A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

An indepth look at my the Getting Things Done weekly review process with some tips to help improve yours.
A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

A Little Weekly Review Goes a Long Way

Two colliding forces shaped my blog post this week as my peers here at Arkus wanted me to share some GTD Weekly Review best practices coupled with answering a question on Quora about why people don't stick to GTD. As a long time GTD practitioner I thought a blog post could wrap up both answers into one as I am always looking to hone my craft.

Weekly Review in a Nutshell

If you are completely unfamiliar with David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) book or productivity principles, here is a little background. The Weekly Review is a core practice in GTD which is a carved out time, once a week, to capture all the outlier items and do a complete top to bottom maintenance check of your productivity system. It involves going over everything from calendars to projects, making sure there are no left over next actions (tasks) that slipped through. The real goal is to review everything that is meaningful in your life and trigger any left over items that than should be captured.

While that does sound like a lot, it is something that is made easier if you have followed some of the other principals in GTD like capturing everything into actionable projects and next actions as well as knowing when to do, defer, delegate, or delete any task during the week. The weekly review is the disk fragmentation of your life.

My Weekly Review

Over the years I have moved my weekly review from Mondays, to the weekend but ultimately landed on Friday morning as the sweet spot. The first tip is to actually schedule it in your calendar from one to two hours, so it is dedicated, locked off time. It might seem like a lot of time but I find it to be the most productive two hours a week.

My weekly review starts as a recurring project in OmniFocus (task management application by OmniGroup) that pops up on Thursday night, allowing for me to start some of the tasks a day early. It is due on Sunday giving my flexibility to push it into the weekend if my Friday gets out of control. While it is best to do it as one dedicated time, I have been known to pick away at it for 48hours before completing.

Below is my actual weekly review with how long it usually takes me to complete that task and some comments on what they mean.

  • Empty wallet (2 min) - Part of my collect phase, just get everything that has been stored in there out. It is usually mostly reciepts but a nice easy task to start it all out.
  • Get desk inbox to zero (20 min) - This is the physical inbox where I have put everything for an entire week from letters, junk mail, etc. I have one both at work and at home and is a GTD pillar.
  • Get OmniFocus inbox to zero (5 min) - If there is anything in there (usually not) I move them into projects or complete them.
  • Get mail inbox to zero (2 min) - I empty out a Mail.app smart folder I created called Inbox Zero that includes all emails I haven't read and make sure I am up to date. This gets done nightly, but I put it in here just to make sure and lead to the next one.
  • Empty flagged email folder (20 min) - This is usually the biggest task in my review, as it is mostly my "Virtual Inbox". I flag messages during the week and make sure this is empty during the weekly review. The idea here is to power through it, doing it, delegating it or adding it to OmniFocus to be done later.
  • Review Non Responded email folders (5 min) - A special Mail.app smart folder that is just every email that is from a human (filtered for automatic emails) that I haven't responded to in 10 days. This is a great way to make sure nothing slips through the other cracks.
  • Clear desktop (10 min) - Just to clear my physical desktop. Any papers or get processed and turned into projects or tasks.
  • Clean up desktop Inbox (2 min) - This is a folder on my computer desktop where I put stuff in while working on during the week. I go through it and make sure everything in there is still being worked on and usable.
  • Clean up desktop Outbox (2 min) - Same as above, but my Outbox on my computer desktop where I put things I email out a lot. Both of these are actually Dropbox alias folders.
  • Clean up Downloads folder (2 min) - Mostly delete things in there but make sure nothing slips through or has a task assigned to it.
  • Clean up Mail Downloads folder (2 min) - You would be amazed at the amount of stuff in there, but since I am pretty good at email this is just another check to make sure something didn't slip by.
  • Review Evernote (10 min) - I generally go over the last 10-15 notes in Evernote, making sure there is nothing in there that is a task or something I need to do. Usually I come up with a bunch of things that turn into tasks. On a longer Weekly Review I will go through all my notes (500+) which really is cleansing.
  • Review past calendar (10 min) - I go back 1-2 weeks usually in weekly view, but sometimes in daily view so I can focus on every item. I look over old meetings to make sure there is nothing I need to do from those meeting, any followups I might have missed. This usually brings up a lots of things to capture and throw into OmniFocus.
  • Review upcoming calendar (10 min) - Same thing as above, but now I am looking for things I need to prepare to do. This will generally get me to trigger new events to schedule, things to add to an agenda or emails off to people to remind them about upcoming tasks.
  • Review on hold projects for review (10 min) - A special Perspective I have in OmniFocus that pops a new window for me to review projects that are on hold. I might delete some or activate others.
  • Review pending projects (10 min) - Same thing as above but now pending projects which are ones that have a start date in the future. I mostly glance over these, but again looking for things that will trigger to dos, other projects, etc. I might see one and add a few things to it while reviewing.
  • Review stalled projects (10 min) - This is an OmniFocus filter of projects with no tasks (action items). Great way to find things that need a next step (remember every project should have a next step, even if that is waiting for something).
  • Review waiting for list (5 min) - A special perspective on things I am waiting for. Mostly find things that I already got and triggers things I need to do. This is a great way to capture tasks that you have asked others to do.
  • Review agendas (5 min) - All my agendas with others such as business partners or my wife. It might spark an immediate conversation or an email if it is more urgent.
  • Review all active projects (25 min) - This is something I am doing day to day, but now looking at them from a "what am I missing" perspective.
  • Run stats & check for less than 100 current projects (3 min) - A special AppleScript that calulates how many projects I have in what categories. I am looking to see if I have too many projects on my plate. I defined Current Projects as the amount projects that are visible and active. Over the years I have found anything over 100 and I am swamped.
  • Review GTD guide (15 min) - This is optional review of David Allen's handout guide with tons of things in it that I do once every other month on one of those deeper weekly reviews.

 

5 Weekly Review Tips & Tricks

  • Don't skip it. If you have no time at all, at least do a shortened version which is to review projects and calendars after clearing out your inbox. A thirty minute weekly review is better than no weekly review.
  • Change your location: I find that if I head to a coffee shop or a park bench to do some of the "deeper" parts of the weekly review, it prompts new ideas and perspectives.
  • Don't do the work: This isn't a time to make 10 phone calls or update a spreadsheet, it is time to review the work, not do it. Use the 2 minute rule ( (If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it, otherwise capture it to do it later) to help keep you on track.
  • Plan it out: Write your own weekly review projects and make sure you can go through it step by step to get it done.
  • Practice makes almost perfection: I have done almost 300 weekly reviews and I am still honing my process.


Whether you are new to GTD or an old pro, I hope my opening up my weekly review process helps. Hit me on on Twitter (@JasonMAtwood) with your own thought so leave comments below.

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