Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.

Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

GTD and Autofocus

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • GTD and Autofocus

    I am intrigued by the new system by Mark Forster called "Autofocus". I have visited his website and have noticed on occasion someone stating that they had been avid users of GTD but now they have left and are using Autofocus.

    I am not at all supporting someone leaving GTD, but I am curious about two things:

    (1) Is there anyone here who did leave GTD and embraced Autfocus, but now have come back to GTD?
    (2) What are the thoughts of people here about Autofocus? I realize there was a thread some time ago about this, but I am wondering what people think now?

    Like I said...I am just curious...

    -Longstreet

  • #2
    Originally posted by Longstreet View Post
    (2) What are the thoughts of people here about Autofocus? I realize there was a thread some time ago about this, but I am wondering what people think now?
    Hi Longstreet,

    Because of your earlier post, I looked at it, and figured out how to implement a variant in both Omnifocus and Toodledo. Autofocus seems to me to be a technique for processing lists using a block FIFO algorithm, i.e, first in first out in page-size chunks, with a dash of structured procrastination. Reading about it caused me to start using start dates in Toodledo, which has been very useful. I set Toodledo so that new items start today by default, and I don't have to think about it. This has been helpful for both next actions and projects in terms of motivation and planning. I have found some other benefits. When I am done with a project for the day, I can set the next action start date to tomorrow, and get on with other tasks. This is how I often prefer to work on research projects. Also, use of a start date gives me an effective tickler system. In summary, I'm not using it, but found something that is working very well for me.

    Comment


    • #3
      GTD implementation technique on the Runway.

      Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
      Autofocus seems to me to be a technique for processing lists using a block FIFO algorithm, i.e, first in first out in page-size chunks, with a dash of structured procrastination.
      I agree. It can be used as one of the GTD implementation techniques on the Runway. Autofocus lacks the "thinking" phase - you just put unprocessed stuff on your list. On the other hand it can be useful for managing clarified Next Actions.

      Comment


      • #4
        Used, back to GTD

        Although I have gleaned MANY fantastic ideas from Mark, I still always come back to GTD. For example, I used to put my projects in a Task Diary (Do It Tomorrow) which was good at batching, but didnt give me the proper filtering in the DO action category.

        In the same way Autofocus seems like it would benefit people with very little to organize, and very few contexts. What GTD provides, and what AF and DIT lack, in my experience, are the quick shortcuts to action. With GTD, all of the thinking has been done for you, and you have quick contexts from which to narrow down to. I have a hard time believing, although entirely possible for some, that if you were waiting for a meeting you would be able to pull all of the phone calls from your AutoFocus pages quickly and efficiently.

        It seems to me, that it would be MORE work to put items on one AF list like this. There are also elements to the GTD model that I love: The natural planning and the horizon models that are of value to me.

        Comment


        • #5
          Autofocus doesn't lack a thinking phase; it just folds the thinking phase into the texture of the day, instead of doing it all upfront. Likewise, GTD doesn't do any thinking for you - it just groups a larger proportion of the thinking into one chunk that you do all at once (during review, or whatever).

          I think the key difference between the kinds of people who will benefit from one system or the other is not how much stuff they have to organize in their lives. It's how interruption-based their lives are, and how much discretionary time they have. If you're always grabbing five minutes here and there between meetings, GTD is probably preferable. If you're sitting at home at a desk, writing for long stretches of time, Autofocus will far better address the key problem you're likely to face, which is not the smallness of your time window, but psychological resistance. For me - in the latter category - there's little value in doing all that next-action thinking upfront because, it turns out, just having clarity about the next action is NOT sufficient to overcome resistance.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ludlow View Post
            Autofocus doesn't lack a thinking phase; it just folds the thinking phase into the texture of the day, instead of doing it all upfront. Likewise, GTD doesn't do any thinking for you - it just groups a larger proportion of the thinking into one chunk that you do all at once (during review, or whatever).

