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Anyone had a look at "AutoFocus"?

I quite like Mark Forster's time management ideas and I've been giving this system a try. Although the headline calls it "paper based," I can't help feeling that it might slip into OF rather nicely.

Anyone given this a try yet?

Sounds to me like it's more suited for an app like " task paper " .
Just Not sure how you'd implement the page divisions ? Contexts or projects maybe " page one " page two " every 25 or 30 items .
Task paper would be one long list
Honestly I think that system is designed for paper and probably should stay there .
One of the things to remember is that sometimes we may spend so much time tweaking our setup and trying out new techniques that we don't really get anything done. I'm quite comfortable with using OmniFocus and my iPod touch. I've looked at AutoFocus and have pondered how to incorporate it.

It reminds me of a time when my Windows friend would keep tweaking his PC to get "better performance" from it. His PC spent more time with its innards exposed than it did actually doing any real work. Meanwhile, I have my MacBook humming along and getting things done.... ;-)

Take a look at AutoFocus, see if it works but then move on if you haven't figured out how to incorporate or if it can replace your GTD setup. But in the end, I realized that I'm already doing a lot of similar things in my OmniFocus/GTD workflow that I can find in AutoFocus.

Here are some things I observed from AutoFocus:

Each "page" appears to be just another word for context. Mark Forster says have a notebook for each location you're in.... One for the office, one for the house, One for errands. Sounds familiar? It feels like context city here....

Then keep reviewing each list or page in the notebook you have until something stands out. This sounds more like the weekly review but done on more frequent intervals.

I'd imagine that you'll have to set your perspective views to show all remaining items instead of next actions only. Then you can just keep looking the list over and over until you finally find something that says "do me!"

But I guess the weekly review allows me to do the same thing. Of course, you can perform your weekly review on a more frequent basis depending on your demands and situation.
I tried it today and I love this approach.

In my job, I have to write a lot, and my main issue with GTD-based systems was the focus on the outcome, not the process. The most important next actions in my project lists were always process-based actions like "write X" or "work on Z" - the necessary sub-steps would not be clear until I started. So I had a lot of unfinished tasks, which is very frustrating: I kept doing other things instead, that were easier to cross of the list. Sadly, these are usually the least important bits: I do not get paid for "clean windows" (check), but for "find ideas for a great talk next week". Another reason to change to Autofocus is the simple fact that I already implemented parts of it: I always skimmed through all the projects first to decide what to do next.

By the way, I am using for almost a year now to track my progress. I spend way too much time in OF, and not enough in Word or Text Edit.

For me, the autofocus approach is a helpful addition: It helps me focus on the "do" part, and it is much more rewarding for process-based actions (checking them done and then re-entering it is great!) Especially in long-term-projects, checking things off feels great, and motivation is the biggest concern for me at the moment.

But still no reason to fiddle with paper: OF is highly adaptable.

This is what I changed today:

First, I weeded out unnecessary contexts, now, it is: "1 work" "2 errands" "3 private / home", ":-)" (for pure fun activities like reminders to contact friends, working on holiday plans etc - things I do when I need motivation). The numbers are for speedier quick entry.

Then, I changed the view bar to group according to "changed" and to sort the actions after "added".

I deactivated the project column, after rephrasing some of the next actions. I enjoyed it a lot to simplify the next actions.
For example: I want to create a poster. Before, it was more granular, like "collect pictures on HD", "Write poster text", "put it all together in keynote". Now, it is "work on poster (note: use Arial)".

A problem I found (in OF 1.6) is that with these view settings, adding a next action is a problem: often, OF would add a blank action or jump to the top of the list after a delay. So I use the quick entry window almost exclusively to enter new tasks. I changed the quick entry window prefs, so it is faster (close after pressing enter).

I already checked off and re-entered a few actions. Feels great, and I am glad I do not depand on Paper for this. Cmd-C / Cmd-F, how I love thee.

Mark Forster suggests to "highlight" items that he dismisses. I simulate this by flagging them before I click on complete.

Changing the display prefs also helped: I want my list look more like a list, so I changed the colors and fonts. Everything is now large, readable, with a higher line spacing, simple (and blue), with the only exception of due actions.

For project planning, if necessary at all, I use a minmapping application: I just want to know, to which projects my resources are already committed. The deadlines are in a separate ical Calendar, ideas for the project (and workflow etc) are in a mindmap or in separate files, all the next actions are in OF.

The biggest change is the habit: Now, I have to start at the bottom of the Neverending List, because there is no option in OF to reverse the list order.

So when I open OF, I select my context and scroll all the way down. Then, I work my way upwards.

Experiences so far (day #1):
Adopting the "Autofocus" principle has simplified my planning enormously. I want to spend less time fiddling with projects and creating imaginary plans and "ideal" workflows. Instead, I want to see a sharp increase in the time I actually spend working, and typing.

I will post an update in a few weeks, to see how this is going.

In the meantime: Thanks for the post! For me, it was the right idea at the right time.

