David Allen says that if you are not doing your weekly review, you are not doing GTD. I agree completely, and I’d like to add to that: if you are not reviewing your goals weekly, you are not focused on achieving your goals.
Every GTDer has put off the weekly review, sometimes for several weeks at a time. Every GTDer has felt the guilt of not doing the weekly review. Every GTDer, to live up to that title, needs to get back on the wagon and do the weekly review!
It is the key to the system. Here’s why:
- In GTD, you capture everything, and process it, and use context lists for your next-actions … but things still slip through the cracks. The weekly review catches all those things that slip through, and empties your head of the “stuff” that keeps your brain working overtime.
- Often, even if we’re good at processing our inboxes and checking our context lists on a daily basis, we still forget to check our project lists. This means that there might be projects that don’t have next-actions on your context lists, or maybe you’ve forgotten to add a project or check it off as done. Or maybe the project’s stalled and you need to jump start it.
- Without the weekly review, the system begins to atrophy over time, until you no longer can be sure that it is complete or even working at all. Then you stop trusting it, and soon you’re not using it at all, really.
- The weekly review clears your head and leaves you feeling calm and satisfied. Mmmm!
A weekly review doesn’t have to take long if you do three things:
- process your inboxes on a daily basis, so you don’t have a huge pile of stuff waiting for you;
- set aside time dedicated to the weekly review, and clear aside all distractions; and
- really focus on getting the review done quickly and completely.
Here are the basic steps to a weekly review:
- Pull out all loose papers, receipts, post-its, etc., and put in your inbox. Process your inbox.
- Process your notes.
- Review previous and upcoming calendar data to trigger next actions.
- Mind dump – empty your head of everything not already in the system. Process it as you would your inbox.
- Review next-action lists, project lists, waiting-on list, and someday/maybe list.
- Review your goals.
Note the last step: review your goals. This is the key to keeping your goals on track — you have to review them regularly. First you have to set your goals, of course, but then you have to review them (preferably daily, but at least weekly). If you’re not, then you’ll forget about them, and when you remember them, you’ll do some things towards your goals, and then forget again. You have to have a regular review of your goals on a weekly basis in order to keep that focus.
Here’s my best tip for doing the weekly review: make an appointment, either on Monday morning or Friday morning, with yourself to do the weekly review. I suggest the mornings because by afternoon time, you are way too busy with other stuff that comes up to keep this appointment. If you do it first thing in the morning, you can get it out of the way and move on to the rest of your chaotic day. Stick to this appointment — keep it sacred — or your system will begin to fall apart.