Starting another week is often difficult because after the weekend any momentum you had during the previous week is gone. Monday is a time for restarting, Tuesday rolls around and you're back in the swing of things, Wednesday and Thursday can be productive days, and then Friday comes and its almost the weekend. So, in very general terms you potentially have 2-3 days of productive and efficient work.
I've followed a modified GTD system for several years now but I never really implemented one of the core pillars, the weekly review. It was always one of those steps that seemed nice in theory but I never made the time to actually try to do it. Several months ago I decided to implement the weekly review into my schedule.
I began to block out my Friday afternoons. The first couple weeks I tried doing it in the office but "better" things always came up, questions to be answered, and distractions challenging me every minute. I decided that I needed to get out of the office in order to focus. Now, shortly after lunch and wrapping things up in the office, checking with others to make sure any questions need answered before the weekend, and (generally) tidying up my desk so its ready for the next week. I then head over to a local coffee shop in Louisville, Quills Coffee, with just my iPad and headphones to get started.
- [ ] For the following, I am just going to outline what I do in my personal weekly review. For canonical GTD methodology see David Allen's book.
First, I review my calendar from the past week. How many times have you had meetings or appointments, took good notes, maybe some action items, and then forget about them until a later date? When reviewing my calendar I write down all meetings, appointments, and other interactions I had with other people. I then briefly summarize what was talked about, collect any action items that need to be completed and add them to my inbox, and then finally, gather any notes and store/label them appropriately. If there are people I need to follow-up with I will usually make a separate list for this as well. This allows me to close the loop with others and not have that hanging over my head through the weekend trying to remember what happened in the previous week.
The next action I take is to review all my projects and tasks that I have going on. Using OmniFocus for this is easy because it has a review function built in. But even if you do not have a task manager then you can still easily manually review your projects. Reviewing projects does not mean going through all the details. For me, the process is getting closure for the week and preparing myself for Monday. I've found extremely helpful to write down action items, or next steps, that need to occur on the project to move it forward. Most projects, just taking that next step can be the difference between delivering on-time or forgetting about it or delaying its completion.
Next, I begin to go through me email inbox according to the "two-minute rule." Basically, if an email can be taken care of in two minutes or less then I complete it right then. This allows me to move quickly through my email. Also, you would be surprised at how fast you can take care of several things when you employ the two-minute rule. At the end of the day I want my inbox to be clear. This doesn't mean that I have taken care of everything but I've either delegated the task, put the email in my task manager for a later date, stored it in reference, or, for many emails, just delete them.
Finally, after looking back at the week, reviewing projects, and processing my email I am ready to make a game plan for the next week. The reason I do this last is because every other step I am adding tasks that probably need to be added for the following week. This is especially true of email. Being at inbox zero doesn't mean everything thing is complete. It just means that the task in the email is in the right location to be accomplished at the right time.
I first open my calendar and on a separate piece of paper I begin to right down any appointments that I have to be at (note, I also look at my personal calendar to just verify if it will effect the work day and make note of it if it will) . If it is a meeting, I ask myself what level is my involvement, do I need to prepare anything, and who will be at the meeting. If I need to prepare anything I write this down with a note that it will take XX time to prepare for. I find writing everything down separately to be helpful.
Once time-sensitive events are taken care of I look at projects and other miscellaneous tasks that I have going on. I usually think more big picture. What is my goal for the week? Where do I want to be next Friday. From there I write in tentatively what I would like to accomplish each day. This is always very fluid once the week starts but it helps having a reference point at the beginning of the week.
I usually have a couple major projects that I need to devote "deep work" on. For these, I mark out specific times that I will work on these projects. I add this to the calendar as well (see this previous post on some ways I use the calendar). Additionally, I plan out time I need to prepare for any meetings so when Monday rolls around and there is a meeting Tuesday morning I know that sometime Monday I need to sit down and review for the next day.
Finally, for my situation, I have a review meeting every Monday with my Instructional Designer's in the online learning office (they do a great job btw!). I make sure I have written anything down that I need to talk with them about, review the projects they are working on and make any notes or questions, and just make sure I am ready to devote the 1-2 hours with them. This process has saved so many potential future disasters. Finally, I review for our "continuing education" time after my Monday review with them.
This process takes anywhere from 1-4 hours. Often, it depends on the time that I can devote to it. If I can leave the office right after lunch then I have about 4 hours in the afternoon to devote to this so I will go through everything in more rigorous detail. Sometimes, things come up and I have 30-60 minutes so I review much more quickly. For Fridays that I don't do a weekly review the next week just seems like a disaster. I am ill-prepared, forget things, and Monday just seems like a freight train charging at me. Doing a weekly review will make your next week more efficient and productive. Taking the time to review backwards and forwards helps you stay on track, meet deadlines, and keep pushing ahead. Ultimately, it clears your mind to be able to think of the big ideas to change things.