Monday, August 8, 2011

013 GTD Weekly Review

Are you doing a GTD weekly review? If not, you are missing out on getting the clarity that you need on all the commitments you have made. Today, I wanted to talk about the evolution of my weekly review and share with you some ideas on how to get started doing your weekly review and some other ideas I have at mastering the process. As usual, you can probably guess that I suggest you get a checklist going. At first, I wouldn't make your own. Instead use the one that David Allen provides and later start getting your own spin on it by putting your own specific actions on your checklist.

The first problem I encountered is that I didn't actually do a weekly review. I think that this is a natural progression. At first, I was busy working on getting everything collected and processed. I always suggest when you are first starting out to get all of the buckets set up. Then, make sure you are getting everything collected into the system. Once you feel comfortable getting all of that down, then move onto mastering processing your inboxes to zero. Eventually, you'll create the momentum you need to start making a project list to determine what all your next actions should be. And finally you'll move onto consistently doing them.

I noticed, as I think several others have, that when you first start doing your weekly review, that it takes a long time. This is because you are busy collecting, processing, doing your two minute actions and organizing. By the time you get to the actual reviewing you are well over an hour easy and often you run out of time. If this is you, then I think that you'll find some good tips in what I recommend here.

Step One: Commit to doing the review at the same time once a week

The first step is to commit to doing the review. Get it on your calendar and make sure that you keep the appointment. I like to do my weekly review late on Sunday nights. This is because I am pretty relaxed from the weekend, it's quiet in my house and I have some private time to do it. Since I work for myself, I find this an easy time and place to do it. The other thing that I like about it, is that it provides me a running start to Monday as I have already thought out what I want to do for the week.

This might not work for you. You might instead like to do it on a Friday afternoon. What's important is not so much when you fit it in your schedule, but that you do it consistently each week and I suggest at the same time to get your mind condition to getting in the habit of doing it.

Step Two: Work on your review for at least one hour a week

As I mentioned above, your reviews will probably go over an hour when you first start. You will probably feel overwhelmed. You might not even finish. Whatever you do, work on your system for at least an hour even if you only work on collection or processing. Just keep moving the system forward. What you are striving for is getting the system under control. This hour a week will help you do that. If you want to spend more time on it, do so, but at least spend an hour working on it.

Step Three: Use your review time to get your system in shape before you worry about reviewing

If you are new to GTD, you'll find that you have a lot of collecting to do. Focus first on getting everything collected until you feel like you have stuff fairly well collected. I know at first, I was buried in paper. I had paper everywhere. I didn't have a system set up. I didn't have an inbox. Spend your review time getting collection under control. Once you do, spend your review time getting your email to zero. Once you do that, spend time getting your paper inbox to zero. You'll find that slowly moving this improvement through your system will create a snowball effect and give you the mental strength to move onto and through the review. Don't be afraid to use the review time for this purpose.

Step Four: Break the review over a three day time period

When I first started doing my reviews, I eventually broke down my review process over a period of three days at a time. I would spend Friday collecting everything, Saturday processing everything and Sunday reviewing my system. By breaking up the process, it made the chunks easier to do. I didn't have a lot of stuff coming into the system either so everything stayed pretty clean by the time I got to Sunday. I had the luxury to do this because my system is at home and portable. But you probably could also figure out a way to accomplish this and it might be easier for you to accomplish.

Step Five: Start making a project list

Once I had the other areas of my system under control, I could think better. I then got a piece of paper out and had it next to me when I did the review. I started writing down projects. I didn't worry about whether it was complete. Just got one going. Next, print out this project list each time. Add to it as you go on. Remember, a project is something that has more than one step. I started with things that were pretty easy, like clients. This was an important list too because it was easy to think of, it was important to go through it once a week and ask myself what the next action was for that client even if there was none.

Next, I moved onto making a list of people I worked with and then onto other things like bills and accounts I have. Each week, my project list would be a little more complete. One of the ways I did this was paying attention to everything that came through my inbox and asking myself, is this item part of a project that is not on my list. I discovered that in my case, a lot of my projects are recurring projects and that they don't end. So when something hit my inbox, I would know already that it was part of my project list already.

Others were projects were things I might want to do. I would put those on my someday maybe list for later review.

Step Six: Name your projects accordingly

I basically have projects and then checklists. On my projects list, I like to name them with an action verb. I name them things like:

Obtain reference letters from all my clients
Set up enrollments
Create a weekly review checklist

I also have other project lists that are more like checklists in that they act like a tickler to remind me to review them to see if I need to do anything. In those cases, I just put the item. Clients are a good example. I just put their name on a list and review the list during my weekly review.

Step Seven: Break your project lists down into sub-lists

I would also suggest that you break down your lists into at least personal and professional. I have further segmented my lists as well. For example, I need to see my clients at certain times of the year. So what I did was put my clients on one list, organized by month. Then I go through it during my review. How and whether you'll divide your lists is a personal preference. As long as your list is complete is really all that matters and that it works easily with how your mind works.

Step Eight: Make sure you have a next action for every project that requires it

During my weekly review, I go through each item on the list and ask myself, what is the next thing I need to do on this project. If there is no action required, I don't put one down. If there is a next step, I make sure that it is on my list. I personally don't worry about whether I will get it done within a week or any time limit. If there is a next action I want to do for a project, it goes on my list. Mastering doing comes later.

Step Nine: Start recording all of the specific steps you take during your review and make your own weekly review checklist

Once you have gotten into the habit of doing your review every week and getting through the weekly review checklist that David Allen provides, it's time to start making your own personalized weekly review checklist that contains all the steps you take in your own personal system. I would usually get a legal pad and put it next to me when I started my review. I would then record all of the steps I took no matter how minor they were. Each week add things to the list you forgot and then move things around so that you do them in the most efficient manner possible. Print this list out and have it next to you when you do the review. I started with the basic GTD weekly review checklist and started adding my items as I identified them.

Step Ten: Improve the speed you do your weekly review

The final thing I suggest is to record the time you start your weekly review at the top of your checklist. Then at the bottom record your finish time. Your goal is to figure out just how fast and efficient you can do your own weekly review. The goal, get it done and out of the way as quickly as possible so you can move onto other "fun" things to do in your life.

So, that's how I tackle the weekly review. I have a podcast below that you can listen to where I discuss this more. This podcast is free to all visitors and available in itunes as well. I am continually adding more material to the membership area of the Black Belt Project that is for members only. I encourage you to join now to get access to it.

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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength


Nice article. I find that the most important thing for me is to schedule time on my calendar each week. I have it for Friday mornings.

The second most important thing for me to be successful with a weekly review is to do several mini daily reviews during the week. That keeps me on track and also makes my weekly friday review much less daunting.

Enjoying the site. Keep it up!

I agree with you that daily reviews keep you on top of everything even better. Thanks for the comments and the encouragement!