Weekly Review

The Gift of the Weekly Review

The primary reason for organizing is to reduce cognitive load – i.e. to eliminate the need to constantly be thinking, “What do I need to do about this? – David Allen in Getting Things Done

The weekly review ensures that your system stays current, keeping your tasks, calendar events, and projects in your system and off your mind.  If you encounter new thing you want or should do, but do not add them to your system, they will buzz around in your brain making sure you won’t forget them.  They will distract you and prevent you from focusing on the right thing at the right time.

To stay focused and reduce distractions, give yourself the gift of the weekly review.

David Allen likens the weekly review to the process of getting ready for a vacation.  Leaving for vacation forces us to get a little more organized.  You probably clean up certain critical spaces, go through your emails, and make sure there is nothing that needs attention right now.  You might review your calendar to make sure you know what’s coming up when you get back so that you are not surprised or overwhelmed upon returning.  Generally, you tie up all of those nagging loose ends so that you can relax and enjoy your break without sudden panic that you’ve forgotten to do something important.

How would your everyday life be different if you did that every week?

What is the weekly review?

In a weekly review, you would:

  • Review your calendar for the next 2-3 weeks, adding any tasks as needed.  Need to take food to a friend’s party?  Add it to your grocery list.  Need to make a packing list for an upcoming trip?  What do you need to do to prepare for that meeting next week?
  • Review your Current Projects List.  How many projects are you currently managing?  Are there too many?  Can you move any of them to Someday/Maybe?  Do you need to add a new project that just came onto your radar?  Next make sure that, for each project, you have at least 1-2 next actions in your contexts.  Just because you made Christmas a project, doesn’t mean you will make progress on it unless you actually start doing something.  What’s your next action?
  • Review all of your Action Items in your contexts.  Ideally, you look at these every day when making your Top 3 Card.  But if it’s been a day or two, take a look through them.  You might be able to check off a few!  You might see something that needs to be done pronto.  It’s good to just look at them once a day or so.
  • Go through your emails.  Email just may be the devil’s tool to keep us from doing anything real with our lives.  Do I hear an Amen?  Ok, maybe not, but it can certainly drain vast amounts of time from our lives if we let it.  We haven’t talked much about email but we need to, don’t we?  I feel a new series coming on.  In GTD – don’t freak out – Allen recommends getting your inbox to zero (yes, 0) and getting there again every week during the weekly review.  This is doable.  If I can get to zero from over 1500 unread and thousands of other emails simmering in my inbox last summer, you can too!  But you don’t need to do this right now.  Just look through the past week’s worth or so and make sure that you take care of anything that’s really important, making action items for those that take more than 2 minutes to complete.  If you think this is an overwhelming area for you, set a timer for 15 minutes then stop.  And perhaps add a recurring daily reminder to just spend 15 minutes a day cleaning up your inbox.
  • Do you have stacks of papers and piles of things that need to be trashed/filed/done?  Quickly go through them, adding or doing (if less than 2 minutes) tasks.

This may seem like a lot to tackle every week.  Who has the time, right?

The saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.

It may be counterintuitive, but it’s true that spending time in this area will SAVE time in the long run.  Just like expending energy by exercising INCREASES your energy, spending some time planning and getting your affairs in order makes you MORE efficient.

I have personally seen this to be absolutely true.  When I take the time to do a weekly review, I easily recoup that time and more in errands alone.  I can add items that I need for upcoming events to my shopping list so that I remember them while I’m at the store – or better yet, add them to my Wal-Mart pickup cart or order them from Amazon.  I can see that my son needs new boots for an upcoming trip and order them in time so that I don’t spend an entire afternoon running around town looking for them at the last minute.  And I can spend a few focused minutes in email to make sure that I’m keeping commitments to other people and processing emails efficiently.  This keeps me from having to dig through my email to find the time for that upcoming event yet again.

Give yourself an hour to do this once a week for the next couple of weeks and see what benefits you reap.

Here are some ideas that may be helpful in implementing the weekly review:

  • The more consistent you are, the easier these areas will be to manage.  It will take less time as you go on.
  • Set a timer for an hour, or maybe just 50 minutes with a little break at the end.  When the timer goes off, stop.  You may not have gone through your whole list, but next week you’ll go a little further.
  • If spending an hour once a week just seems impossible, you could try to break up each of the review areas (calendar, projects, action items, email, papers) and review one a day.  Set up reminders on your phone or plan to do it the same time each day so that it doesn’t get away from you.
  • Find a way that works for you.  Remember that – unless your system is reviewed often and kept current – you will still have those nagging tasks working in the back of your mind distracting you.

Have you tried the weekly review or are you planning to try it?  Do you think this would be helpful to you?  Leave a comment below and let me know!