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Author Topic: GETTING ORGANIZED EXPERIMENT - WEEK FOUR+FIVE ASSIGNMENT  (Read 29090 times)
mouser
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« on: September 24, 2006, 04:07:41 PM »


GOE: THE GREAT DONATIONCODER.COM 2006
GETTING ORGANIZED EXPERIMENT
- WEEK FOUR+FIVE -


MARK FORSTER'S TECHNIQUES


The deadline for this assignment is October 8.


1. Introduction to the Getting Organized Experiment (GOE)
If you will recall, the objective of this three month project is to take a whirlwind tour of various Time Management systems and techniques, and find out which techniques work best for each of us.  We start with the belief that there is no one single best system that for all people - but rather that different people respond best to different strategies.

It is your job, should you choose to participate in this experiment, to ensure that at the end of the 3 month period, you have formulated a system of habits and techniques that works for you, and transforms you into a more relaxed and more efficient person. By the end of this experiment, you *will* have a working system in place, either by adopting one of the existing frameworks completely, or by creating your own hybrid set of strategies based on what you learn from existing systems.  That is the commitment we want you to make to yourself.  There is no room for excuses about "this system is a gimmick and it didn't work for me!" - because if it doesn't work it's YOUR responsibility to invent a system that does.

In your previous assignment, you learned about David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) System.


2a. Week Four Assignment PART 1: Learn Mark Forster's Techniques (Get Everything Done / Do It Tomorrow)

Your main assignment for Week Four of the experiment is as follows:
  • Learn about Mark Forster's Ideas and Techniques.
  • Experiment with the Techniques.
  • Decide which aspects of it seem useful to you.
  • Think about which aspects of do not suit you well.
  • Think about what's missing from these ideas that you still need.

2b. Week Four Assignment PART 2: Work on a Hard Project 5 Minutes Each Day Until Oct. 1st
2b. Week FIVE Assignment: Work on a Hard Project 5 Minutes Each Day Until Oct. 8th

This is a more concrete assignment that fits in with Forster's "Little and Often" recommendation:
  • Pick a project you have been putting off for a while and have not been able to get yourself to work on, and work on it for 5 minutes each day, until October 1st. [Update: as Mark Forster has now commented below, this should say to work on it for AT LEAST 5 minutes each day]
  • Read more about this challenge here: http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=5418.0




the following description was written mostly by nudone..

3. A Short Course on Mark Forster's Ideas

Mark Forster is a time management and life coach expert whose works are best known in the United Kingdom, who brings some fresh new concepts to GTD. 

To give you an idea of his recognition in Great Britain, Mark Forster newest book – Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management (Paperback, published in January 2006) – is ranked #214 in sales at Amazon UK, but is ranked #131,783 sales at Amazon US.  Amazon UK readers rate it at 5 stars and give glowing reviews.  The Observer recognized Forster as one of Britain’s top ten life coaches.

You may find it hard to obtain his books this week, but you can read the first chapter of Do It Tomorrow on Forster’s website (http://www.markforster.net/index.php?view=70 and the site contains other Forster articles well worth a read, as well). 

The main appeal of Forster and his techniques are that they appear to have been developed as a result of genuinely trying other more well known time management methods. He’s not afraid to say he made a mistake or found that a prior part of his system didn’t quite work as intended. This refreshing honesty helps you accept what he’s saying – he perfectly conveys that he is a fallible human being and continuously striving to find a set of rules that can be followed with a good degree of certainty.  Indeed, his books convey an evolving set of ideas, receiving ever increasing accolades.

Because of his ongoing reassessment, you can see where he has attacked the procrastination problem head-on, right at the point where you carry a dialogue with yourself on what you are going to do.  He demonstrates how to not simply plan for the months or days ahead but how to focus on immediate thoughts –– how to recognize and evaluate impulse actions that are often the very downfall of any established plan.

The crucial elements for his current methodology deal with finding the solutions for ‘‘bad’’ time-management habits and practices.

4. Closed "Will-Do" Lists for Each Day
His newest system – which accounts for almost every moment of one's task oriented time – calls for constructing a CLOSED LIST OF TASKS FOR THE DAY.

