done.
• Slight mental tension from not having all of my tasks in the grass catcher
• Don't feel like I can have a 'lazy day' where I don't do many tasks on it, since everything else will end up being garbage collected.
• Feel that high resistance tasks don't get nibbled at in the same way alt-FVP does.

Some ideas for future tweaks:
• Switch the garbage collection date from 1 day to 2 or 3 days. This would give me free weekends, but may reduce the momentum too much during the week. An alternative would be to let the window slide over the weekend. I.e. 1 day Monday through Friday, Saturday don't dismiss Friday, Sunday, don't dismiss Saturday or Friday, Monday dismiss Thursday.
• Have a Kanban of various commitments to feed the system with. This has worked well in the past when I worked at a company and would give me a chance to see which commitments are to what people over what time period.
January 24, 2016 at 22:39 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
Yesterday (and this morning) I took a break from the system, relying on my vision and journaling from Dreams to pull me through. I felt a lot of resistance from doing anything on my list, because of the garbage collection rule. I think I'm feeling the desire to try this again, with the sliding window described above.

I'll keep you appraised on how it turns out!
January 26, 2016 at 18:03 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
I want to stress again that the rule about deleting tasks that have not been actioned during the day is not intended to be either a punishment or a form of dismissal. Nor is the term "garbage collection" helpful - there is no suggestion that the tasks that get deleted at the end of the day are "garbage".

The rule is there purely to stop the list from growing larger than can be actioned in a single day. Individual tasks can be brought back onto the list by the simple means of doing something about them.

If you look at the list as carried forward simply as a record of what you succeeded in doing that day, you won't go far wrong.
January 26, 2016 at 20:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks Mark. I'll attempt a perspective shift as you suggest. Looking at my posts and your feedback, it's pretty clear that I was treating the not carry forward as a type of dismissal, up to and including a 'be careful not to re-enter blindly'.

From now on, I'll look at the carried-forward list simply as "what I worked on yesterday" when I open the list up in the morning. Even now, this takes a lot of the pressure off and it would make perfect sense for me not to work on certain projects during the weekend.

Thanks again!
January 26, 2016 at 22:02 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
1. Yeah, I love this. I love adding dotted, and I love adding undotted.
2. This, though, is not for me. I tend to use little-and-often sparingly. It's a great tool for the very worst tasks, with the very worst resistance, but it does tend to add overhead (the fewer times I have to take everything out relating to a project and put everything away, the less overhead). I'd rather something be untouched on the list for a while then completed in one fell swoop. Again, some things are so arduous that little-and-often is psychologically or practically necessary for them. But not everything. I found that I had a tendency to do little-and-often too much, and that ate up a lot of my time and motivation because nothing got completed.

That said, I do love a short list. I've got a script set up to automatically add things to the list at future dates so I can postpone things I'm not able to work on now.
March 13, 2016 at 10:55 | Unregistered CommenterSandra S