gRegorLove little g big R


Historically, I have considered myself a fairly organized person. For whatever reason, I have lost some of this over the past couple years. Working at home probably does not help matters. In my free time, I often find myself thinking of all sorts of little things that I need to do. There can be so many of these, though, that I do not know where to start and/or I quickly lose motivation.

I have always been intrigued by the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodologies out there. It's quite a hot topic and there are tons of ideas for how to best accomplish your tasks. That said, I have never really dug deep into any of them or tried any very successfully. Several months ago I came across a method that really caught my interest, though. It seemed simple and it “rang true” to me for some reason.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark it. I also forgot the name of the author and only remembered the basic details. Searching the Internet for “GTD” with only some basic details returns about a million results. It was a difficult task to track it down, but I finally did.

Task #1 on my list was to bookmark it this time. Success. Man, this GTD stuff is working wonders already.

It's the Autofocus System by Mark Forster. The quick start explains:

The system consists of one long list of everything that you have to do, written in a ruled notebook (25-35 lines to a page ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. You work through the list one page at a time in the following manner:

1. Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action on any of them.

2. Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.

3. Work on that item for as long as you feel like doing so

4. Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t finished it

5. Continue going round the same page in the same way. Don’t move onto the next page until you complete a pass of the page without any item standing out

6. Move onto the next page and repeat the process

7. If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through it, then all the outstanding items on that page are dismissed without re-entering them. (N.B. This does not apply to the final page, on which you are still writing items). Use a highlighter to mark dismissed items.

8. Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.

The Autofocus System (archived) by Mark Forster

Edit: appears to not be working anymore but does.

I think the simplicity of this will work well for me. No need to pre-process tasks — just add them to the list and they will naturally be refined or filtered out if they are things I am really not interested in doing. I also like the idea of working on what stands out to me for as long as I feel like doing it. Crossing out a task and re-adding it to the end of the list will have a good feel to it, I think. Highlighting those dismissed tasks will make it easy to look back and reconsider those tasks (or why I really did not want to do them).

Do you use any GTD systems or have a particular to-do system that you love?

View responses or leave your own response


Thursday's Child Thursday's Child
I usually use the “Do it at the last possible minute” method.

Tom Tom
GTD for the win. I strive for inbox zero, but it's not always very practical.

I'm tried to move everything into Remember the Milk. It has a nice android app... but I keep relapsing to using my email inbox and paper as a to do list.

The real trick is to somehow stop using Google reader so much.... but yeah, I'm no model of productivity.

This is an older post, so the public comment form is now closed. You can still use the form above to send me the link of your reply or sign in with your email to leave a comment. You can always send me a message, too.


Proud member of An IndieWeb Webring 🕸💍