Before retiring from police work more than a decade ago, I was taught to use the Five W’s of interrogation to get the full story, or as Joe Friday used to say, “I want the facts mam, just the facts.” You probably remember these important fact finding questions from your grammar school days, or for some, journalism school.
I was recently replying to a blog post asking how its readers perform a weekly review, when it occurred to me that our weekly GTD planning session should be answering these same questions as we seek to refine our GTD, Getting Things Done methodology.
The answer to this question should be easy. You know who, don’t you? Well its often easier to answer this question than it is to get “YOU” to do it, right? How about we use GTD to get it done. Schedule a recurring weekly task, with an appropriate context and make sure YOU do it each week. It is the non-negotiable of any effective GTD.
During a weekly review, I set aside time to go through every project and look at each task in the project to determine if the task is still relevant and actionable (if not I delete it), is the context still accurate, and should the task be moved to the next action list. If a dated action has slipped, I’ll update it with a more appropriate date, or remove the date altogether if it has lost its relevance.
This is also the time I close projects that are completed or put projects on hold that contain tasks that are not actionable at this time. I really appreciate being able to archive (complete) a project to put it on hold and then reactivate it when it starts again. Nozbe lets me move tasks back and forth between the archive and active project lists and even puts it right back in the list where I had it when it is reactivated.
I also use this time to look over every task in my “Waiting For” context, though I also do this several times a week to stay on top of things that others have promised to do, and send reminders as appropriate.
The where is unimportant as far as geography goes. It could be at work, at home, in a coffee shop or a library. What is important, is the atmosphere in which you conduct your weekly review. It should be free of distractions, provide access to your entire GTD system, and afford an hour or two (depending on the number of active projects) of focused uninterrupted work and planning.
I have Friday of each week scheduled as a time for my weekly review, as a recurring task in my GTD of course. This is a great time because you have just finished all of your work for the week, but if you need to send reminders or contact someone they are still at work. You can reflect on what you’ve accomplished during the week, and in doing so do a better job of planning for next week’s work.
There are times when I feel like I need an additional review during the week, but instead of using work time, I will occasionally review all of my projects when I have some down time waiting for something or someone, at home, in the car (not while driving), etc. and I usually use iNozbe from my iPhone for this review.
As a friend of mine used to say, “I’m glad you asked”. I am convinced that the reason that many GTD’rs have difficulty doing their weekly review, is that they don’t know the answer to this important question.
Let me answer this question with a question. What is the most foundational reason cited for using GTD for time and task management? The answer lies in the tag line to David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (emphasis added). While I have heard this often, I have also personally experienced the stress relief and liberating results of consistent and thoughtful weekly reviews.
And while many more reasons could be cited, this is easily THE why for me. Having completed my weekly review, I can go home for the weekend, have fun, and rest easy knowing that everything is ready for the next week, confident that I haven’t forgotten anything. I get the weekend off, because I did my most important work on Friday – I completed and checked off my weekly review.
You did remember that there was an “H” tacked on to those Five W’s didn’t you? OK, here’s ten hows to execute an effective weekly review.
- Schedule a weekly review every week.
- Keep to your schedule and DO the weekly review.
- Review every active project and every task.
- Delete tasks that are no longer actionable.
- Create new tasks as needed.
- Modify contexts and dates as needed.
- Review your “waiting for” context.
- Archive completed and on hold projects.
- Check off your weekly review as DONE.
- Go home and have some FUN.
The next time you find yourself asking how your GTD can be more effective, be a detective and ask the Five W’s of a Weekly GTD Review. Thanks for reading, John