The ‘hot and ready’ style of checklisting.
I am not generally interested in time-management or productivity
systems—because I enjoy being such a mess—but this is a case where my study of
algorithms kicks in. The Fast FVP system—formerly the Final Version
Perfected, previously Final Version, née AutoFocus—is an algorithm by
Mark Forster for
determining what to work on, given a large list of tasks. (However, since none of
those names are descriptive, I think of it as the ‘hot and ready’ system, when
I explain it to someone.)
It is based on the question: “What do I want to do more than X?”
The algorithm looks like this:
- Put a dot next to the first item on the checklist.
- Ask: Am I ready to do X now?
- If so, you’re done: stop and do it.
- Ask: What do I want to do more than X?
- Scan the list until you encounter a subsequent item which is more appealing.
- Dot the item. It is now X.
- Go to step 2.
And then, of course, you come back to the list later and cross off a completed
item (re-adding it to the bottom
of the list if you have remaining work to do on it) and run the algorithm again.
As mentioned, the development of the algorithm has gone through several
This reminds me very much of the recent trend to discover better hashing
even extending to things like PageRank or YouTube’s curation algorithms.
What I like about Mark Forster’s approach is that he took the existing
algorithms (many involving day planners or things like the GTD processing
and simplified the algorithm down to its bare essentials, never straying from
its core emphasis: ‘psychological readiness’.
This is where FVP really enters new dimensions. By using a pre-selection
process, the brain is softened up towards the selected tasks. But this isn’t
all. The selection process is based on what you want to do. This colours the
whole preselected list so that even tasks which seem like chores get affected.
It seems that, once simplified (made primitive?), an algorithm can then be played
with, to try to reconfigure its simple pieces to align it closer to the ideals
behind it. I make note of this approach so that it can be applied
to the algorithms I (or we) are working on curate links or to orchestrate a
I also like that this is an algorithm designed for human software. While I
sometimes use ‘recipes’ or manual processes as an analogy for algorithms, I like
that this one is entirely mental/psychological—it seems perhaps unique in that
regard. It is designed to be ‘loaded’.