At this time of the year many people want to get back on the GTD bandwagon because they are in a reflective mode of self improvement. They know it works and know the stress reduction it can provide. They know when practiced diligently it can provide what David Allen calls “Mind Like Water.” When you are in this state you can feel great about where you are, what you are doing and what you are not doing. For anyone who has experienced this feeling it is amazing and they want to get back there.
So many people ask me how they can “really do GTD right this time?” Like a diet or a new year’s resolution, they really want to be successful, but deep down fear they will fail over the long term. The want a magic bullet or trick that will help them to succeed with GTD over the long term.
Fortunately, there is one way to succeed with GTD over the long term and that is to do a weekly review every week. This is the single most important thing to success or failure over the long term. If you really want to succeed you need to commit to spending one hour a week doing a weekly review – without fail, no exceptions.
Think about the payback – one hour a week to improved productivity and reduced stress. A bargain in my book. Here is how I break down the hour:
1 – Review Projects (40 min)
If you do nothing else in the hour you need to review your projects. Start at the top of your list and move down one by one and do the following:
Is the project written in a way that it can be checked off as “done” when the description is true? If not, describe the project to denote “what does done look like?” and be sure to include the desired outcome as the first word in the Evernote title description of the project. Use words like draft, finalize, implement, research, publish, distribute, maximize, learn, set up, organize, create, design, install, repair, submit, handle, resolve, think about. Not all projects need to define a completed task. It is okay to have projects that say things like “Draft three ideas…” or “Think about…”
Once you are comfortable with the description of the project, you need to break down the project into the tasks needed to complete the project. I use the notes section of the Evernote note to do this. I am not a stickler for breaking down every project into it’s related tasks. I usually ask ”Do I have the bandwidth and resources to do this project?” If not, I tend to go on to the next one.
For the ones I do have the bandwidth and resources to pursue I ask “What do I want to accomplish this to move this project closer to completion?” and “When do I need to accomplish it by?” I add any items that come to mind in a more or less free form manor with each task or idea on a separate line. Do not worry about formatting as that will only slow you down during this critical process.
Finally, and this is critical, move the next action to move the project closer to completion to the next actions list.
2 – Review Your Calendar (5 min)
It is important to understand what you have ahead of you to set the context for how much available time you will have to work on projects and next actions in the future. Start with looking at your calendar in month view and look at the big picture. All Day events like birthdays, vacations, trips and holidays will pop out at you. This gives you a sense of is this a “normal month” or not and alert you to any big items on the horizon. Review the next three months.
After you have looked at the big picture by month, you need to focus on the week view to get a sense of is this a “normal week” or not. As Peter Drucker stated the week is the unit of measure to connect daily tasks to their strategic priorities. Review the next two to three weeks to get a sense of what is immediately ahead of you.
3 - Review Waiting For items (5 min)
Do a quick scan of your Waiting For items to see if you can move any into Projects or Next Actions because you are no longer blocked or waiting for someone or something.
4 – Review Areas of Focus (5 min)
Do a quick review of areas of focus to keep them fresh in my mind. Often this review will spur new projects that you will add to your projects list.
5 - Review Someday/Maybe items (5 min)
Do a quick scan of your someday/maybe items to determine if any items need to become active projects and if they do then change the Evernote notebook to the projects notebook. If you determine that you really are never going to do and item because it is no longer of interest then delete it.