Friday, February 17, 2012

Accomplishing Your Goals "Little and Often"

There is something very charming about a British accent. It can turn an ordinary statement into a very sophisticated one (at least to a Westerner from the U.S. who is easily amused). Perhaps that's why I'm so taken by the Autofocus System. I first learned about it through a desperate online search for "housewife help," or something along those lines. I was looking for any solution I could find to the dreaded "overwhelm" that comes with juggling all of the tasks of homemaker. I stumbled onto a youtube video, that I have since lost track of, of a woman with ADD or ADHD (can't remember which) who used the Autofocus System to get herself out of chaotic messes that periodically built up in her life. Something about this woman's cheerful confidence amidst the clutter and chaos she was surrounded with really spoke to me. She was a real woman with a real solution.

There are several versions of the Autofocus System, and it seems to be continually evolving into something new and improved, but I'm still particular to the version I first came across. It goes something like this (this is the "Quick Start" directly from the website):

1. The system consists of one long list of everything that you have to do, written in a ruled notebook (Note from Annie: each item is written on an individual line)  (25-35 lines to a page ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. You work through the list one page at a time in the following manner:
  1. Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action on any of them.
  2. Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.
  3. Work on that item for as long as you feel like doing so
  4. Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t finished it
  5. Continue going round the same page in the same way. Don’t move onto the next page until you complete a pass of the page without any item standing out
  6. Move onto the next page and repeat the process
  7. If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through it, then all the outstanding items on that page are dismissed without re-entering them. (N.B. This does not apply to the final page, on which you are still writing items). Use a highlighter to mark dismissed items.
  8. Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.
Mark Forster, the creator of the system, suggests (as do I) that you start with these steps then read the rest of the directions on his site when you're ready. I also suggest that you watch this video to explain it as well.  Just to Recap (in my own words):

Make a list of things to do, clearing everything and anything from your brain that's floating around and causing confusion and indecision. Run your finger over the items on the list without focusing too much on any of them. When one stands and and seems "ready to be done", make a dot by it with your pencil (that means you're committing to it) and do it...but only as much as you want. If you get tired of it or decide it's not time, write it at the end of the list (or cross it off if you don't want it). It's so simple, and yet so effective, for me anyway.

The reason I love this system is because it allows me to play Bingo Brain and still accomplish important tasks in an orderly fashion. And it removes the guilt that often comes when I make a plan and don't stick to it. It's a plan that allows freedom and spontaneity. It's like an unplanned plan.

I hope it works for you, or at least gives you some ideas.

How do you cope with indecisiveness and being overwhelmed?


  1. I am also a list maker. I have a little white board on my fridge where I can write down things I need to get done. Then when I find myself having those moments wandering around the house wondering what to do next, I look at my list and choose something. I find great pleasure in crossing things off. It helps me visualize that I actually accomplished something that day! Sometimes my list is basic like dishes, sweep, vacuum. And sometimes it is bigger projects that need done, or a mixture of both. Thanks for sharing this I thought it was a clever idea!

    1. I'm definitely a list person too...and yet not. I feel like I'm my own child sometimes and I have to trick myself into seeing ordinary things like tasks on a list as something new and pulling a new toy out of the closet when your kids get bored!

  2. Oh, I like this. I like it a lot. Bookmarking and will return later (errr...should I put that on my list?). I definitely get overwhelmed. Sometimes my life is a bit pile of overwhelmedness (what? it's a word) and inertia and procrastination and comfort eating. I need to get organized...even if organized in my ADD brain doesn't look like organized in someone else's brain. This system interests me!

    1. Your comment makes me happy. YOU make me happy because you make me laugh! When I was writing this post I wondered if anyone would like it or even take the time to read it, but then I thought, "There's got to be someone besides me who's crazy enough to like it too." I'm learning more and more all the time that I am not the only person in the world who has a brain full of random stuff that, when channeled into creativity, produces very interesting and worthwhile results.

  3. For some really add reason my brain won't even register the word organize... My brain is a big pile of random junks which at time makes it very hard to focus... Maybe one day, when I have enough room for all my junks as Matt calls them i'll be a more organize ( dreaming of course).

    Sorry, I am very ADD... that comment probably doesn't even make sense just random sentences :)

  4. absolutely love your blog and your talent in writing. you're amazing, Annie! keep it up!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I really miss you!