Forster asks that you be realistic about what you are trying to achieve at all times. Check how you are making progress every few days if you feel that things aren't going to plan –– be honest with yourself and ask if you are trying to do the impossible in the time allotted in your daily lists.

Prioritizing is not seen as particularly helpful because you will likely find yourself ignoring lower ranked tasks until they become emergencies. The CLOSED LIST of jobs should be reasonable to complete within a day –– this is your daily goal, simply to complete every item on the list, regardless of their order, as each item is just as valid and significant as every other item.  The pertinence of the list is that it is to be completely finished each day.  Tasks that are undone are taken control of by including them into tomorrow's plan but only if they fit tomorrow’s plan.

5. Working Little and Often
Longer term goals or projects are taken care of by assigning a special time for them first thing each day. This is to keep you focused and prevent them slipping too far off into a future ‘‘will-do’’ date. Chipping away at a larger task on a REGULAR basis helps maintain your momentum and prevents you from convincing yourself that you’ll get it done ‘‘one day’’ –– that ‘‘one day’’ never appearing as there are always other jobs.  Fitting in steps toward bigger gals before you tackle your other planned daily tasks avoids you becoming distracted or concocting reasons to escape what you should be doing.

Forster suggests the concept of having a single "Current Initiative" which is your big project that you are currently "chipping away at" a little bit at a time.

6. Do it Tomorrow and Working in Batches
A key idea in Forster's recent work is the suggestion that you "Do It Tomorrow".

The argument is that work becomes chaotic and inefficient if we are always being distracted by new tasks and swithing from one to the other constantly.  Instead, the idea is to collect new tasks and, whereever possible, schedule them in a batch for tomorrow.  The current day's "Will Do" list should be treated as a closed list which does not grow.  This makes work more manageable, and makes completing the day's list much more satisfying than working off of a growing and messy to-do list.

Forster recommends that routine tasks –  like checking your email – be done in scheduled batches.  You’ll save time by marching through a whole lot of similarly related jobs in one sitting, whereas if you frequently dip into such tasks, you’ll find yourself sidetracked and your time drained away.  It’s not rocket science but it makes perfect sense. It can increase your enjoyment of these moments of distraction to bunch them together for  completion in one sitting (or two or three sittings throughout the day).

7. Overcoming Your Unconscious Resistive Impulses
One real issue in not being able to get important work done  is that we often fight against ourselves –– Forster has a nice way of explaining that this is a battle that has challenged humans since our very beginnings (described in the first chapter mentioned above, which you can access online).  We have our instinctive, fearful and impulsive drives that still appear to dominate our common day-to-day activities, and divert us from our conscious rational desires which we would rather define who we are. Forster has clearly waged war upon these lesser traits that we still possess –– I think he’s winning or, at the very least, he’’s proven that the advantage can now be on the side of reason by bringing the conflict into the open.

He presents several tricks to overcoming resistance, some of which are summarized in an article entitled "I'LL JUST GET THE FILE OUT" and subtitled “Conquer Procrastination for Ever” (posted at http://www.markforster.net/index.php?view=23).

He recommends taking a micromovement necessary to start the task – “just get the file out” and see what happens.  That certainly worked on this article when I was thoroughly determined to feel ‘‘put out’’ by having to do what is a relatively simple and straightforward task. But I proceeded as he recommends, making a half-hearted attempt at a task and successfully tricked myself into starting, which helped me on my way.





8. Learn More About Mark Forster's Ideas
This post contains only a brief outline of some core elements of Mark Fortster's work.  You still need to read more in order to understand the details and figure out how well it will suit your needs.  Below you will find some useful places to learn more:


« Last Edit: October 02, 2006, 12:17:03 PM by mouser » Logged
Arjen
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2006, 03:04:26 AM »

I think it's worth noting that the idea of the "current initiative" is that it's meant to get projects started (get them "up-and-running") or to get things done that you've postponed for a long time. It's not meant for long running projects, things you'll do anyway or recurring things like exercise or learning a language. The current initiative runs until the goal you've set is reached, but this shouldn't take too long so you can select a next current initiative every once in a while.

Also, Mark Forster describes the current initiative as "the first thing you do every day".

