The weekly review is the single most important element in the Getting Things Done methodology. This will make or break your productivity and, ultimately, your chance of success. Here is how to make it a habit.
Many people practicing GTD struggles with making the weekly review a habit. When they sit down to do the review, they find that they have missed something and then they end up trying to make up for this during the time they should have been doing the review.
This can easily lead to a vicious circle where the feeling is that the concept of weekly review does not work and they are always behind.
The solution? Prioritize doing the review before everything else.
Why you should do your weekly review, not putting out fires
I used to be the guy I described above. I was constantly using parts of the time I had put aside for doing the review to deal with some task that was not done. That all changed when I sat down one day determined to finish my review, no matter what.
Sure, I found something that on previous occasions would have to lead me to go off track, but this time I managed to keep my head cool and finish my weekly review. The feeling when I finally had finished my first weekly review was one of accomplishment and sense of control.
The long-term consequence of not doing a weekly review
Your first step towards failure in GTD is not doing your weekly review. Over time, you will miss deadlines and gradually stop trusting your system. One day you will find yourself jotting down action items on post-it notes. That is when you know you’re failing.
How to find time for your weekly review
Once you have done a successful review, the question is how to find time for this every week. The time needed is individual, but I would guess that most people would need about two hours for a weekly review. The good news is that, if you do it like me, you do not need to have two consecutive hours.
Start by deciding the day of the week that is right for you. Personally, I like to do it on a Friday. This is the natural time for me to look back on what I have done that week, and to look into what I’m facing next week.
Your next task is setting aside time in your calendar. Set aside two hours. Make this a recurring appointment. If you set aside the time from 2 to 4, it does not mean that you have to do your review precisely at that time or for two consecutive hours.
What you have done is to set aside two hours of your day. How you choose to use that time is up to you, the important thing is that you have two hours set aside that day for your GTD review.
My break-through in GTD weekly review came when I made a Todoist project for it. This enabled me to split the review process into smaller tasks that I could do in between other things.
Tips for a successful GTD weekly review
Get yourself a review buddy
A friend of mine has a recurring meeting with a colleague every week. They work in different parts of the company but for two hours every week that share a meeting room to do their weekly review.
This not only creates a shared space for “quiet time,” but it also creates accountability. You have a commitment towards another person. You have to explain to that person why you could not do your review.
If you have to split your review
If you cannot put aside enough time to complete a full weekly review, you have a couple of options:
- Split between work and private. Do your work-related review on Friday before leaving work.
Do your personal review on Saturday. I have heard about couples who have a ritual of doing their weekly review on Saturday morning. The weekly review is their way of finishing the week and starting the weekend.
- Split between online and offline. I do this sometimes in periods of extensive travel. I do what I need to do online while being in the office. When on the plane, I do the rest.
What to do in a pinch
If I had to do an “emergency review,” I would prioritize the following:
- Empty inboxes
- Review the most important projects
- Review follow-up items
Set aside time in your calendar to do your weekly review. Prioritize doing your review. Split the review into smaller tasks, this makes it easier to do. Have a plan for what to do if you cannot do a complete review.