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Too Many Systems? (Weekly Review Woes)

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  • Too Many Systems? (Weekly Review Woes)

    Have been troubled habitualizing the Weekly Review, think the cause may be too many systems .. help!

    My system currently looks like the following:

    Lots of email both at work & home; reference files on both PC's Outlooks.
    Lots of email-related actions; "action context" folders in Outlook email for "Projects", mini project "Engagements", "Emails to Answer", and "Waiting For".
    This all makes processing those thousand or so emails per week reasonably efficient (drag&drop).

    Lots of other context actions, so have the suggested Outlook Tasks contexts (with PDA etc.) Lots of work "on the go". This works better in some contexts than others (eg works poorly for PC-based tasks).

    Lots of reference:
    - Paper file cabinet at office
    - Paper file cabinet at home
    - Reference Emails, sorted into folders in Outlook (as noted above, both home and work)
    - Work Reference Files on Work PC "My Documents"
    - Personal Reference Files on Home PC "My Documents"

    Have been doing the rest of GTD for a year now with some benefit; seek the real benefits of including Weekly Review.

    Do I have too many systems relative to those of you who have successfully installed the Weekly Review habit into your routine? Has anyone succeeded with that habit with so many systems in play, or is my first priority to simplify things?


  • #2
    Do you have a single, unified Project list? A way to look at *all* your Next Actions? Those are the two things that I consider essential to my weekly review, and I didn't see either mentioned in your note.

    Overall, I don't think you have too many systems. You might not have the most appropriate systems, though. What stumbling block(s) are you running into with the weekly review?



    • #3
      I have:
      - two (sometimes overlapping in content) Projects lists, one as a folder of folders in Outlook email, and one in Contacts (Bill Kratz' Projects-as-Contacts technique).
      - two places for Next Actions .. email folders and OL context Task lists.

      Though, I can review each in sequence given the time...

      The biggest stumbling block I'm having is .. spending IMHO far too much time processing during the week (probably at least an hour per day) .. but come time of the Weekly Review there is still a lot more to process .. meeting notes, emails (get >1500 some weeks) .. so far more than 2 hours gets consumed just processing .. then it's time to get something done .. so the real review gets skipped.

      Maybe I need to find ways to capture less .. but then I know it'll all remain in my head, which defeats the system too.

      Any ideas?



      • #4
        If you get 1500 emails a week, you're going to spend some serious time processing them. Even at 30 seconds each, you'll still need more than 12 hours.

        Without knowing where the email is coming from, it's hard to suggest ways to deal with it, but that would be my first priority in your position.

        Do you have good spam filters to get rid of the true junk before you ever see it?

        Do you use message rules or other tools to route mailing lists, automatic notifications, log reports, and so forth to folders where you can process them in bulk?

        In most offices, lots of mail is really just some form of status report, copied to everyone who conceivably might be interested in how the sender is spending their time. "Bob, can you get me the Smith Corp. sales figures?" is an action item for Bob, possibly a vaguely useful piece of information for Bob's boss and assistant, and a complete waste of time for everyone else. Can you use collaboration tools and/or change the office culture to cut down on this kind of email?

        With meeting notes, can you "pre-process" them during or right after the meeting? Flagging action items and so forth is a lot easier when the subject matter is fresh in your mind. Or, conversely, are you attending lots of meetings where you *don't* end up with any action items, and if so can you figure out a way to avoid such meetings altogether?

        For the amount of material you have, your processing time doesn't sound out of line. If you can't cut down the amount of material, perhaps you can change how you view it? That is, even if you weren't using GTD, you would still have all those emails coming in, you would still need to read them and decide what to do with them, and doing so would probably take more or less the same amount of time, possibly even longer. Only you wouldn't call it "processing my inbox," you'd call it "reading my email." My point being that processing time is *not* unproductive "wasted" time, it's a (hopefully) more effective way to manage tasks that, GTD or not, still have to be done.