Auto Focus


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A description of Mark Forster's Auto Focus Task Management System and my implementation using an A5 notebook.

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Auto Focus

  1. 1. AutoFocus Task Management System Created by Mark Forster
  2. 2. The Rules 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 (25 35 is ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. list You work through the list, one page at a ti e in time i the f ll following manner: i g er
  3. 3. STEPS 1 1. Read quickly through all the items oN the page without taking action on any of them. 2. 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. 4 Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t finished it. More…
  4. 4. STEPS 2 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 out. 6. Move on to the next page and repeat the process. More…
  5. 5. STEPS 3 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 them. (N.B. 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 8 Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.
  6. 6. this is how I implemented autofocus ! Charles Cave June 2009
  7. 7. I use a 200 page A5 notebook, notebook Fountain pen, Gel pen and High- light marker pens. Orange highlighter for completed items. Green highlighter for dismissed items.
  8. 8. I wrote my name, email address and phone number inside the front cover in case I lose the book! I have a “home” list in the front part of the book. These are my non- work tasks. * Note: private t t information has been smudged!
  9. 9. The “office” tasks are on a new list in the second half of the book I book. pasted a calendar for reference. When all tasks are completed on a page, I write an ‘x’. A circled ‘x’ means there ‘L’ means are no a lunch active pages time task before this page.
  10. 10. I stapled an index card in the back to make a pocket for p eces f r pieces of f graph paper and index cards for idea capture. * You can see a list of library books I am going to find at lunch time!
  11. 11. At the start of each day I rule a line then write today’s date. This is done in both the ‘home’ and ‘work’ lists. New tasks are added to the end of the list. When I choose a task to work on I mark it with a dot. When the task is completed I cross i it out with high- i i lighter, write the date and put a tally mark against today’s date.
  12. 12. Am I making progress? How is my backlog of work? Statistics to the rescue! each week I review the tasks and write some numbers. How many tasks were added? Count the tasks added to each day. How many were closed? Count the tally marks against each day. How many open tasks do I have?
  13. 13. Each week I calculate the number of open tasks by taking the previous week’s number, add the number of new tasks and subtract the tasks completed or dismissed. Knowing how many tasks I can do each day helps me manage my commitments.
  14. 14. If the number of open tasks is declining then I am being very productive. If the number is staying the same then I am just managing to keep up but I am not clearing my backlog backlog. If the number is increasing (danger!) then it is time to dismiss some tasks I will never do, spend more time on the tasks I must do do, become more efficient or eliminate some other commitments and distractions.
  15. 15. What about date and time specific events? I use outlook at the office to manage meetings and appointments. At home I use my emacs / org-mode system.
  16. 16. What about projects? I use org-mode at home and work for project planning, outlining, note taking and planning Org- planning. mode is an extension to the emacs editor. I transfer relevant information t nf rm t n to the notebook – printed or hand-written.
  17. 17. The payoff? All my tasks are captured and accessible in one place. I kn know what I ha e to do each hat have t d day. The system is simple to set up, simple t s mp e to use, portable and use p rt b e nd doesn’t need batteries or the internet. Minimum stress knowing I haven’t forgotten anything.
  18. 18. More information? Autofocus forum Ask me: