To-Do List Essentials: How to Recruit Your Subconscious Mind

Time management expert Mark Forster's Fast Final Version Plus will help you manage your task list to a tee.


Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #521

Work As Much As You Want

When you’re working on a task, you don’t have to complete it in one sitting. Work “little and often.” Just re-enter a task at the end of the list if there’s more to do. You’ll get to it when you keep scanning forward.

Once you reach the end of the list, you go back to the previous dotted task. And when you’re done with that, you either go forward or back to the dotted task before that. So unless you decide to go forward again after working on a task, you can think of this technique as scanning forward through the list dotting tasks, and then working on the task in the reverse order you dotted them.

Reprioritize by Rewriting

If something new comes up that’s really urgent, just add it to the end of the list. Then when you’re dotting tasks, scan forward, dot that task, and work on it.

That’s also how you move something at the start of the list to be higher priority. Cross it out and re-add it to the end of the list. Now it’s available on the current pass of dotting tasks forward.

Don’t abuse this, however. The system works mainly when you’re following the rules.

Use a Someday / Maybe List

One thing's worth mentioning: this is not a “master list” that I talked about in episode 171.With a master list, you record everything you think of. With Mark Forster’s “long list,” you record only the things you actually intend to do. Otherwise all the “maybe someday” items end up clogging the list.

When you have something you don’t want in the active mix of what you’re doing now, do one of three things:

  1. Add it to a “someday/maybe” list. Somewhere on your long list, put an item “review my someday/maybe list.” When you eventually dot that item, review the someday/maybe list and if anything seems worth doing now, transfer it to your long list. Or…
  2. Schedule a specific time and date on your calendar when you’ll do that thing. Then forget about it until then.
  3. Schedule a future email or reminder to reconsider the item and set an alarm for a specific time and date. At that point, you decide whether to add it to your long list, delete the reminder, or schedule taking action.

Be Disciplined in Your Approach

In order for any system to work, you have to use the system for long enough to get into a groove. That means, always scan your list from the start and respect your dots. If you enter an urgent item at the end, still scan from the most recent dotted item up to the urgent item before dotting and doing it.

Also, don’t overload it by starting with 100 items. Start with a few items and add them organically. If you have important stuff on your old list that you’re afraid may get lost, on your Long List, add an item: “review old task list and transfer over 3 items to the new one.” 

Then you can reintroduce items from your old list at a pace you can handle.

Dealing with a to-do list that covers much of your life is easy when you make a Long List and a Someday/Maybe list. Just put everything you genuinely intend to do on your Long List, and use the Fast Final Version Perfected system by Mark Forster to go through the list, integrating your conscious and unconscious decision-making. 

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to take action to change your life, check out my “Get-it-Done Groups” accountability groups at http://SteverRobbins.com. Image of to-do list © Shutterstock. 


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.