            I think the key difference between the kinds of people who will benefit from one system or the other is not how much stuff they have to organize in their lives. It's how interruption-based their lives are, and how much discretionary time they have. If you're always grabbing five minutes here and there between meetings, GTD is probably preferable. If you're sitting at home at a desk, writing for long stretches of time, Autofocus will far better address the key problem you're likely to face, which is not the smallness of your time window, but psychological resistance. For me - in the latter category - there's little value in doing all that next-action thinking upfront because, it turns out, just having clarity about the next action is NOT sufficient to overcome resistance.
            My work is of the latter type that you refer to (though I work in an office and not entirely interrupt free), and in my experience, resistance is best attacked directly. Two things that have really helped me attacking resistance are (1) outcome focusing (page 67-69 of the GTD book, the "Making Change Stick" audio on GTDconnect) and (2) freedom from perfectionism: permission to myself not being perfect, starting lousy, and stopping when things are good enough for their purpose.

            In my experience, processing stuff up to the next actions level is not only for using those tiny windows of time. The decision making that goes into the processing takes a lot of energy, or at least a different kind of mindset, and most of the "doing time" can be spent on medium-energy-widget-cranking activity. Many times while working, I leave the points where I get stuck-up as notes to myself since I know that I am going to come back to them soon. This is yet another aspect of attacking resistance.

            Regards,
            Abhay

            Comment


            • #7
              On a second thought, it's not about energy; it's about the kind of mindset. When doing, one would like to be focused on the single thing that is being done (aka next action). If while modifying section X of a document one realizes that section Y needs to be changed accordingly, that's a bit of defocus from section X, although needed. If all one does is writes a note regarding Y and continues working on X, then the distraction is minimal and has done its job. If one follows the rabbit trail, then the possibilities are likely to explode soon, and the distraction is really dangerous.

              To summarize, I would like to say that completing next actions is vertical mindset, and processing is horizontal. Mixing the two mindsets can create chaos, and not everybody can handle that, at least not me This is why I can never think of switching away from GTD!

              Regards,
              Abhay

              Comment


              • #8
                Unclarified stuff creates resistance.

                Originally posted by ludlow View Post
                For me - in the latter category - there's little value in doing all that next-action thinking upfront because, it turns out, just having clarity about the next action is NOT sufficient to overcome resistance.
                From my experience: People who use traditional to-do lists and AutoFocus do not think enough about their stuff so the unclarified stuff goes to their lists. And this creates resistance.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                  From my experience: People who use traditional to-do lists and AutoFocus do not think enough about their stuff so the unclarified stuff goes to their lists. And this creates resistance.
                  I heard about this thread and thought I'd post my observation on using GTD vs Autofocus.

                  I went from 0 systems to Covey, and stayed with Covey, until '02. I adopted GTD in '02 and used a hybrid Covey/GTD until this year. I spent so much time tweaking GTD (contexts never worked for me), that my system evolved into something else entirely. And now I use Autofocus. The system, on almost every level, is brilliant... FOR ME. The #1 advantage of Autofocus - over every other system - is the recognition that intuition is crucial to doing quality things. All the other aspects of Autofocus are helpful, but the intuition element is key.

                  Finally, the OCD'ish elements of GTD were a tad disconcerting. I appreciate that this has more to do with the memers than the system, but the minutiae of GTD seemed to encourage this behavior.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Shoshana View Post
                    All the other aspects of Autofocus are helpful, but the intuition element is key.

                    Finally, the OCD'ish elements of GTD were a tad disconcerting. I appreciate that this has more to do with the memers than the system, but the minutiae of GTD seemed to encourage this behavior.
                    GTD may seem like OCD, but it's not. While OCD may manifest as compulsive tidiness, it also appears as a compulsion to buy, and to hoard. I recently realized that I needed to get much better about maintaining pristine systems so that I have the time and energy to support people I care about, including my parents. One of their big issues is their house, which is literally filled with stuff. Some of it has not been dealt with for decades, and it has a big impact on their quality of life. So I am particularly aware now of the aspects of GTD that Autofocus does not address.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                      GTD may seem like OCD, but it's not.
                      No tool is DSM enabling in and of itself. But some tools are more suited to (or attract) certain types of personalities. I have found that GTD, with all of it's rules and tools can be used as compensation factor.

