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FV and FVP Forum > TOC FVP?

I've been experimenting on a new system for a few weeks -- I thought I'd post a "teaser" while I work out some kinks and simplify the instructions.. :-)

Here is what it's able to do so far:
- Combines the completeness of a catch-all list with the engagement and focus of no-list
- Very responsive to urgent needs and interruptions, while encouraging sustained focus on the things that matter most (like deadlines, commitments, and large goals and problems)
- Discourages starting too many things -- encourages limiting WIP and sustained focus
- Helps find breakthroughs to the problems that are bothering you the most
- It's systematic, fast, and flexible! (cf. )

As you might guess if you've followed my previous posts, it combines techniques and ideas from:
- FastFVP -
- The no-list vs catch-all discussions - for example:
- My FVP "current initiative hack" -
- My FVP-based problem-solving technique -
- Concepts from Theory of Constraints (TOC) -
January 12, 2017 at 15:36 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Is it also easy on the mind? As an example I find FFV harder to implement than AF1 because it asks more of you, just a little. I mean both are easy enough to follow the rules, but there's a mental burden from the amount and difficulty of decisions that come up. E.g. "Does this stand out" is easier than "Should I do this before the other? Now?"
January 12, 2017 at 18:17 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Good question Alan. I will observe myself while working it and see if I can find an answer. :)
January 12, 2017 at 18:27 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

Not wishing to take the wind out of your sails, but I'm just starting my first day's testing of "The Systematic Next Hour".
January 13, 2017 at 12:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Looking forward to it!!
January 14, 2017 at 0:37 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Keen to hear more about this Seraphim when you're ready :)
January 14, 2017 at 0:48 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Here is how it is turning out. It's basically my FVP "current initiative hack" with a couple additions.

This post assumes you are familiar with FVP and Fast FVP.

Start with FVP using the Current Initiative Hack.

And then here are the additions:

Use the "Fast FVP" rule: after you dot something, ask, "Am I ready to do this NOW?" If yes, do it. Otherwise, keep scanning. Use the same rule when scanning for strategic items (current initiatives, marked with a cross). Sometimes they are small and can be done immediately.

"NO-LIST MODE": When returning from a long break (long enough where you have been disengaged from the list long enough that you can't remember exactly what you were last doing), draw a line at the end of the list, and pause for a moment to collect your thoughts. Write them all down. Scan from the line, and see if anything stands out. Dot it. Then proceed from there as usual (with the FVP algorithm). You might stay in no-list mode for a while (i.e., working below the line, on whatever is most top-of-mind). This is fine. Eventually, just following the normal algorithm, you will work your way back above the line into your current-initiative space. In this way, the system eventually prompts you to get refocused on your current initiative. When I do reach my last item marked with a cross, I often find it is already completed!

Use a strategic question for finding current initiatives (e.g., "What will have more impact than X?"). For finding tasks (dots), use a tactical question that helps you finish the current initiatives (e.g., "What will help me finish the current initiative more than X?").

If you are feeling especially overwhelmed, overloaded, unfocused, scattered, etc. -- it can be very helpful to change over to problem-solving mode, rather than get-stuff-done mode. It is easy to do this. Just change the set of questions. For the strategic question, I like "What is bothering me more than X?" And for the tactical question, I like "What is more of a contributing factor to this problem than X?" This is reminiscent of my problem-solving method:

For NO-LIST MODE, I tried using some alternative no-list methods instead of the one I describe above. And they also seem to work just fine. Next-Hour, No-List FVP, etc. I am not sure how the mechanics would work with the broad variety of no-list methods. But these ones worked just fine, and also naturally transitioned into current-initiative mode when nothing else stood out.
January 14, 2017 at 21:58 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Alan - regarding your question about the mental burden. It does require more mental engagement when answering the strategic question. But when working the tactical question, in practice I find myself asking the question once, at the beginning of the scan, and then just going with whatever stands out.

In other words, it usually just flows along with the standing out mechanism, but pulls you into a more deliberate thought process when necessary.
January 14, 2017 at 22:14 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim, Everything I find online about TOC seems to apply to manufacturing, especially mass-production, with buffers and aggregation points.

Is there a site that describes it for time management?
March 6, 2017 at 19:22 | Registered CommenterCricket
Cricket - I don't know if anyone has made a serious effort to apply the TOC concepts to time management before. I've seen one or two articles on it, but they seemed superficial and/or impractical.

Probably the best resource that discusses the general applicability of TOC (far) beyond manufacturing is the book The Choice by Eli Goldratt.
March 7, 2017 at 16:33 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
More generally, I've often thought the field of personal productivity should borrow more than it does from manufacturing productivity methodologies. One example that has crossed the barrier is Kanban. I've tried using 5S principles to develop a system. A lot more could be done with the various lean manufacturing / six sigma / etc. stuff.
March 7, 2017 at 23:06 | Unregistered CommenterAustin
There are some good books, such as Dan Markovitz's A Factory of One. I got some good nuggets from the book, but wouldn't say I got any real breakthroughs.

But TOC feels like a breakthrough engine -- it just keeps cranking out breakthroughs for me.
March 8, 2017 at 1:21 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
What tools or concepts from TOC seem to be the key ones?
March 22, 2017 at 1:49 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
Ryan, I would say the Thinking Processes are most applicable to time management, especially the Evaporating Cloud, Current Reality Tree, Prerequisite Tree, and Future Reality Tree.

