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GTD vs. Autofocus ( Mark Forster )

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  • GTD vs. Autofocus ( Mark Forster )

    Hi,
    I've been working with GTD for about 5 years now and stumbled across the Autofocus (AF) by Mark Forster.
    Has anyone here experimented with it and if so any feedback?
    I've tried it for a week now, but I think I may go back to GTD. The long lists spread across several pages and then all the rewriting seems to be too much work for me.
    I think I am "stuck" on having contexts divided out in my Circa notebook, and it just seems to flow better for me.
    Any feedback or comments is appreciated.
    Have a great day!!

  • #2
    I've just started GTD a few months ago. I heard something about Mark Forsters method and read a short introduction. What amazes me is the idea to go and read/rewrite your complete tasklist over and over again. It makes me think of what i used to do in my outlook window ... clicking through all the emails and not deciding .... And that's not a good memory !

    Why did you want to try something else than GTD ? Did you fall of the wagon too often ?

    Frans

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by gator View Post
      Hi,
      I've been working with GTD for about 5 years now and stumbled across the Autofocus (AF) by Mark Forster.
      Has anyone here experimented with it and if so any feedback?
      I've tried it for a week now, but I think I may go back to GTD. The long lists spread across several pages and then all the rewriting seems to be too much work for me.
      I think I am "stuck" on having contexts divided out in my Circa notebook, and it just seems to flow better for me.
      Any feedback or comments is appreciated.
      Have a great day!!
      Hi gator,

      Like you, I am a long-time user of GTD. I first heard about Mark Forster on this forum. I have been using Autofocus since the first week of January. My experience thus far is that Autofocus can be used quite effectively as an adjunct to GTD.

      David Allen sometimes has characterized GTD as a bunch of "tricks." Well, Autofocus is a trick that gets me motivated to do things.

      When I first started GTD, I felt great. I had never been so organized in my life. I've stayed organized with GTD ever since. But I still procrastinated a lot and wasted a lot of time. My system documented all my commitments, but it could be intimidating and I would resist doing the NAs that my system contained.

      Autofocus contains a series of clever psychological tricks that keep me active. It's the best method I have ever tried for overcoming procrastination. (I tried Neil Fiore's The Now Habit, but it didn't work for me.)

      Autofocus was conceived independently of GTD and most of its practitioners are not GTDers. My stance is to use many of the GTD collect, process, organize, and review habits I've cultivated over the years and and integrate them with Autofocus's motivational methods.

      I still procrastinate. But my procrastination now is less than 1/3rd of what it was before Autofocus.

      My test for any method is "Does it work?" Adding Autofocus to GTD worked for me.

      I would add that the primary benefit of Autofocus is that it motivates me to do things. With GTD I was collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing. But I wasn't satisfied with how I was doing. If you are satisfied with how you are doing, there is no reason to try Autofocus.

      Comment


      • #4
        Autofocus

        I paid attention to Mark Forster's methods because I had problems with stuff staying on my lists longer than it should have. His closed list approach, creating a new closed list every day for the Do It Tomorrow system, seemed a method to force me to do it.

        It didn't really help. I figured a low priorty item on a closed list or an action list should still be put off until I am totally out of more useful stuff to do.

        I think I was misusing the action lists - much of what hung around should have been someday/maybe rather than on an active list. As David says, if it is on an action list, you should want to get it done as soon as possible. Just the fact that it remained there was evidence that I didn't really want it done all that much.

        Autofocus seems to be creating a closed list on each page. But rather than finish the list, you would scan a list to find what appealed to you in the moment and work on that for as long as you wanted, then find something else that appeals to you. When you have scanned the entire list, you go to the next list with undone items.

        It seemed to me just like a list of actions (although not necessarlily defined down to the next action level), with limitations on the method you would use to scan it (ie move from list to list in order). The GTD scanning of the entire list to find something you can do with the time and energy you have at the moment seems more reasonable.

        When I noticed that the last instruction for AutoFocus was to have a different set of lists for each location (home, work, whatever), it sounded so much like just context lists that I surrendered.

        And I never really could get it to work on a pda very well the way it is described (I gave up on paper long ago - it becomes very messy very quickly in my hands).

        I enjoyed reading DIT, and imagine I will still pop over to the MF site from time to time. But mostly I will work on improving my implentations of GTD...

        Comment


        • #5
          What "level" of action goes on this list?

          Are you putting on next actions, the overall project, or what?

          What sources do you use to populate the list, just your thoughts or your project reference files or your lists of routines?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by gator View Post
            I've been working with GTD for about 5 years now and stumbled across the Autofocus (AF) by Mark Forster.
            Has anyone here experimented with it and if so any feedback?
            I looked at it, but it's not really amenable to an electronic system. I do have a someday/maybe action to consider how it could integrated into GTD and Omnifocus.

            I do think MFs ideas are interesting keep up with his blog.

            - Don

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jsreed View Post
              . . . As David says, if it is on an action list, you should want to get it done as soon as possible. Just the fact that it remained there was evidence that I didn't really want it done all that much.