                      Regardless, it didn't work for me. Wishing you the best with whatever system provides a semblance of control and motivation.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        "Mind Like Root Beer Float" I love it

                        Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                        Autofocus seems to me to be a technique for processing lists using a block FIFO algorithm, i.e, first in first out in page-size chunks,
                        Not so much, really. It is "first in", but not "first out". You start at the beginning of the first page but only need do one task on that page before moving on to the next page. (So unless you view "processing" as the viewing of the items on the list before picking one, most often you will skip over a number of items before "processing" an item.) After you get to the last page, you start over. So in that respect it is more like a "circular linked list". Some people have tweaked the original list processing rules and work the list in reverse order, start at the last page every day, do all kinds of things that work for them. It does divide the list into page sized chunks, but it also divides the page into item sized chunks, if you want to go down further with the analogy.

                        Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                        ... with a dash of structured procrastination.
                        I'm not sure why you say that. There is nothing in the rules regarding procrastination. The main processing rule is that you scan the page looking for an item that "stands out" as "being ready" to be worked on. That "standing out" can be for any reason, and "being ready" also does not imply procrastination. It may be that you did not have the resources you needed so did not do it before". But that said, many who love the system love it because it does help them with their so called "resistance" to doing the hard things.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                          From my experience: People who use traditional to-do lists and AutoFocus do not think enough about their stuff so the unclarified stuff goes to their lists. And this creates resistance.
                          Not true at all. Speaking for myself, I spend a lot of time planning what I'm going to do. In one respect, my AF list is much like what is called in GtD parlance a universal capture device. Everything first goes onto my AF list. Then I "process" the list ... I follow the rules to process each item. When I get to an item the "processing" might be any of the following:

                          - DO the item
                          - Analyze the item and perhaps generate other items I need to do first
                          - Decide that I will never do the item
                          - Come back to the item later and review it again

                          As to "unclarified", it is just exactly as unclarified as what is on those little slips of paper that DA advises followers of the GtD system to dump into their in boxes for later processing.

                          Perhaps you mean that some of the items left on the list might not be broken down into minuscule detail. Yes, that is quite true. AF takes whatever you throw at it. I will variously put small chunk items like "Buy 2x4s" on the list, or projects such as "build deck". One of the powerful things about AF is that it does not require you to think in any way specified by someone else. For some things I need to break it down ... for others I know very well what needs to be done next on a project so all I need to be reminded of is that I need to work on the project.

                          Someone mentioned OCD in this context. I don't see planning as symptomatic of OCD ... unless one has to plan what one does not really need to plan. So when I am ready to go out and work on the deck, I grab my drill gun and head on out. I'm confident that I can manage it without a line item for every screw

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Shoshana View Post
                            I heard about this thread and thought I'd post my observation on using GTD vs Autofocus.

                            I went from 0 systems to Covey, and stayed with Covey, until '02. I adopted GTD in '02 and used a hybrid Covey/GTD until this year. I spent so much time tweaking GTD (contexts never worked for me), that my system evolved into something else entirely. And now I use Autofocus. The system, on almost every level, is brilliant... FOR ME. The #1 advantage of Autofocus - over every other system - is the recognition that intuition is crucial to doing quality things. All the other aspects of Autofocus are helpful, but the intuition element is key.

