How to use Mark Forster’s Autofocus Task Management System

by Sunelle | Last Updated: 14/06/2020

Mark Forster’s Autofocus task management system is simple and easy to use. It is an analogue task management system called the Autofocus task management system.

What is the Autofocus task management system, and how does it work?

The Autofocus task management system is a simple system to set up. You list all the tasks you have to do, big or small. Don’t filter or organize the items you add to the list. Write it all down in a list format.

  1. To use the system, start reading through your first page of tasks. Just read through them, and do nothing yet.
  2. Now, for a second time, start going through your listed tasks. Stop when a task stands out to you. It doesn’t matter why it stands out for you. This is your selected item to focus on now.
  3. Work on your selected item for as long as you feel like it. If you didn’t complete it, cross the initial listing off on your list, but add it again at the bottom.
  4. Start reading through the first page again until another task appeals to you. Work on this task, cross it off if completed; if not, cross it off and write it at the bottom of the list.
  5. Continue this process until you go through your first page with listed tasks, and nothing appeals to you.
  6. When this happens, highlight any tasks left on this first page and dismiss them. These tasks were not a priority for you to complete.
  7.  After dismissing these leftover tasks, the next page with listed tasks becomes your active page to focus on.
  8. The process continues indefinitely with subsequent pages.

When you dismissed unfinished tasks from a page because they didn’t stand out to you, don’t just re-add them to your list again. Ponder whether they should be on your task list for a few days. Only add them after you have given their existence some thought and decided they still need to be done.

Mark marks inactive pages with a cross. Mark the first active page with a cross in a circle to show no active pages before this page.

Recommendations for using the Autofocus task management system

Some recommendations to consider when using the Autofocus system include:

Benefits of the Autofocus system

Mark Forster lists the following benefits on his site:

I experienced the same benefits when I used the system. Having a master task list from which to choose tasks was a productive approach for me. Initially, I was worried that I would always choose the most effortless tasks from the list, but I found that completing quick, routine tasks made me more eager to take on bigger, more intensive tasks.

How to improve the Autofocus task management system

Mark Forster later improved the Autofocus system by splitting the master task list into separate lists:

Using these lists, you start working on new tasks, move on to recurring, and then unfinished before finishing with old tasks.

This method worked well for me, even better than the traditional Autofocus system. I like starting my day with new items. New items are often completed immediately and do not need to be carried over to the unfinished list. I also preferred having the list of old tasks instead of dismissing them immediately when not done on an active page. The old list helps me remember these tasks before dismissing them permanently.

Further enhancements to the Autofocus task management system

Other users have used the Autofocus task management system in the following ways:

Can the Autofocus task management systems be used digitally?

The original Autofocus task management system was meant to be done with pen and paper. I think it can work effectively digitally, but it will depend on how you set it up. Another advantage of using it digitally is that it is much easier to copy and paste tasks from one day to the next instead of having to rewrite tasks.

You can easily use the Autofocus task management system on any task management app by having the different lists as areas or categories, you don’t add dates to these tasks.

If I have to use the Autofocus task management system digitally, I would use apps like Evernote, Notion or OneNote and make a list per day.