              . . .Autofocus . . . seemed to me just like a list of actions (although not necessarlily defined down to the next action level), with limitations on the method you would use to scan it (ie move from list to list in order). The GTD scanning of the entire list to find something you can do with the time and energy you have at the moment seems more reasonable.

              . . . And I never really could get it to work on a pda very well the way it is described (I gave up on paper long ago - it becomes very messy very quickly in my hands). [All emphases by moises]
              To jsreed:

              I agree. If a NA is in my trusted system, I should want to get it done as soon as possible. Yet I wouldn't do it. This is called "weakness of will." It shouldn't happen. Yet it did happen with me. Autofocus helped me precisely because I suffered from weakness of will.

              I also agree that the GTD method is more reasonable. Autofocus adds a whole new layer that no reasonable person would need. A reasonable person would put a NA in their system and do it. A reasonable person wouldn't suffer from weakness of will. A reasonable person would have all the motivation she needed top keep working solely from reminders in her trusted system. But I was not a reasonable person. I would rationalize avoiding my NAs.

              Lastly, someone wrote a very nice, simple, free, web version of Autfocus that I use on my pda. Go to autofocus.cc.

              To Jamie,

              Mostly, I populate my Autofocus list from my thoughts. Sometimes I look at my project lists to find another action to add to my Autofocus list.

              The items I populate my list with can be project names or actions. If I do any work on the project or action, I get the reward of crossing the item off my list. If I decide that there is still more work to be done, I add that additional stuff to the last line of the list.

              For years, I would read David Allen saying that you can do some of GTD or all of it. And he meant it. He meant that it was OK to do some of it. I kind of thought that he wasn't really getting his own system. Didn't he understand how the benefits skyrocket when you do it all the way it's supposed to be done?

              I now see that David was right all along. Melding Autofocus with GTD is not orthodox GTD. But my litmus test has never been the purity of the method. It's been what works. GTD got me collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing. Those are all very important activities. Autofocus got me doing. I really shouldn't have needed Autofocus. I should have been motivated internally. But I wasn't so motivated and it turns out I did need Autofocus.

              Just as it helps to get our internal thoughts outside our heads onto our trusted systems, it helped me to learn to rely no longer solely on internal motivation to get things done. Now I also get my motivation from the enormous satisfaction I feel when I cross an item off my list. And the frisson of pleasure I receive when I get to mark an entire page as completed . . . well, you just have to experience it yourself!

              Comment


              • #8
                The AF methodology sounds interesting at first glance, but in my opinion it suffers from so many time management schemes out there. They are addressed toward managers and executives but not the grunts who do the actual work.

                I do not have the luxury of being able to define either the importance or urgency of tasks, so tradition priority schemes do not work. Also, the boss changes direction every other day and throws the priorities out the window. Using tradition methods I would waste considerable time rewriting priority lists several times a day.

                The beauty of GTD is that in is an "average". (At least that's how I look at it). Over the course of a few hours or even a few days, you might have made some "bad" decisions about what is the absolute "best" thing to do at any given moment. However, over a week your average is good, over a month, it is even better.

                Also the manager and other do not do the grunt work. My action list at work has well over 100 items, the list at home has even more. My boss has about 10 ("Look at how much *I* have to do", he says). The biggest issue is that 4 of those are meetings, 3 are follow-up calls to customers or vendors, and the last 3 are proposals to write. It's easy to set priorities and re-write lists when things are at this level.

                As I grunt, I do not have the luxury of working on things for "as long as I feel like it", nor can I "dismiss" actions because they don't "jump out." Also, from what I have seen, it is not very good at working through projects (multiple actions). (or perhaps just not as good as GTD) Also when I work late and am tired, GTD allows be to find a few 2-minute items to do before I start to unwind. I don't have huge lists to process. I just look for 2-minute items that I can do in my Home context and do them.

                For me there are two huge advantages to GTD. I am ADD and AF is much too "autofocus" for me. That is, it leads me to "automatically focus" on things I shouldn't. That happens to some extent with GTD, but it is much easier to get back on track, particularly with a decent GTD software (MLO, ThinkingRock). The second aspect is that GTD makes it easier to "fall off wagon" and get back on much easier.

                On the other hand, the system that works best for *you* is logically best for *you*. I don't use pure allenesque GTD (e.g. I still pull things out of the middle of my inbox, rather than doing everything "in order").

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jimmo View Post
                  Also the manager and other do not do the grunt work. My action list at work has well over 100 items, the list at home has even more. My boss has about 10 ("Look at how much *I* have to do", he says). The biggest issue is that 4 of those are meetings, 3 are follow-up calls to customers or vendors, and the last 3 are proposals to write. It's easy to set priorities and re-write lists when things are at this level.
                  Well, I don't know your manager, so I can't say for sure. However as a manager, this seems a very inaccurate picture of what a manager's work load is actually like. My guess is your boss is giving you his list of things he has to do TODAY, not everything on his list. Three meetings (which may include meeting prep and follow-ups from the meeting can eat anywhere from 3 to 6 hours in a day. The customer or vendor follow-up calls will likely generate additional next actions and the three proposals that need to be written are likely more accurately projects, not next actions. Oh and he'll probably have an additional 8-12 new "things to do" tomorrow.

