Autofocus

Created by author and business coach Mark Foster in early 2009, the system emphasizes using a master to-do list to tackle boredom, inaction, lack of attention, interruptions, etc.

Since the start, the system has gone through quite a few changes, but the concept of operating with a master to-do list has remained. While the system is simple to follow, the author recommends that you categorize the tasks into four categories and start executing them in prioritized batches.

Here is the prioritized flow for using this method; You start by working on new tasks on the master list and then working on recurring tasks. Once done with those two categories, you deal with unfinished tasks from the past and finally move to clear out old tasks.

Why does it work?

  1. Classifies tasks into clear categories.
  2. Offers immediately visible results.
  3. Effective in avoiding procrastination
  4. Eliminates the stress of the planning process
  5. Increase the speed of accomplishing routine tasks

How does it work?

  1. Start by creating a master list and when new tasks arrive, add them to the end of the list.
  2. Quickly glance through the tasks on the first page without taking action on them.
  3. Now slowly go through the same page but look for task items that stand out.
  4. Work on the standout item for as long as you feel like it.
  5. If you can finish this item, then cross it off the list. If not, add it to the end of the list.
  6. Once finished with that item, repeat steps 2-5.
  7. Dismiss items that you don't feel like working on.
  8. Move to the next page when all things are either done or dismissed.
  9. Come back to the first page to review once you have repeated the process with all other pages.

Autofocus time management in action

Erin works as an event planner and has constantly been juggling multiple tasks. Sometimes she spends more time planning their execution than when she gets to the actual implementation - she is exhausted.

Frustrated, she decided to pursue the Autofocus methodology for a couple of weeks, owing to its simplicity. She starts by creating a master list of all the tasks that need to be done.

She then categorizes these tasks into four types: new, recurring, unfinished, and old. She decides to pursue new tasks first.

Post categorization, she glances at this list of tasks on the first page, and one item, in particular, stands out to her - Finish filing taxes.

She realizes that she might have to pay the penalty if there is a delay, so she swiftly calls her accountant, gathers her receipts, and files her taxes for the financial year.

Once she was done with the taxes, she glanced through the page slowly and started on the second task that stood out. She does this a couple more times before hitting a task she couldn't complete today due to general disinterest in doing it, so she quickly adds this task to the end of the list.

She also finds some tasks she is not interested in, so she marks them as "disinterested" and temporarily dismisses them. Once all the tasks on a page are processed, she moves on to the next and repeats the process all over again.

She finds it liberating not to be stuck in analysis paralysis and can now put that time into executing these tasks. Erin can now achieve a lot more and has been able to cut down on the size of her master to-do list significantly since starting.

References

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