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Suggest Questions for our interview w/ Mark Forster (Do It Tomorrow Author)

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thanks, brownstudy, that was interesting to hear and also encouraging to know that you've been using these methods a while - could you please let us know just how long you have been using this mixture of techniques and whether you find it a natural thing to do now - are these just habits or do you have to force yourself to carry out the system?

i think, perhaps, my own personal problem is that i expect a single book or guru to provide all the answers even though i know this is ridiculous to expect.

Ah, geez, I've been using GTD since before the book came out. I hung out on DA's forum when it was a single ribbon of unthreaded messages--1999, maybe? Before that, I scavenged tips from books by Stephanie Winston, Edwin Bliss, and others. But they were all tips, they weren't a coherent front-to-back system that DA presents. I used GTD (or my brand of it) for a couple of years in hard-copy and on my Palm using a variety of softwares. But while I felt facile using the system, I often didn't feel that I was getting the right things done. (That's not DA's problem, I think, I just wasn't thinking big-picture enough to know what to say yes/no to. I'm more comfortable doing the fiddly stuff rather then tackling the scary bigger stuff.)

I must have heard of Forster's work from someone on the DA board 2 or 3 years ago, subscribed to his newsletter when it was a Yahoo group, and then grabbed as many of them as I could when he shuttered the group. Now he does a biweekly (?) newsletter and includes some nice little tidbits.

The Limoncelli book I came across earlier this year--can't remember where. Maybe a blog post somewhere that sent me to the O'Reilly site that had Limoncelli's Cycle chapter posted in PDF. I'd been looking for an analog way of tracking my stuff. DA has some guidelines, Forster's first and second books really don't go far enough in describing a single tool/methodlogy to use for this. Limoncelli's book--which describes his methodology and his analog way of implementing it (he has software suggestions, but he uses a paper planner)--was the key for really wrapping it all up for me.

When Forster's DIT came out, I bought it from Amazon UK and read it in July about 2-3 times. His analog system is somewhat similar to Limoncelli's (they both advocate daily to-do lists, though Forster hates the term "to-do list"), but it is a system as fully fleshed out as Limoncelli's and neither contradicts each other, I think. Limoncelli's is more geared to the interrupt-driven life of a sys admin, Forster's the office denizen, but I've cribbed from both.

For example, I used Powerpoint to create my "will-do" list, which stands in a little document holder beside my monitor. The list runs like this:

Action yesterday's emial
Action yesterday's voicemail
Action yesterday's inbox
Task diary
Check calendar
Time card
Next day's list
Tidy desk
Clean coffee gear

The "current initiative" is something I handwrite in my planner and I box it, so it's the first appointment of the day. I've gone through the above list so often, I don't usually refer to it often. But it's a great reminder. I use Forster's method for writing down tasks on tomorrow's list. But I use Limoncelli's idea of salting future pages with tasks related to long-term goals (and maybe Forster mentions this too, I don't remember).

Limoncelli also talks more about automating tasks, reclaiming the 40-hr week, and stuff that Forster/Allen don't talk about.

Basically, you know, I just throw stuff at my habits and see what sticks  :)  If something doesn't "take" for me right away, I don't always go back to try it again.

My current challenge is I have about 4-7 concurrent projects at the office, and I'm looking more seriously at Forster's "little and often" strategy to keep them moving. But I don't remember if he gives examples of how to do this (the book is at home). So I'm trying out some Palm timer alarms that I hope will help me cycle through these projects regularly so that their connections in my brain stay refreshed (now, that IS a Forster idea). I'm thinking of writing up an index card with each project's name keyword, and during the "task diary" phase above, just crank through each project for an hour. By that time, I get into the everyday stuff that needs to be done (clean my coffee pot, fill out time card, etc.).

So as you see, I take a bit from here, a bit from there. Next month, after the current crunch is past, I'll only have 1 or 2 big projects to concern me. They have longer deadlines, are amorphous, and I'll need to handle them differently. I may also start pulling someday/maybe projects from my lists in the back of my planner. And so the challenges will be different and there will be new self-management/project-management problems to solve. At that point, I'll probably pull down the DA/MF/TL books and skim them and refresh my memory about what they have to say and probably get new ideas to implement, based on  my situation at the time.

Whew, sorry for the braindump!  :)  I guess you pressed the right button.

BTW, in his latest newsletter, Forster announces he has a blog at His first post is on making decisions.

Best -- mike

mike, i hope you will stay with us through this experiment here and continue to participate in the discussions - it sounds like we can all benefit from your experience.

I have a question for Mark Forster.

Why put it off until tomorrow if you could do it today?  :P

thanks, brownstudy. i'll have to take a look at the Limoncelli book by the sounds of it. thanks for mentioning the new Forster blog also.

it IS encouraging to hear that you've get a system going for so long - can i ask, are you a 'disciplined' kind of person anyway? i mean, have you always been quite capable of sticking to things that need returning to time and time again?

i ask this as i think the majority of us are just starting out with these time-management methods, so you are one of the few that has been doing things for more than a couple of weeks - you are an example that proves it can be done.


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