Earlier I argued why GTD is valuable for knowledge workers and what my GTD system is. Here is how I do my Weekly Review – a critical piece of the GTD system.
All processes in life run forward. Good processes also have intermediary checkpoints where progress is analyzed and adjustments are made. (e.g. A Scrum project team does retrospectives at the end of every work iteration – where the good, the bad and the potential pitfalls ahead are reviewed and course corrected).
Weekly Review is just that. It is an explicit weekly checkpoint in our GTD life where we deliberately stop doing the regular stuff, rise up from the life’s battlefield, take a stock of all the stuff around us, analyze the previous week and look ahead the next. We adjust, tweak and re-prioritize and take away or add stuff in our lives. It’s an ‘inspect and adapt’ activity – and is immensely powerful.
As important as the review, is the fact that it is weekly. A week is the optimal work and planning unit. Give someone two weeks for a task and it will be most likely addressed in the second week. Hence, most planning and reporting is done on a weekly basis.
My Weekly Reviews are on Friday afternoons. It’s scheduled for 30 minutes on my calendar. Friday is a good time with work traffic slowing down and I have better visibility into the weekend and next week.
Here is a typical flow of my review:
Process the physical placeholders for my captured stuff – wallet, bag-pack, drawers and in-basket and look for any unprocessed stuff – visiting cards, post-it notes, mail, receipts, brochures. Each item is processed and most are addressed right there using the 2-minute rule (e.g. contact added, reminder set up or simply shredded). As my paper in-traffic is low and I process it regularly during the week, this is typically quick.
Process the “In-tray” in Evernote – my primary virtual capture list and attempt to get it to zero count. Each item can potentially generate a Next Action or moved to ‘Someday’ or ‘Waiting For’ lists. Generally, the captured item is refined, rephrased or sometimes revamped. Multiple items can be generated from a single captured item as it’s evaluated and thought through.
Review all items in the ‘Someday’ & ‘Waiting For’ notebooks in Evernote. For each ’Someday’, I decide if its time to move it to Next Actions or create a project for it. There will be few each week (e.g. I want to sort my filing cabinet and I can schedule it in an open slot next week). For each ‘Waiting For’ item, I decide if it necessitates a reminder to be added or sent. More importantly, reviewing these lists renews my perspective of the not-urgent stuff in my life.
Process the ‘Waiting For’ lists in my email inboxes and decide if there is needs for a reminder to be sent, any further Next Actions generated or can be discarded now.
Review meeting notes for the last week, process any that I have not done so far and make sure all actions, reminders or projects are in my system. A proper structure of the notes makes this step very efficient.
Review my calendar since the last review and take a stock of how the week went. This can bring good insights and may generate some ‘In-tray’ items (e.g. Find out if you spent more time than normal last week on administrative stuff).
Review my calendar for the next week and take stock of any meetings, milestones, deadlines, tasks or travel plans. This can generate potential Next Actions, projects or items added to calendar. Here I really leverage the value from putting everything with a timestamp on my calendars.
Clean up the temporary placeholders e.g. the Downloads and Trash lists. In addition to being cleaned up, it helps in deciding if anything needs to be saved on my system (e.g. I may put a downloaded report in my Dropbox).
Go through the 20,000 and 50,000 feet stuff lists – probably the biggest value addition. These are my bigger priorities and goals. Reviewing them helps me connect the present with where I want to be. This ensures that I am on track. Almost always, it results in new projects or Next Actions added. This is where I really make sure that the “Important but not-Urgent stuff” is addressed and prioritized – as prescribed by Stephen Covey.
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