Last edited by M_N; 2009-02-21 at 05:50 AM..
To M-N & InAccuFacts

Thanks for your explaination and the post. Since 3 days i was trying to find a solution adapting autofocus (AF) to Omnifocus (OF). It it clear for me.

See my blog (in French about GTD methods on paper, Omnifocus and my comments about Autofocus

But i dont totaly agree the way you M-N does it. There may be another solution. It is still too GTD.

My purpous is to keep the principle of GTD methods and first the projects analysis. But i am very impressed by the efficiency of mark's methode AF. I tried it for two days and did much work with less stress. So it is good for me.

The way to make contexts such as @work, @Home ... is just GTD. Mark does'nt mean that. He says that there must be a big mixt up of every items so that your brain is a bit lost and the intuition help you to make the good choice.

So my way could be to eliminate all contexts and replace them by page 1, page 2, page 3 and s.o. (I have 9 pages of 20 items). Then you can apply Mark methods read quickly on by one each item page one first, then secont time read carefuly each item and choose what is evident-do it. If not finished go at the end of last page, if there is something you are not sure to do just flag it as you said.

Then you have the best of the two methods OF and AF you can use OF for it's power, due dates, research of items or contacts, work on projects & S.O but use AF for its power and your imagination.

Well it seems to be working very well. I gonna see it on the rush on monday.

Last edited by Jupiter; 2009-02-22 at 05:27 AM..

after some additinal fiddling and being too frustrated with simulating "pages" (and how to highlight dismissed items? and how to get the software to keep all the done things visible so I get motivation?), I switched back to paper. Nothing fancy, just two cheap notepads for home and work and a third, smaller for errands.

and you know what? super-productive weekend! always-on-inbox! The added commitment of Having Written It Down! No more running upstairs and waking up the computer to check the next task... No more fiddling with the iPod touch, good bye, endless, complicated synch!

maybe it is just my poor concentration skills, but I start to value simplicity. But not so fast. what I'll do next weekend is an evaluation: How many tasks did I achieve using AF on paper instead of GTD in OF? And which tasks, exactly ?

What changes for distractible me with less exposure to the screen? I am curious.

Last edited by M_N; 2009-02-23 at 01:52 AM..
Exactly the same happened to me. I swiched back to paper. I guess i understood the reason why see my blog in french for more explanation
For those who dont speack french the basic idea is that your brain doesn'nt work the same way working on paper and on computer. others explanation on twitter search 1Jupiter (someone took my nick name !)
I am deeply impressed by the AutoFocus method. The admin of this forum should merciless kill all entries discussing it: This method has the capacity to put all developers of time management software out of business. AF might very well be the next GTD – only that it won't create much business, because all you need is a cheap notebook, a calendar and a pencil, read 8 rules and 10 minutes later you're up and running.
Well Autofocus is indeed powerfull. I have worked in parallele with omnifocus and AF and the winner is... Autofocus. Very worry about that because i indeed like OF but the fact is that except for project management in context it's less efficient. So i only use OF for project management. I tried to modify context creatings pages (see on my blog : but at the end of the day it was really impossible to handle with OF. Instead AF worked perfectly well and i had a very good vision of all my tasks and aims. I am waiting for the last version of OF 1.7 ? hoping they will do something more powerfull and easy to handle. Fo the moment i agree with "AF is the killer of any app for working days tasks and i am sad to might saying this.

Last edited by Jupiter; 2009-02-26 at 10:16 AM..
Yes, oftentimes, it is best to use pen and paper when starting on a brand new system. When I first started GTD, I stuck with pen and paper until I became comfortable with GTD. I didn't want or need the complexity of trying to conform an experiment into software. It was only until after I became comfortable with GTD that I finally turned my eyes towards a software solution.

I don't know if OF would be the best software solution for AF. OF is best suited for GTD. Sure, it can be fitted for other productivity systems but it works at its best as a GTD solution.

I would probably stick with pen and paper until after 6 months of using AF and then see how I can use OF with AF. It is tempting to try to tweak OF with AF now but it might just throw a monkey wrench into your AF experiment. Just use pen and paper for now until you feel you have mastered AF. Then see if you can find a software solution....

I can see how using AF for the runway level of next actions can work and then using OF for the 20,000 feet level (projects level).

But I personally like the ability to "focus" just on next actions instead of scanning a whole sheet of paper to look for something that pops up at me.

In a way, I am already doing the scanning as presented in AF. I scan my list of next actions to see which ones pop out to me and brings attention to me. Then I'll go ahead and do it.

That's part of AF that I do use.....

So we can all take bits and pieces of different productivity system and tweak it to our use.

Personally, I like the idea of everybody finding what works best for themselves.

If Buddhism works for you, good. Maybe Catholicism works better? Or Muslim? Whatever rocks your boat.

Heck, I've even seen Catholics also incorporate some parts of Zen Buddhism into their lives.

As long as it works.

I think I've taken the scanning part of AF into my GTD methodology and it works for me.

It was similar to how a lot of people incorporated parts of GTD and DIT into their methodology....

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