Pivoting from the Weekly Review to Multiple Reviews
The classic GTD Weekly Review has been a cornerstone of the GTD system. But it’s been a troublesome beast for many practitioners. When I started GTD and attempted to do the weekly review, I set aside a Sunday afternoon to do it. Three hours later, I was spent. It was not something I looked forward to do every Sunday afternoon. I started loathing the weekly review. Here is a short podcast from the official GTD podcast regarding the weekly review:
The weekly review is a popular subject. Here are some Guild topics that dealt with the weekly review:
The main purpose of the weekly review is to get your task manager up-to-date. Trust is important and if I can’t trust my task manager, I won’t look at it. So much can change in just one day. New events occur and renders a task obsolete or change the direction of a current project. Performing a review will bring my database back to reality and regain my trust. My anxiety drops and I can get back to focusing on my current work.
I sensed a lot of anxiety building up throughout the week because I couldn’t wait for my weekly review to come every Sunday afternoon. Breaking up the weekly review into multiple reviews with different levels of focus gives me a sense of calm. Every project, task list, or checklist needs to be reviewed at different frequency cycles. Instead of one big three hour weekly review on Sunday afternoons, I’ll break that three hours into digestible chunks of 15 minutes throughout the week.
When Do I Need To Review?
I review as often as I need to.
The General Rule: The more frequently a checklist or project changes, the more frequently I should review it.
If a checklist is fairly dormant (packing checklist, spring cleaning), I can review it on an infrequent basis such as once a month, once every quarter, or longer.
Schedule the review
Reserving a time block into my schedule ensures that I’m going to get to it. The [Due app] has been my go-to app to remind me to work on a daily review. It prompts me once every 30 minutes until I eventually mark it as done.
Time flies and I don’t realize it’s 4:30 pm until the Due app notifies me from my iPhone and Apple Watch. When I hear the familiar Due chime, it’s time to start wrapping up today’s work and go into my daily shutdown routine. You’ll find your own suitable time for shutdown. Some folks might be too exhausted at the end of the day to think clearly. Perhaps a small 15 minute time block right before dinner or after dinner would be better. I’ve learned to pace myself (especially late in the afternoon) and try to get ready for my review time.
At my local bank, the bank closes its doors at 4:00 pm. This gives the bank employees one hour to go through their shutdown routine. They review their work and reconcile anything that happened today. This is an example of reserving time at the end of the day to get some quality review at time.
The Due app has reinforced my daily review. At US$4.99, this app has paid itself over many times. There are other options including your smartphone’s built-in alarm app or other apps available at your favorite online app store.
Just 15 minutes a day
Depending on the number of projects and list to review, my typical review period takes 15-30 minutes. I found myself disgruntled if I have to spend more than an hour doing a review. Trying to do one weekly review for 3 hours was soul crushing and not something I looked forward to.
If I schedule a 15 minute time block to work on a different part of the review, I’ll eventually catch up with my backlog. Not everything has to be reviewed every week. It’s not about getting to Inbox Zero or doing a full review. It’s about chipping away at the review process and get up-to-date on the important stuff. Keeping my system at manageable size and knowing that the most important projects, tasks, and checklists are up-to-date is enough for me to trust my system.
Create A Review Checklist
One way to keep track of everything is to create a checklist of everything that needs to be reviewed. Create a schedule for every line item that is up for review.
Projects that I am actively engaged in right now (usually a Big Rock project that has a due date in the very near future) or checklists that changes daily or semi-daily will need to be reviewed once a day or every 2-4 days. Currently, I have a house renovation project that’s been keeping me busy. I have to check with the contractor every day to see if I need to buy new construction materials. If this project was dormant, I would have checked on it once a month to see if I want to start it. But now that it’s started, my review cycle becomes daily because there’s always something going that changes the project scope.
Here is a list of general review cycles I might look at:
- Currently active projects (Big Rocks) (every 1-3 days)
- On Hold projects (Someday/Maybe) (once a week to once every month)
- Inboxes from e-mail, social media, apps (Drafts, Ulysses, Bear) (daily)
- Deadlines (Due projects and tasks) (once a day to once a week)
- Calendar (daily)
- Action Lists for different Areas of Focus (home, work, church, community) (every 1-7 days)
If you need to be kept aware of anything in your life, it should belong in your review checklist. Then review each list as needed.
Planning for tomorrow is an essential part of my plan to start off the next day with a running start. I usually spend 10-15 minutes at the end of each day doing an end-of-day review. When the morning comes, I am already in action mode and don’t need to drag out my daily planning. I can get immediately start on my daily frog to eat. I look at my Action Lists and my currently active projects for tasks to work on.
I look at my Action Lists quite frequently. I have my Office Action List which contains single one-off tasks that gets updated daily. I need to review the Office Action List more frequently than something like my Homeowners Association Action List. The Homeowners Association list doesn’t get updated frequently but I do peek at it once a week to see if I want to start work on something in that list.
In addition to my single one-off tasks from the Action Lists, I’ll schedule a 60-90 minute time block to make progress in a currently active project. If I can complete at least 2-3 tasks from a project each day, I can make significant progress until the end of the week.
I look at my projects list to see what I need to focus on next week and what to put on the backburner. I have a handful of projects that I am working on each week. The Someday/Maybe projects are not considered when I go to the daily review. I look at currently active projects and see if I need to put it on hold for a while or consider revising the next actions within. Sometimes the next actions may not be inline with reality. Perhaps I need to break it down into small next actions or I can delegate them to someone else who can more capably complete the next action?
After choosing my 3-5 Big Rocks, I’ll print them out and place them next to my desk calendar. I have the active projects I want to work on and the next group of actions to work on.
Monthly, Quarterly, Annually
This is where I reach for my goals. I look for any quarterly goals or long-term plans that I want to make progress on. I also go back to my Someday/Maybe projects to see if there is anything in there that can help get me closer to my goals.
I also review my currently active Big Rock projects and see if I need to course-correct myself to get closer to my goals. In these long-range plans, I’ve found that I can set sail in a general direction and then course-correct over time. I might drift off-course by a degree or two but then incrementally get back going in the right direction. Experience has taught me that I can get a sense of where I’m going and if I’m hitting my monthly or quarterly targets. I often revisit projects and goals with my wife and work partners when I feel like I am going off course.
I have a mind map to keep me on my flight plan. My Vision mind map holds the various projects that will contribute to creating projects that will get me to the next milestone.
Do you do your weekly review? Or even a daily review? What does look like? Do you like to do one big weekly review or do you break it up into mini reviews throughout the week and month? Share your thoughts by commenting below or create your own post at the Productivity Guild!