So it should be the very first thing you do on a day: no first checking e-mail, chatting or whatever - just get started, and you have to really do something (no matter how small) every day!
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mouser
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« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2006, 03:07:46 AM »

Thanks for those comments arjendk, sounds like the issue of "Current Initiative" would be a good one for us to ask Forster about in the interview.
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momonan
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« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2006, 06:44:32 AM »

I think the hardest part -- and probably the most important -- is the notion of doing it FIRST THING.  How many of us have had it in our minds, since arising, to do that 5 minutes -- all day.  Night closes in and we have hardly thought of anything else all day, but still haven't done it (5 minutes is all, and we haven't even been able to do that).  Two problems with this:  first, we haven't made any progress.  Second, it has occupied our minds all day, interfering with other activities.  This will be the hardest part for many of us.  Gotta have that tea, that email, that news.  Just let me do that first.  THEN I'll get to it.

If I'm going to meet the 5-minute-a-day challenge, I can see I have to chain myself to the bed and not let myself up until I have put in my 5 minutes on THE PROJECT -- and just "thinking about it" doesn't count.

Another thing that I hope will help is to set a small, identifiable goal to reach.  Not, "finish the article," but "finish the paragraph on ..."

I can see that another advantage of doing the 5 minutes first is that you really do have time to do more, if the mood strikes you.  The disadvantage of putting it off -- in addition to it cluttering your mind all day -- is that you really don't have time to continue with it, even if you wanted to.

Well, it's not the first of THIS day, but it's close.  Off to do my 5 minutes . . .

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mouser
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« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2006, 07:13:41 AM »

well, let me suggest that i had almost the opposite insight about the "little and often" and 5 minutes per day thing.

i found that i put it off until the evening, and then ended up doing about 15-20 minutes.

but here is what i realized - yes i put it off to the last minute, as usual.  BUT the key was that the "last minute" now became the difference between doing it in the morning and doing it in the evening (ie 12 hours difference).

in the scope of a larger project that difference is meaningless.

my point is this: if i'm always ending up putting things off to the "last minute", then the beauty of actually SCHEDULING some work time on a project every day, is that even if you put it off to the last minute, your really only putting it off 12 hours.  wheras if your todo list says "write article by Dec 25th", then the "last minute" is 3 months away and leaves you with only a day to do it all.

so i'm going to embrace this idea of scheduling some work time each day, and not worry about doing it "first thing"; i'll let myself put it off till the last minute of the day for now.

by the way forsters trick worked for me, at least for my first try at faking myself out by saying "i'll only work on this for 5 minutes" - once i got started it was trivial to work for 15-20 minutes.  it's that first minute that's the hardest.
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momonan
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« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2006, 07:59:55 AM »

One of the things I appreciate about app103's InstantBoss http://www.appsapps.info/ is that I can set it for 15-30 minutes of work and then an enforced break.  I figure I can hold my breath for that long, then when the break buzzer sounds, I stop even if I'm in the middle of a thought.  During the 5-minute break, I can rush around like crazy (check email, make coffee, straighten up), before the "ah man" calls me back to work (yes, I usually want to get back, so I can at least finish my thought).  Repeat 3 times, then FREEDOM.
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2006, 07:19:07 AM »

The Forster 5 min "rule" is similar to the Allen's 2 min rule: the numbers are relative.
The first says: "Start your day doing something with the main project in hands". The second: "Deliver stuff quickly and come back to work".

If you feel in the right mood to go beyond the first 5 minutes in your main project, you must go on. Do not lost momentum. If fact, as David Allen said, once you start something (may be a little reluctant at the beginning), it is quite possible that you get engaged with the task.

In any case, if your plan of the day is broken, at least was because you were working in something that really matters. I feel that this is the trick behind the 5 minutes rule in the Forster theory.

By the way, I did it today and it works very fine!

Hugo
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2006, 01:08:07 PM »

Just thinking outloud...

Forster recommends to write everything down, and do ONLY the things that are on the list. This simple thing has proven to be incredibly difficult for me: I tend to do many things (called random distractions probably) that are not in the list.

If you write, a posteriori, the things you did on a day, and then look at your closed list for that day, it may not look very similar.

