Organising Your Life [PART 7] The Review

This is part 7 of a series of posts I am doing on getting yourself organised and being able to take control of your life. You can read the first six parts here:

Part 1 - Organising Your Life
Part 2 - Choosing the best tool
Part 3 - Collecting everything

Part 4 - Processing your inbox

Part 5 - contexts, tagging and labels 

Part 6 - Setting up a project

In the previous six posts on getting yourself organised, I have written about setting up your system as well as collecting all the routine tasks you have to do each day / week / month and putting them into your system. I have also covered creating your contexts to help you better decide what to do, when and where. and last time I showed you how to set up a simple project.

In part 7 I want to go through the cornerstone of any system and that is the review.

However well organised you are, and whatever system you use to keep yourself on top of all your commitments, none of it is of any use to you if you don't get things done. This is one of the reasons you need to keep your system as simple as you can. The purpose of developing a simple, trusted system is so that you can get more work done and spend less time worrying about what you have forgotten to do. Your system should take the worry away and leave you to decide what to work on. 

This is where review comes in. The original GTD book recommends you do a complete review of all your projects and commitments every week and I too would strongly recommend this. However, I also believe you need to do a daily 'mini' review to help you decide what you should be working on that day. I find that the daily review is the key to ensuring that I don't miss anything and that I am working on the things that I need to be working on in order to remain stress free and confident that I am on top of everything. 

The daily review, unlike the weekly review, need not involve reviewing all your projects and lists. It need only involve reviewing the projects and lists that are the most important / urgent at the time, as well as making sure that you have everything down and your inbox (s) are fully processed. 

Here's how I recommend you do your reviews:

The Weekly Review
The weekly review is the cornerstone of your whole system. Without a weekly review, things are going to get lost and forgotten. Commitments are going to be missed and the goal of getting yourself organised is going to fall apart. Here's how to do a proper weekly review.

  1. Go through your inbox(s), notes, papers and anywhere else you may have written down commitments and ideas and make sure they are processed and in your system. 
  2. Go through all your projects and make sure there is at least one task attached to each project. If there is no task, then either decide what is the next task or complete the project. 
  3. Add any notes and links to tasks and commitments you have collected during the week that will help you to do the task / commitment more efficiently and quickly later. 
  4. Review your calendar from the previous week and make sure that any notes and other stuff have been collected from your appointments and meetings.
  5. Review your calendar for the coming week and decide which days are going to be the quietest days for doing your tasks. For days that are going to be busy or that you are going to be away on a business trip make sure you do not have too many tasks assigned. Trust me on this one, when you know you are going to have a busy day of meetings and travel you are not going to get much done. 
  6. Assign due dates to the important tasks that must be done the following week. While this is not a true GTD recommendation, I have found that by assigning a due date to the most important things I want to do the following week I have a better chance of getting them done. 

And that about it for the weekly review. I've been doing a weekly review since 2009 and can get it done in about forty minutes, When I first began doing weekly reviews it took me nearly ninety minutes, but over time I have managed to streamline the process and my decision making has become much better. Yours will too.

When to do the weekly review.
Most recommendations suggest a weekly review should be done on a Friday afternoon. And perhaps for most people, this would work very well. For me I find I am not in the mood to do a proper weekly review on a Friday afternoon and prefer a Sunday evening. By doing my weekly review on a Sunday evening I can prepare myself better for the week ahead. It gets me thinking about the week ahead and puts me in a better frame of mind for the challenges of the week. The important thing is that you have about an hour of uninterrupted time in order to do a review properly and with enough focus so that you do not miss anything. 

The Daily Review
This is a streamlined version of the weekly review. Here you only need to review your current, important projects and make sure that the stuff you have collected that day has been processed. Here's what I recommend you do:

  1. Review and process your inbox (s) 
  2. Review your current projects and make sure you have checked off any tasks you have completed. Make sure also that the tasks you assigned due dates to are still valid and if needs be change them (weeks can change dramatically very quickly)
  3. Look at the tasks you have assigned for the next day and decide whether or not you will still be able to realistically do them the next day. If not, reassign the tasks to another day.
  4. Check your calendar for the next day and make sure you have everything you need ready and prepared for the meetings / appointments you have. 
  5. Confirm any appointments  - this one has been such a life saver for me. Not everyone is as organised as you and many times people have forgotten they have appointments with you. A quick confirmation sorts this out perfectly. 

When to do a daily review
This is entirely up to you. Either do it the night before, which is something I do. A daily review takes about fifteen minutes, so I like to do it before I go to bed. This way I find my mind is empty and I feel ready for the next day. I sleep better because of this. However, some people prefer to do their daily review in the morning and I can see how this works for them. The choice is entirely up to you. Try experimenting to see which one works best for you. 

The review is the cord that ties your system together and makes sure that you don't miss anything. Doing a weekly and daily review really does put you in charge of your life because you are making decisions about how you are going to spend your days. It gives you that mental boost of feeling that you are in complete control, and for me that feeling is why I love having my life in order and being organised. 

Good luck and remember to stay productive!