I’ve previously mentioned on this blog that the weekly review is one of the core features of GTD — in fact, David Allen, the inventor of GTD, has been quoted saying “if you’re not doing a weekly review, you’re not doing GTD”.
So, what exactly should be done in a weekly review? In the rest of this post, I’ll try to answer that question.
The basic things that need to be reviewed are the following:
- Your next actions list
- Your Projects list
- Your waiting_for list
- Your someday/maybe list
- Your calendar
- Your unprocessed notes
These are the core things that need to be reviewed every week. Schedule a two hour slot at the end of your working week and review all the above.
Next Actions List
Your need to review this list and make sure that every active project you have has at least one next action. In addition, you should remove any next action that is not needed or has already been completed but not ticked off, and see if any next action inspires another.
For example, just today I saw a “go to service station to change car oil” task on my next actions list. Since I have a rough idea of how much money is in my pocket, and how much an oil change usually costs, this triggered the addition of “withdraw money from ATM” to my next actions list.
There are many similar examples, looking at your current and upcoming next actions list can trigger ideas that you will want to capture into your system. So take the time to review this list thoroughly.
Also, reviewing the tasks for the upcoming week can allow you to plan ahead for anything that you need to prepare for. For example, if you see that you have a “create presentation for marketing” task, you make want to add other related tasks to your todo list — for example, get a haircut (you want to look your best for the presentation!).
Your Projects list
After reviewing your next actions list, you should review your projects list. I sometimes do this concurrently with my review of my next actions list.
In this review, you make sure that your Projects list is current — all projects are included and outdated projects are removed. I have a separate list called “Areas of Focus” that I use to keep track of the high-level things I’m responsible for. This list can include things like “maintain health”, “maintain house”, “manage staff”, etc.
These are the areas of focus in your life that drive the projects you will be working on. During the review of my projects list, I make sure that all my areas of focus have at least one active project, and if not, I need to understand why this is so. Is it no longer an area of focus for me? Is this area of focus seasonal or intermittent and not currently active? These are the types of questions I ask myself during my weekly review.
As before, sometimes reading your projects list can trigger other related projects that you may want to add to you system.
The waiting_for list is a list of the stuff you have delegated or requested from someone else. You should review this during your weekly review so that you know whom you need to “nag” in order to get stuff done.
I usually assign due dates to the stuff I’ve delegated, but it’s a good idea to look ahead at the coming week and know what you need to collect from others.
Strictly speaking, you should review this list less often than weekly. Monthly would be a good idea, but impersonally include it in my weekly review.
I review the list to see if anything that it contains can now be moved into my active projects list. I’ve found that by constantly reviewing the list, I sometimes ask myself the question “Why is this someday/maybe? I can do it now”. In which case I move it to my active projects list.
It is also important to review your calendar during the weekly review. Review both the past and coming week.
While reviewing the past week, see if any items on the agenda trigger tasks that you need to add to your system. Often when looking at the agenda of my previous week, I remember things that came up during these appointments and meetings that need to be entered into my system.
Also, if I’ve taken notes during these appointments, now is a good time to check them for any actionable items.
By looking at the week ahead, I can prepare for the appointments and meetings I have scheduled. This includes reminding myself of material I’ll need for these appointments, adding tasks to my todo list that service the appointments and, in general, preparing for the appointments coming up.
If you have any unprocessed notes sitting around, now is a good time to process them for any actionable items. This section does not need any further elaboration as it is fairly self-evident.
More Advanced Stuff
Once you have done all of the above, it is sometimes a good idea to rise up above the level of projects and begin to think strategically.
You can use the clarify that GTD brings to your life to plan for the future. You can set goals, create a vision for your future life and then use that to inform your “Areas of Focus” list. My getting the ground floor of your work and life into order, you can rise above the everyday hassle and plan out goals for your life.
That’s it ladies and gents, a very brief overview of how I perform my weekly GTD review. At the beginning you can create a checklist to help you go over all this, but eventually it should become second nature. I hope this post allows you to get a better grip on your practice of GTD and become more productive.