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.
- To use the system, start reading through your first page of tasks. Just read through them, and do nothing yet.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue this process until you go through your first page with listed tasks, and nothing appeals to you.
- When this happens, highlight any tasks left on this first page and dismiss them. These tasks were not a priority for you to complete.
- After dismissing these leftover tasks, the next page with listed tasks becomes your active page to focus on.
- 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:
- Don’t use the Autofocus task management system for tasks that has a specific due time or date. Use a scheduling tool for these items to ensure you don’t forget them.
- Use reminders on your email system or phone for items that occur on specific future dates.
- You should also list ideas and creative tasks, such as thinking about items or investigating items.
- You can use different notebooks and/or lists to separate personal and business tasks.
Benefits of the Autofocus system
Mark Forster lists the following benefits on his site:
- A significant increase in the volume of work completed. He found that he processed work faster due to less procrastination and resistance.
- Less stress. Working and completing tasks have become more enjoyable.
- A focus on essential tasks. This system uses both your conscious and subconscious minds, which helps with improved focus on prioritising tasks.
- Quick processing of routine tasks. This method allows for the quick completion of routine tasks.
- Thorough processing and completion of major tasks and projects. This system encourages a “little and often” approach to major tasks. Projects are methodically completed over some time. This also allows for ideas and insights to emerge since your mind engages with a task over time.
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:
- New: Tasks being added to the list for the first time.
- Recurring: Routine tasks that take place regularly
- Unfinished: Work has started on these tasks, but they have not been completed
- Old: Tasks not falling into any of the above categories.
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:
- Do your three big tasks for the day before moving on to your Autofocus task lists (the original list or the 4 list system)
- Another user tried the enhanced approach (4 lists) and found it helped her to be more productive.
- Try weeding your task list every few weeks to ensure it only contains relevant items.
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.