I guess this is the part where one has to create the habit... and keep trying...
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nudone
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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2006, 01:42:23 PM »

i have the same problem - and i bet it's very common. as Forster says in DIT, people find it almost impossible just to do one item that they planned the night before.

i gave up writing a short list of 'will-do' things the night before because i only completed it once out of about a weeks trial.

why is it so easy to fail. well, i'm stepping into the realms of philosophical gobbledygook but i think you are a different person when you wake up the next day - i have been making 'best intentions plans' for years - just before i retire to bed. can't really think of many that i ever got on with the following day.


one thing i do think is crucial that Forster touches on - don't do anything on impulse. think about it first then act upon it. as you mention, he says to write everything down first. but this isn't really practical for a lot of impulse thoughts/actions (maybe he doesn't say to write everything down, i've forgotten).

one thing i'd like to propose we all try at some point during the experiment which i think will demonstrate to ourselves just how out of control we are (or not, if you have a lot of will-power)...

taking Forster's 'delayed action upon impulse thoughts' idea a step further - try attempting to override a bad habit you posses. if you are perfect then fair enough, you won't be able to try it, but for the rest of us mere mortals i suggest you try and restrain a bad habit - just pause before you act upon it. think about it and then make the choice to not carry it out. see if you can - AND if you can, then see if you can do it regularly.

i've been trying it and i can manage about a day or two. i think it's a good 'strength' building exercise to develop greater will-power and self-control - which are going to benefit you controlling other impulse thoughts. let's face it - if you can override a bad habit you've got a good foundation to build upon for other tasks you set yourself.

« Last Edit: September 27, 2006, 01:48:22 PM by nudone » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2006, 07:10:34 PM »

Quote
The deadline for this assignment is September 31.
30 days hath September, ... tongue
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2006, 07:12:06 PM »

damn you september!!
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2006, 01:04:07 PM »

Actually my 5 minute rule is completely different from David Allen's 2 minute rule. His rule is in order to help you separate things you should do immediately from things you should do later.

My rule is in a completely different context. You work at the Current Initiative for at least 5 minutes.
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2006, 03:27:24 PM »

Mark, welcome to the site!  Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup Thmbsup

Great to have you stop by  smiley

I have to say that i have been very pleasently surprised by the effectiveness (at least so far) of using your techniques for just getting yourself to start working on a project (ie telling yourself "i'll just open the folder", or telling yourself "i'll just work on it for 5 minuts").  It's amazing how much resistance your mind can drum up against starting to work on something, and figuring out a trick to jump start the process really does help.
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mouser
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2006, 03:29:37 PM »

Mark, if you have time to glance through our summary above and add any comments on stuff you think we may have missed or gotten wrong, you'll probably save some people some heartache.
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2006, 04:21:14 PM »

Ok, Mouser! I'll do as you say...

The 2nd assignment should be work on a project for at least 5 minutes a day. The idea is that you set yourself a small daily goal (I'll work on my project for at least 5 minutes) rather than a big one (I'll work on my project for three hours). That way, you are much more likely to do it. Once you've started you may or may not go on to do much more work than 5 minutes, but either way you have chalked up a success and kept the project alive. When you keep moving on something it tends to create its own momentum. When you stop moving, it tends to die.

I think the summary is a very good one. I wish I could sum it up as succinctly!

The paragraph on the Wikipedia article beginning "However some critics of time management methods consider..." was written by me. The following paragraph is not!

Finally, my website is in the process of being relocated at the moment. If you can't get through to http://www.markforster.net than try http://www.markforster.squarespace.com. In fact, look at it anyway - it's much better laid out!



« Last Edit: September 28, 2006, 04:23:28 PM by markf » Logged
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2006, 12:45:33 AM »

just wanted to welcome Mark to the forum - i was wondering who markf was and his five minute rule - i would never have guessed it was the Mark Forster.

it's fantastic to have you around, Mark. i hope you have time to visit again (and again).
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2006, 04:58:19 AM »

Thanks for your welcome. I will have a look at the forum daily for the next few days and see if there is anything which I feel I can usefully comment on.
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2006, 02:18:17 PM »

Mark, it is great have you here almost "on line" and with a good will to answer questions.
In my case I would like to know if you use paper, computer or a combination of these methods to do your plan.
Some advice?