Good simple overview:
March 22, 2017 at 22:09 | Unregistered CommenterSeraphim
Thanks Seraphim! I've actually spent some time making a little computer language to help me do the graphics and have started implementing those for my projects when needed.

I find it interesting that the TOC separation into:

What (is the current state of things)?
(I want to change the state) to What?

seems to be the same as Mark's method for approaching goals. The current reality tree also reminds me of an 'engineer version' of the current reality from Dreams, similarly for the FRT and Future Vision.

This is really exciting!
March 26, 2017 at 4:52 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
Ryan, thanks for making that connection! It prompted me to pick up the Dreams book again.
March 26, 2017 at 15:42 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Still with this, Seraphim? That is a remarkable stretch of continuity.

I observe that you have a FVP mode and a no-list mode. And my most recent success,, also has a switch (between simple scanning and no-list).

I could also see myself adapting Mark's newest variant, Changes to Fast FVP (, while keeping the no-list bailout. Or possibly even adapting this process here.

It's a funny thing how at one point a process seems interesting but you can't see applying it, but later it seems exactly right, and all that's changed is how you think about things.
January 23, 2018 at 13:18 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan - yes, this is probably my main fallback system -- no-list as the appendage to an FFVP list with some focusing tools built in when I need them. And sometimes I include some random selection to keep it interesting.

But most days I don't even look at my list -- and I feel like I am getting the right things done. I guess I should clarify...

I think one of the key things I've learned from Mark's systems -- beginning with my struggles to use AF1's "dismissal" effectively -- is that the ordering and tracking of things at the task level is mostly on the order of "chupchiki".

<< Chupchik is a slang word in Hebrew that describes a situation where a person is busily working on something which does not count much. Or more vividly: "Pissing in the wind and feeling very proud about it". >> --

Note that I said "mostly". :-)

When I approach time management tools as *thinking tools* and *focusing tools* -- I get much better results than when I use them to guide my every action throughout the day.

And when I use them as thinking and focusing tools, the little things are still important but tend to take care of themselves. I don't need to be reminded so much of the things that will assert their importance all by themselves, or the things that are part of my daily routine. So I usually don't put them on my list, unless they are creating pressure somehow, invading my mental space. Then they go on my list so I can sort it out.

If I go through a whole day without looking at my list, and feel like I got the right things done, that seems like a pretty good day. Most days are like that. Most days I feel like I got so much done I can't even remember it all, some of it feels like it got done several days ago, and I just feel tired and happy. Most of the time. To me, this seems like a pretty good outcome.

If it's a hectic day, pulled in many directions, many details to keep track of -- then it all goes on the list, and I work the list using FFVP or no-list or a combination as described at the top of this thread -- until I get back into my focus and don't need the list anymore.

I think another big change here -- my goal is NOT to complete all the stuff on my list. That always used to be an implicit goal -- either to do it all, or consciously decide to not do it. To get closure. To consciously decide -- or perhaps to let the decision emerge through the standing out process. But still, to *get closure*.

Nowadays I am not really sure there's a lot of value to that sense of closure. That demand for closure transforms the list from a thinking tool into a burden of debt.

I don't need that mental burden.

This is all quite a change from the days when I would run up any new list to over 1000 items within a week of starting it... I have a lot of lists like that still sitting around. The fact that they are still sitting around, but my work is getting done, I feel I am getting better at staying on top of work and family and personal commitments, I am getting results I am generally happy with, and I see a lot of personal growth and improvement -- shows that all those lists don't matter so much. What matters most is how the tools and systems help clarify focus.

Mark's systems do that really, really well.

But one potential inherent problem with all task-based time-management systems is they draw our attention continually back to the task level. They don't NEED to operate this way, but I think they TEND to operate that way. Using these systems as thinking/focusing tools helps me not to lose the forest for the trees.
January 26, 2018 at 20:53 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Starting a new complicated project at work, and I found the number of tasks starting to grow past comfort level. Most of these are not 2 minute things like you might see at home. 2 hour seems more likely. What I'm thinking at the moment is to chunk these up. Many many of the items in OneNote are about the same thing, so if I group all those things together and just have a link to them in my task list, the list becomes much shorter, and the items that remain are not often Tasks any more but more Aspects of the project I need to spend time on. This way it becomes a focusing tool rather than an enormous bunch of trees to chop.
January 30, 2018 at 20:17 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

<< Starting a new complicated project at work, and I found the number of tasks starting to grow past comfort level. Most of these are not 2 minute things like you might see at home. 2 hour seems more likely. >>

However you chunk it or divide it the amount of work remains the same, and so does the principle of "little and often."
February 1, 2018 at 12:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark wrote:
<< However you chunk it or divide it the amount of work remains the same, and so does the principle of "little and often." >>

I had a question about this, but decided to start a new forum post for it:
February 2, 2018 at 15:28 | Registered CommenterSeraphim

<< I had a question about this, but decided to start a new forum post for it >>

Unfortunately that's had the effect of isolating the discussion from Alan's post which I was replying to and which I will need to refer to in my answer.
February 2, 2018 at 19:40 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
However you chunk it, the work is the same

This is true, but that isn't my point to change the work. My point is to improve my understanding of the work. I was failing to grasp the forest for seeing too many trees.
February 3, 2018 at 15:30 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan Baljeu:

Fair enough
February 3, 2018 at 15:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster