The GTD Annual Review
The GTD Annual Review

The GTD Annual Review

03/05/2021 by Kathryn Puzzanghera
Managing priorities, setting goals, and identifying work with a GTD Annual Review

If you are unfamiliar with David Allen’s famous weekly review from his book Getting Things Done, you can check out a refresher here. Essentially, a weekly review ensures that every week you go through your open items, evaluate next steps, and ensure you have a 360 view of everything that you need or want to be accomplishing. 

Over the past several years, I’ve found it helpful to add an annual review, taking a step back to examine the big picture. Just like a weekly review, practices will vary widely between people and what works best for them, but here’s a brief outline of my approach to get you started thinking about yours.

Reviewing the Past Year

This might seem like a step you can skip, but it turns out that your planning for the next year is going to go infinitely better if you’re realistic about where you currently are. I start this process off by making a list of all my accomplishments from the past year. Projects closed. Skills learned. For 2020 I added “Survived” as an accomplishment. 

For many of us, the new year is traditionally when we stop to think about all the things we think we should be doing better, but it’s useful to remind yourself of what you’ve already done and where you’re currently succeeding. Reminding yourself of your wins helps re-focus on where you want to improve.

I try to do an internal check of what I view as all the main areas of my life: spirituality, finance, health, relationships, work, hobbies. These will be different for everyone, but it’ll help you identify what areas of your life might need some mild course-correcting or a new challenge, and when you should stay the course. I rarely go through this check alone. Sometimes the people in our lives provide a clearer perspective than we can. I often ask my best friend, my parents, etc. what they see, what they would recommend, and then combine that feedback with my own conclusions.


After reviewing my past year, I turn my attention to what else I want to accomplish. In a perfect world, this would be an unnecessary step. Everything that you could have possibly thought of as something you’d like to do would be captured, preferably in OmniFocus, and would just be waiting for you to act on it. 

Now, while there might be a few GTD gurus who are at that stage, most of us find that things slip through the cracks, including in our weekly review. There are things we forgot to write down, things we weren’t sure warranted a project, things we forgot existed (while doing this exercise I found a broken shelf that had been lying against the wall in my office for the past six months, completely forgotten, despite being in plain view).

I recommend doing this in a two-fold process. If you’ve read GTD and gone through the initial process of capturing all your open loops, you should already be familiar with these steps, but the key here is that GTD is not something you can do once, it is a continual process of review. 

First, I do a mind sweep using the GTD trigger list. I’ll admit that it was a bit depressing this year considering how many things 2020 suddenly removed from the equation (I’m looking at you Upcoming Events and Leisure sections). Second, I do a physical walk-through of my apartment to see what catches my attention. This is  when you’ll notice things like the forgotten shelf, the picture you meant to hang up, the stain you meant to get treated, the paperwork that you haven’t filed. These all go on the list too. 


I tend to think of my weekly review as a cleaning of my mental house. Usually, I pick up a few things, make sure everything looks neat and organized, and return to my day, comfortable that everything is in order...but for an annual review, it’s time for deep cleaning. During the year I use the OmniFocus review feature to control how often I’m checking in on each project (let us be honest, Thanksgiving planning does not need to be reviewed every week...or in this past year, really at all).

For my annual review, I review every single project: on hold, someday/maybes, deferred...I check them all. I go through all of my folders, virtual and physical and ask myself this the best filing system? Can I get rid of any of this? What loose documents do I have floating around that don’t have a place?


Once you’ve done a thorough review of everything on your plate, you’re going to be in a better position to set goals. Throughout this entire process, I try to utilize GTD’s horizons of focus model. To put what I’ve been saying another way, my weekly review focuses on the ground level, horizon 1, and horizon 2. 

Horizon 3, 4, and 5 make their appearance at my annual review. If I want to move forward in my career, that’s not a project. That’s a vision that likely requires several different projects to come to fruition, and something I can’t accomplish if I haven’t defined what “moving forward” looks like. Without high-level review and thought, it’s going to be hard to prioritize, to know where you want to be spending your time and what you need to get there. I try to have a few different, high-level goals that are spread out among the major areas of my life. They’re my priority and how I will determine what projects I want to get done and how I’m measuring my success.

Final Note

Everything that we’ve discussed will likely be a waste of time if you don’t do one important final step: document. Your goals should be written down. The projects you identified from your trigger list should be captured and clarified to identify the next action step. I tend to use a notebook for both the past accomplishments and upcoming goals, projects go in OmniFocus, and certain specialized items, like my financial review, get their own spreadsheet. You’ve done all this work, you want to make sure you won’t forget it.

An annual review, like all GTD processes, requires a level of refinement.  Every year I add items to my annual review checklist, tailoring it to my specific needs. I hope you have fun doing the same.

You can read up on another take on these types of once-a-year reviews in the post, "GTD® Yearly Review" from Larry Salvatoriello. 

Ready to learn more about GTD hands-on? Join Jason Atwood, Arkus Co-Founder, Salesforce MVP Hall of Famer, and Certified GTD Trainer, for a 45-minute focused session in our next Lunch & Learn, “Living in a Distraction Free World”  on March 18th at 9am PST / 12pm EST. Click below to learn more. 

Join "Living in a Distraction Free World"

What does your annual review look like? Let me know on the Salesforce Trailblazer Community or chat with me on Twitter @KPuzzanghera.