                            Finally, the OCD'ish elements of GTD were a tad disconcerting. I appreciate that this has more to do with the memers than the system, but the minutiae of GTD seemed to encourage this behavior.
                            I have a similar background in this regard. I started some (oh 30 odd years ago) with just a calendar in my pocket. It was a small ring punch book called a "Seven Star Diary", IIRC. It had all kinds of neat pages for different kinds of things, but basically it was a "page a day" calendar with pages for a TO DO list and reference material.

                            Later, I went into the computer industry and the "in thing" was to have rubber bands on your wrists and Hollerith cards in your shirt pocket ... Oh, and colored pens ... lots and lots of colored pens) So I put a simple TO DO list on a Hollerith cards and marked priority with a colored pen ... or sometimes used colored cards ... Red for high priority, etc.

                            My first attempt at a really structured system was "How to Get More Control of Your Time and Your Life" by Alan Lakein. I highly recommend that book.

                            Basically the system was to do a massive goal planning session then break those goals into actionable tasks that could be done in the next "period" then review your progress. (Much like the GtD review, with some serious life planning attached.) The actionable tasks were prioritized with an A,B,C 1,2,3 system.

                            Some years later, I ran across Stephen Covey and picked up his Quadrant system (actually boosted from Eisenhower). I dropped the use of that because it was the beginning of making time management systems into huge OCD centric fiddly projects. I did keep the general notion of those quadrants because it made tons of sense, but it was a lousy way to prioritize in practice. (So now I intuitively note if something is Q2 and if so, I bump up the priority.)

                            I read many other books and got many other great ideas (a "grass catcher" list; a bi-weekly agenda; 43-files tickler system; keeping a chron file; etc.) All very good ideas which found their places.

                            I came across "Getting Things Done" a couple of years ago and was blown away by some VERY good ideas. The best were:

                            - Have a trusted system
                            - Keep a someday/maybe file
                            - Group tasks by context

                            Off I went to implement. The problem was that I spent more time managing the system than I did managing my life! The trusted system idea survived as it can be implemented in any way. The someday/maybe idea will always be around ... it is brilliant! But contexts ... what a friggen' nightmare. How many contexts? What is a context? What if the same thing is in multiple contexts? Do contexts overlap? OY! I went from one context to dozens and back down to one. My context is my life! That is it!

                            I heard about Mark Forester but had not gotten around to reading his books when he "published" AutoFocus on the web. In two minutes I could see that it was the answer for me. Whereas "context" was one of those things that seemed logical but would never in a million years actually work for me, the simplicity of AF shined like a beacon. How utterly simple. Keep one list, put things on it, start at the beginning, work on one item, cross if off (and add it back if not completed), throw out items you don't get around to doing ... lather, rinse, repeat. No OCD

                            Of course, being a computer guy I had to tweak and fuss with it. In the end, I have backed out almost all of the tweaks I tried because the basic idea that your intuition knows what you should be doing next, is sound.

                            The things I do outside of the list itself are:

                            - Keep project planning files
                            - Keep a calendar
                            - Keep a tickler list
                            - Keep a shopping list
                            - Keep a list of things to talk over with my wife
                            - Make ad hoc lists for transient things (like an upcoming vacation)

                            My list is PAPER and I am quite sure that it will always be so. Paper does not crash. Paper does not "boot". Paper does not run out of battery. As with the OCDish nature of some of these systems, I find that looking endlessly for the best computer implementation, of what is basically a TO DO list, is counter productive, time wasting, and feeds both the urge for procrastination and the inclination for OCD behavior.

                            So that was my journey and it exposed me to many ways of doing things. In the end, every one is just a TO DO list with lipstick!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Or, in brief:
                              When you use Autofocus you are allowed to not only have actions or next actions on one list, but also tasks, mini-projects, sub-projects, projects, goals, and questions on that same one lists. You decide what to do, think, or feel for each item when you read its reminder.

                              For some people this is a big relief, for some it's a big confusion.

                              Choose what suits you.
                              Last edited by Rainer Burmeister; 05-14-2009, 12:22 AM. Reason: too many typos

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X