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The Getting Things Done (GTD) Weekly Review Process

Evernote, Management, Organization, PersonalBrain, Time ManagementEdward Kiledjian1 Comment

As a GTD fan, I have read the book, listened to the 10CD audio seminar,  read the articles on GTD Times and subscribed to David Allen’s audio blog. In all of these mediums, one of the key messages that seems to come up over and over, is the requirement to do the weekly review.  What would happen to your car if you never changed the oil? The car would get sluggish and eventually the engine would die. Same thing for GTD. You need to review your system and fine-tune it weekly otherwise it will die a horrible death.

Example of why it’s important

  • When I get in the execution zone, I start completing one task after another, after another. This means that I sometimes complete tasks and forget to mark them as complete in my system. This also means that some of my projects may be without their Next Action Item, which is bad in the world of GTD.
  • Even though I try to diligently capture everything in my inbox, I sometimes forget and end up with to-dos in my head. The weekly review is a great time to clean out my head.
  • Just like my oil change example, without proper maintenance and care, your GTD system will eventually become crusty and no longer applicable. Keep it relevant by constantly maintaining it during your weekly review.
  • Mental nirvana. I get a feeling of calm control when I realize that everything is in my system and being tracked properly. Even if my system is perfect and well maintained, there are mental benefits to doing the weekly review and realizing everything is capture and your life is in control.

How much time does it take?

There is no magic rule of thumb here. It should take as much time as you need but no more. Some of my weekly reviews take 30 minutes and others can take upwards of 2 hours. It all depends on how much action I had that week and how I managed to maintain my system on a daily basis.

I’m convinced, what do I do?

This is a question even experienced GTD practitioners need a refresher on from time to time. It is super simple.

When I sit down for my weekly review, here is my process:

  • I do a brain dump and make sure I “empty” out my mental to do list.
  • I ensure my emails are brought to zero and captured in my inbox
  • I ensure my voicemails are all listened to and captured in my inbox
  • I ensure my physical papers are all reviewed and captured in my inbox as appropriate
  • I now process my inbox and bring it to zero
  • I go through my calendar for the last 2-3 weekly and check if I missed any open loops. You will be surprised how many times this reminds me of things I may have forgotten.
  • I go through my calendar for the 2-3 upcoming weeks, and determine if all of my open loops have been captured
  • I then go through each of my lists and context to ensure the items are valid. Did I complete something and forget to mark it as such? Do I have a project with no next actions? Did someone owe me an item from the Waiting for list?

How do I do it?

My weekly review is planned in my calendar every Friday afternoon for 2 hours. For me it is a hard coded obligation. There are times when other activities become a bigger priority and I cancel my weekly review but this is the exception more than the rule. I never skip more than 1 review in a row and the next review (after a skip) will likely take double the time.

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