The Autofocus Time Management System – A Review
The autofocus system is billed as a Time Management System but I see it more as a Self-Motivation and Work Organization system. It’s something I stumbled across about 5 years ago, while juggling the many disparate oversight responsibilities and daily tasks that came along with simultaneously acting as technical product owner, content strategist, community manager, and end-user support resource for a high-traffic/low-budget scholarly web property. I don’t recall exactly how I found Autofocus, but I do recall that it seemed to fit me and work very well right off the bat.
In particular it seemed to rapidly solve the problems I was having keeping track of my work and projects and fit with how my brain “works” in terms of my particular ability/tendency to both deep-dive (aka my challenge of going down rat-holes) and easily pivot mid-task (aka my challenge of being highly distractible).
One of the first and best effects of Autofocus was the speed at which I was able to address and dispose of routine tasks. With the role I was in when I discovered Autofocus, I had 50-75 routine, daily, weekly, and monthly tasks for general site maintenance, upkeep, and user support. My speed and efficiency in performing those increased significantly.
For larger tasks, the system encourages an iterative approach, much like the snowfall method of writing, where you are encouraged to take small but significant steps to complete a framework for an initiative or project and then fill in that framework as you reassess and re-approach, and re-work as each time you perform work towards the eventual end state of the project. As the creator so aptly states, “The system encourages a ‘little and often’ approach to major tasks. The result is that a project, such as setting up this trial, can be dealt with over a period of time in a very methodical way.” This allows space to think and avoids burnout, especially when you’re operating and a solo practitioner. As a bonus, new ideas and insights may arise between iterations of work on the project, possibly leading to greater creativity, efficiency, and/or innovation.
The system was based purely on the creator’s own practical experience of working with systems or organization and productivity over the course of a few weeks. In general, my findings matched quite well with his own, which he cataloged as he first developed and released the system for public consumption. Its simplicity and flexibility allowed for changes based on work style and environment but in general, the outcomes are as follows:
The efficiency of choosing and completing work goes up. This leads to a general increase in total volume of work performed and a faster pace of performing that work in general. I agree with the creator’s assessment that this stems mainly from the removal of procrastination.
Stress over pending and ongoing work is reduced. Once you gain a trust in the system’s principles and allow them to guide your choices in what to do and when, overall stress is reduced because confronting stressful items and the resulting stress diffusion are central to Autofocus.
There is a natural inclination to work on what you intuitively feel is important. The system allows both the rational and subconscious / emotional side of your mind to aide in decision making about what comes next so the natural tension between the two is diffused. You will focus on and work on what feels “right,” for lack of a better term, and it should naturally, instinctively, be the thing that’s right for you in the moment – “in my current circumstances."
Image credit: markforster.squarespace.com/autofocus-system/