Thanks
Hugo
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2006, 02:20:29 PM »

just a quick note: if mark prefers he might just wait until the interview to answer these questions.. might be easier in effect to "batch" all the questions at once and get them out during the interview smiley  more questions for the interview here: http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=5248.0
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2006, 03:39:20 PM »

I think we already have about three hours worth of questions for the interview!

In answer to Hugo's question, I tend to use paper. I just find it faster, more convenient and less impersonal than trying to enter tasks on a computer. That's my personal preference, but my methods will work just as well on a computer.

And by the way my website www.markforster.net has a discussion board on it. So you can continue to ask questions long after this assignment has passed away!
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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2006, 11:01:02 AM »

Thanks, Mark.
I will do a real inmersion in your website!
Hugo
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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2006, 11:31:17 PM »

I would like to welcome Mark Foster, too. I am "in love" with his book. I've read five chapters so far but I am surprised by its effects. I hope is not due the novelty. I 've been following his newslletters for two years. The book presents a new approach to conquer discipline...the easy way.

Curiously, I don't see myself more productive or moving fastly. No. It seems I am learning to deal with tasks and time. As he says,  I can't put too much in my plate.
It seems I am learning to be more reliable (to myself, at least).


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« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2006, 02:14:27 PM »

Ok, here is some thinking outloud.
I'm reading this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Dis...84122?ie=UTF8&s=books

It basically says that we humans spend most of our time focusing on our weaknesses, trying to compensate for them, fix them. And this is a mistake. Buckingham defends that one should focus on his strengths, and develop those.

He proposes that we don't even have a good vocabulary to describe strengths (whereas we have loads of words to describe weaknesses: e.g., mental illnesses, etc). He has 34 factors that supposedly comprise the entire strength spectrum. And most people don't even know what their strenths are (so he has a test, and a website, to find your 5 best 'factors').

Anyway.

The thing is that, if we are here, one of our weaknesses is time management.
And according to this book, it is totally not worth it to try to fix it... we should instead focus on those things we do really well, and develop them even more.

What he says makes sense (although I can see flaws too). It is true that if you have no talent for example for dancing, you can spend many hours taking classes, and improve little. The same time/money, allocated to one of your strengths, could take you a long way.

This is making me think, as I have lots of activities I spend time in but I'm not particularly gifted.

I wonder how Mark Forster would see this. In my short experience, learning and sticking with a system like DIT will pay dividends, even for the chronically disorganized. On the other hand, the same time/effort could be allocated to something you actually do well (you are a 'natural') and would take you further.

I can remember that, in GED, the tale mentions boots that are not mended and horses that go lame because of lack of time allocated to the 'little things'. I wonder if following the advice in the strengths book would lead to umbalanced people with broken boots and lame horses smiley

 
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« Reply #23 on: October 03, 2006, 12:59:15 AM »

i'll have to read the book but my first reaction is too say, perhaps activities can be done simply because you enjoy them - regardless of how well they are done.

this is a flippant remark for me to make, so i assume there must be more to the idea than merely doing what you are good at.

i'd guess it's how you define your goals/satisfaction. if you are doing a task in the hope it will make you become wealthy but you are absolutely terrible at the task then i'd agree you need to stop it - that's almost insanity. the problem might be that you just don't know that you are terrible at the task - isn't it true that humans tend to believe they are above the average at (almost) everything they do - this impossibility escapes our reasoning.

i'll certainly have to read the book...
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« Reply #24 on: October 03, 2006, 05:30:49 AM »

I've just read the bit in Do it Tomorrow about filing. (Chapter 15 -Sorting Out Systems - under the headings "Working from Home" then "Filing")

Mark recommends using Lever-arch folders instead of suspension files.

It makes sense to me (what he says), in that with suspension/alphabetically filed things I'm often not sure where things are - is it filed under Software, Computer OR Programmes for example.

He just stacks his folders on a shelf, with the most recently used one always on the left.

Has anyone tried this out ?
I'm wondering as well how to group the stuff that's to be filed ... e.g. Finances is an obvious one & depending what line you're in you could break that down - I'm going for "Current Year" & "Finances General"
But with other stuff - especially scrappy bits n pieces I'm not sure how to go about it.

I guess whatever I try, as I work with it, it will evolve .. smiley
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