                  Add to this the fact that your manager is also responsible for the 100 action items on your list, and the 100 or so action items on each of his other direct report's lists and you may begin to understand the complexity that your manager has to deal with.

                  Oh, and those changing priorities you mention. Those rain down from above....

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jpm View Post
                    Oh, and those changing priorities you mention. Those rain down from above....
                    Doesn't make it any better. A good manager can step up for his crew. Well, sometimes at least.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                      Doesn't make it any better. A good manager can step up for his crew. Well, sometimes at least.
                      At some point, a manager has to go along with his manager's priorities if he wants to keep his job. He can suggest, but it's not his job to make policy.

                      And if a manager takes a stand on principle and is willing to quit? (Something I would only recommend for ethical reasons, not mundane business disagreements.) Good for him, but that means his direct reports are left with the unprincipled bozo who'll do whatever upper management wants.

                      Katherine

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        AF v. GTD

                        I started with GTD over a year ago and I cannot thank David Allen enough for the boost it has given me. I still use the tickler file, and his method of filing.

                        But I have switched to AF.

                        If you like having multiple lists, other than just "work" and "home," then GTD is for you.

                        If you like having weekly reviews and can consistently keep up with them, then GTD is for you.

                        If you like to tweak and fiddle with your system, then GTD is for you.

                        If you like the five-step process, then GTD is for you.

                        If however, you'd rather collect-process-DO, then AF is worth trying. It cannot really be combined with GTD and you really can't comment on what it "looks like" to you until you actually work the system for a few weeks, just as the instructions say.

                        But what about "someday/maybe" things? You put the on the list and you'll find that you'll either start taking action on some of them or you won't and you'll dismiss them.

                        On caution. If you do try out AF, I would highly recommend that you DO NOT try to simply transfer all of your GTD lists into one new one. That's a sure-fire way of bogging down any system and driving yourself crazy. Simply start with a fresh pad (or electronic task list) and begin with the things you know you need to do today and let the list grow organically from there.

                        Or stick with GTD and give it your full attention.

                        Thanks.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Two words

                          Uber Note

                          Ok its one word really and an online application that seems like it will work well with AF

                          ubernote.com

                          no I am not an affiliate - I just started using it and the ability to take notes and capture todo's with the ability to get at them with one button is kinda cool

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Is it this that we are talking about?
                            http://www.markforster.net/autofocus-system/

                            IMHO all it is doing is making you read the list instead of staring at it, the latter being the usual symptom of overwhelm. A ritual which perhaps helps intuition. The phrases "stand out", "as long as you feel" are dangerous, and much less clear than the context/time/energy/priority criteria. Those who interpret these phrases in the right spirit will "get everything done". Others will have a lot of leakage. And talking about intuition, one of the messages of GTD is also to trust your intuition while choosing actions, but GTD makes it clear that you have to build your intuition by having clarity about different horizons.

                            And after two years of GTD, I cannot even think of adding all the "stuff" to the same list. Further, deleting items just because none of them "stood out" (again meaning unclear) frightens me!

                            May be the message is to have a good look at your lists rather than a stare!

                            MHO, YMMV.

                            Regards,
                            Abhay

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              As a GTD-to-Autofocus switcher, I certainly wouldn't say it's a complete miracle, or definitely better than GTD for everyone, or anything like that. But if you read the instructions fully, it is much more sophisticated than some of the replies here give it credit for, and it is certainly not based around the idea that if you don't feel like doing something, just dismiss it from your list!

                              AF merely provides a very different, and arguably simpler, set of answers to many of the problems DA identifies. For example, take the idea of "next actions". In Getting Things Done, as I'm sure we'd all agree here on this forum, Allen hits the nail on the head when he says that much of our stuff doesn't get done because the things on our to-do lists are not physical next actions. But his solution to this - separate NAs from projects, and make sure all NAs are really next actions - turns out to be only *one* solution to the problem. AF uses a different solution: "closed lists", whereby on each page, as the range of options progressively narrows, one will eventually be required to turn "undoable" actions into real next actions. There's way less overhead in terms of time spent maintaining the system, and more flexibility in terms of deciding in the moment what the next action really should be, rather than what you thought it should be the last time you did a review, or added a project to your list, or whatever. Getting back "on the wagon" is also so easy as to not really exist as a concept; you're always on the wagon really.

                              It is, however, a *total* mind-f*** for established GTD users, because at first it seems to violate all GTD's principles. Frequently, I have items on my single AF list that are next actions connected to a project, and also an item that is the project itself, and also waiting-fors relating to the project, and sometimes even random questions that I'd previously have put in project support material.

                              I'm not coming here to post on the Davidco forum to try to encourage people to abandon GTD. But really thinking about the AF principles and ideally testing them for a few days will, at the very least, hone your appreciation of WHY you prefer GTD, if you do.

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