The one part of Getting Things Done that a lot of people struggle with is the weekly review. That’s the part when we take some time out of our crazy, busy, always on lives for some reflection, planning and thinking. Without this weekly time, no system is complete and, I would argue, no life is complete.
The world we live in today is fast. Very fast. In the past we had time to think about and compose a letter, now we receive an email and minutes later we get a phone call or text message asking if we have received the email (I hate that!) When we wanted to book our annual holiday we had to go and get brochures, sit down and look through them and then visit a travel agent to book the holiday. It took days. Now a quick browse online and within minutes your flights and hotel are booked.
The pace of life is the biggest change in terms of personal productivity in the last thirty years and it is not going to slow down. We don’t have time to stop and think about all the inputs that are coming our way and if you are not allocating just one of the 168 hours you get each week to a full and comprehensive review of all your commitments, tasks and collected stuff, things are going to slip, get missed and forgotten.
This is why more than ever the weekly review is so important. It allows you to take a step back and gather your thoughts. It allows you to evaluate the direction you are going in and it gives you the opportunity to plan what you will do and when the following week.
I like to think of my weekly review as my time off the grid. It’s when I put a stop on inputs for an hour and get everything zeroed out. My to-do list manager, notes app and email. I also go through my Twitter and Facebook messages as well as any other messaging services I use to make sure I have not missed anything — which is very easy to do given the number of inputs we have coming at us every day. Doing this allows me to start a new week with a clean sheet. It also means everything of value is in my system, processed and I know what and when something will happen with it.
The reality is if you are not doing a weekly review you are just entering stuff into your system, adding random dates so you won’t forget something, but those dates are meaningless if you have not really given any thought to what needs to happen next. When the vaguely written task comes up, you take one look at it and push it off to another random date.
When you do a weekly review you can give each project and task careful consideration and decide if you want to do anything with it next week. You can remind yourself of the outcome you want for that project and review it to make sure it is moving in the right direction. You can decide if you want to do anything with the project next week and if not you can remove the date. This means anything dated for next week has been thought through, a decision about exactly what needs to be done made and a date assigned that has meaning because it has been assigned with the knowledge of what will be happening on that day.
How long should a weekly review take?
As long as it takes. My weekly reviews take around 45 to 60 mins. I can do it faster, and I often do if my time is limited, but I never feel comfortable doing a quick review. I always feel I may be missing something and usually give myself a little extra time on a Monday evening to make sure everything is collected and a decision made on everything in my system.
Over the last few weeks, I have been focused on writing about taking your personal productivity to a higher level. The weekly review is one of the cornerstones to achieving that next level of productivity. It’s where you find that calm controlled feeling. Knowing you have everything decided upon and knowing you will get whatever is required done on time and to a high level of quality. It also means that no matter how fast your world is, you will always have time set aside each week to review, reflect and adjust course if needed. You get the opportunity to catch up, to make sure nothing important has been missed and it means you begin a fresh week with a clear mind and ready for anything that will come your way.
The key to a good weekly review is to customise it for you. Over on the Getting Things Done website, there is a great template you can use to follow in the early days, but you need to be customising it to fit your system and your way of doing things as quickly as possible. We all have slightly different system setups and we all have different projects and areas of focus. You decide which ones need reviewing and which ones do not need reviewing as frequently.
If you really want to get in control of your work, projects and life, then develop a weekly review that works for you and make sure that doing the weekly review is a task set in stone each week. It is through doing a weekly review that everything will come together, it will ensure you are making the right decisions about what to work on and it will take you to the next level of productivity.
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