Help me find this productivity method again!
March 18, 2021 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone else remember a single flat list-based productivity method? You write all of your things to do in a list (actionable next steps), and then cross them off when you work on them. If you don't finish the task, you still cross it off, but add it again to the bottom of the list. I want to find the web page that explained it and try to remember the name the author used.

A few years ago (5+ probably), I stumbled upon a productivity method which worked for me better than most of the other things I've tried over time. I remember how to do it, but I wanted to find the webpage describing it again, but I can't figure out how to search for it.

The method feels quite simple. You write a single to do list of everything you can think of that you need to do. When it's time to work, you go down the list and pick one of the things to work on. When you're done working on that thing (for now or forever), you cross that thing off the list, and if you didn't complete it, you add it to the bottom of the list.

Once you start adding things onto a second page there are some extra rules about having to either choose some un-crossed-off thing on the first page or decide that they're not really something you're going to ever do and abandon them (or something along those lines).

I really want to find the web page again, but I can't remember the name of the method! Does anyone else remember this and know where I can find it?
posted by that girl to Work & Money (7 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's Getting Sh-t Done (

From that page:
"Then, I go back to previous days and look for unfinished items. For each one I find, I draw a slash [/] through its box (indicating it's been moved forward), and rewrite it on today's page."

That sounds like what you're describing.
posted by ralan at 7:19 PM on March 18, 2021

Best answer: It sounds like a lot like GTD (Getting Things Done). There's lots of variations.
posted by jamaro at 7:20 PM on March 18, 2021

Best answer: jamaro, It's not GTD, but it was on your variations link! It's Autofocus, by Mark Forster!

Thanks for the lead!
posted by that girl at 7:39 PM on March 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

It's not either of those. I did this for awhile too, and really liked it. You don't have a daily list or categories or any of that—just literally one master to-do list you keep in a notebook. To choose an item, you sort of scan over the whole thing, looking for what jumps out at you, and you tackle that item. At some point, most of the items on your first page are crossed off, and you move the remaining items to the end of the list and stop using that page. This can also be a time of reflection: as you move undone items forward, you can think about whether they really need to be carried forward or can be gotten rid of.

I'm describing it because the first couple answerers are defaulting to a really structured kind of to-do list, and this was meant to be much more intuitive and less "increase your productivity!" focused. I don't remember using checkboxes, for instance—just a list, and drawing a line through completed items.

That said, I don't remember the name of it, either. Maybe my version of the description will help someone recognize it. I'll pop back in if I remember.
posted by Orlop at 7:42 PM on March 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

I got scooped! I was all excited to come in here and crow that it was Autofocus. Ah well.
posted by Orlop at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2021

Wow, I clicked through on your question because it's exactly the organizational method that I came up with organically during my long period of covid-funemployment.

Now that I have a job again, I make separate lists for work and personal tasks.

* Work tasks go on a page on the scratch pad on my desk. My work tasks get turned around so quickly that I rarely ever need to move anything to a new page, so the most simplified format works well for me. But it's been so helpful to ensure nothing gets forgotten or falls through the cracks. Because I'm scanning my list several times throughout the day, I feel so much more on top of my files, and more aware of my workload and whether I can choose to take on more.

* Personal tasks go in my weekly planner where one side has the 7 days of the week, and the other side is a blank lined page. Because personal tasks are more flexible and likely to get moved around and reprioritized, having each list coincide with the particular week I want to get it done works really well for me instead of a daily list. I can start lists for future weeks by noting tasks that I don't want to forget. For example, when I made an appointment to donate blood and marked it on the calendar side of the page, I also turned the page to the week before and wrote a reminder to start increasing my camel-like water intake and make sure to take iron supplements daily. Tasks that are completed get a check mark. Tasks that need to be carried forward get an arrow. Tasks that I no longer need to do are crossed out.

I have never been so productive and so organized since I started using this method. I'm so happy to see that it's actually a real thing and there's science behind it.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:28 PM on March 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Seems like you found your answer.

For others your description sounds remarkably like the Bullet Journal method (which somehow transformed into decorating notebooks)

Original Video

Notice the writing a flat list, and moving undone items to a new list later.
posted by jander03 at 9:49 AM on March 22, 2021

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