How to do the Weekly Review

Brent

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Starfish noted that he wants to check the archives to see how to do a Weekly Review. Seems like a good excuse for me to post my process, so here it is (though this is the idealized version; I'm usually much less formal about it).

1. Skim through all lists looking for items that you've completed but not yet crossed out/deleted, and cross out/delete them.

2. Lay your NA list next to your list of active Projects. Are any projects not represented by an action on your NA list? Add an NA. Are there NAs for work not an active Project? Think about adding a Project.

3. Lay your list of Projects next to your Someday/Maybe list. Are there any projects you're not getting to? Think about moving them to Someday/Maybe. Are there any Someday/Maybe projects that you want to try now? Think about moving them to your Projects list.

4. Stop and think, hard and deliberately, about what you've done this week and what you've agreed to do. Is any of it not in your system yet? Add it.

5. Skim through Project lists and clean them up based on the events of the past week.
 

eowyn

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2. Lay your NA list next to your list of active Projects. Are any projects not represented by an action on your NA list? Add an NA. Are there NAs for work not an active Project? Think about adding a Project.
This step is not as straightforward as it sounds. Depeding on the tool you are using and how you have set it up, this could be simple or incredibly mind-draining.

How do you match them up? Is there a reference field/name/number that ties the action and the project together? What order are they sorted in when you match them up? Alphabetically? (By what? - Next action? project name? ) By a Number?

What do you start with? Look at the first action on the list - then identify its project? Or look at the first project on the list - and then go look for the action?

Matching stuff together easily is where computer based systems can have a huge advantage - but only if the tool you are using allows it.

Brent - A question: Do you see this step primarly as a mechanical step, (of making sure each project has an action) or is it a content/quality step - of also looking to decide that the action is still the right next action for that project?
 
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mruseless

Guest
I happen to use Agendus Pro for Palm and Windows. This tool allows you to link a contact to every todo and meeting. I keep my projects as contacts in a special category, and every NA for a project is then linked to it. This makes my review of projects very straightforward. I click each project, one at a time, and choose the "contact history" option (which shows me all todo's and meetings associated with that contact).

E
 

andersons

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Interesting. I do not ever have to spend any time doing #1, #2, or #5. #4 gets done throughout the week as needed. I don't do #3 as described, but I do look at my Someday and Maybe lists every once in awhile.

Perhaps that is why I have not actually done a formal, scheduled weekly review over the last, oh, 8 months. This may sound like GTD heresy, but I just have not needed to do them. Yet I have gotten more done and felt better about what I've done than ever. That is the true test for me of whether my system is successful.

I would like to hear more about the non-idealized versions of the Weekly Review. What are people actually doing? How often are they doing it? Are they successful with it? What are the criteria for success?
 
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pageta

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I would say that I actually do pretty much what Brent said. Since I have a paper system, it is when I do the weekly review that I re-write my lists. That always leaves incentive to get as many things done as possible and really ask myself if these are things I want to do or if they are someday/maybe's. I review my projects, make sure my notes are complete, move them to someday/maybe and vice versa as needed. Then I think about what my goals are for the week, what I would like to accomplish, and I start building projects and next actions for that.

I would say #4 is the most important for me, though I do the rest of them as well. I am an entrepreneur, and if I do not set goals for myself, I don't get much done. At the same time, I will say that I have been setting goals for years but it wasn't until I started GTD that I actually started getting things done (no pun intended). If I just do GTD based on what lands in my inbox, I don't get much done because there isn't much to do. The weekly review is really where most things start for me. It's where I get some of my best ideas for things to do, and if I map out a plan and determine next actions, I get those things done. But if I haven't done the other parts of the review, my mind is not clear enough for those ideas to surface so I never see them.

I would say what the OP has is a very good description of what I really do when I do my weekly review.
 

Brent

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eowyn said:
(The matchup of NAs to Projects) is not as straightforward as it sounds. Depending on the tool you are using and how you have set it up, this could be simple or incredibly mind-draining.

How do you match them up? Is there a reference field/name/number that ties the action and the project together? What order are they sorted in when you match them up? Alphabetically? (By what? - Next action? project name? ) By a Number?
Nothing so formal. Here's how I'd do it right now (lists edited for brevity):

PROJECTS
Code Repository
Learn CVS
Eric's Job

ACTIONS
Call Eric about QA job opening
Call Jim about setting up Code Repository server
Update IssueDiff script to check out file at specified version

I sit down and put those lists side-by-side. I look at the first project, "Code Repository," hold that in my mind, and skim my Actions to ensure there's an Action for that Project. Yes, good, there it is: "Call Jim about setting up Code Repository server."

I look at the second project, "Learn CVS." Looking at my Actions list, I see there's nothing about learning CVS. Oops! So I ask myself, "What's the next physical action I can do to learn CVS?" I add an Action: "Find a CVS tutorial online."

Next project is Eric's Job. I see that that is represented by an Action. Great!

Then I look over my Actions list and make sure that each one matches up to a Project. First one, yes, there's the Code Repository. Second one, yes, Eric's Job. Woah! "Update IssueDiff script to check out file at specified version" doesn't match up to a project, so I add "IssueDiff script" to my Projects list.

Done. My full Project list at work currently contains eight items, and this process takes me a few minutes to complete. I do my entire weekly review at work in under twenty minutes. I have 27 projects at home, and I do that weekly review in well under an hour.

Brent - A question: Do you see this step primarly as a mechanical step, (of making sure each project has an action) or is it a content/quality step - of also looking to decide that the action is still the right next action for that project?
This step is primarily mechanical for me. I sometimes review actions as you describe during my Weekly Reviews.

Regarding non-idealized versions of this process: I still follow this process; I just sometimes do it in a different order. Or I'm in a hurry and skip steps. Or I'm not as careful about checking every item.
 

andersons

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Brent said:
I sit down and put those lists side-by-side. I look at the first project, "Code Repository," hold that in my mind, and skim my Actions to ensure there's an Action for that Project. Yes, good, there it is: "Call Jim about setting up Code Repository server."
I am trying to imagine how this would work effectively. As described here, your weekly review ensures that one Code-repository action, "Call Jim. . ." gets defined and presumably done during the week. Surely you are doing a lot more than that during the week to get the repo set up or else it is going to take months to get this project done. I imagine that you are also doing a lot of work as it shows up, or at least defining a week's worth of actions at a time?

Brent said:
Done. My full Project list at work currently contains eight items, and this process takes me a few minutes to complete. I do my entire weekly review at work in under twenty minutes. I have 27 projects at home, and I do that weekly review in well under an hour.
So
 
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Starfish

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Brent -

Thanks for starting this topic for me - it is interesting to see the variety of in-practice approaches to the weekly review!

Matthew
 

kewms

Registered
As I see it, the weekly review is a time to make sure that I'm focusing on the projects and tasks that are most important to my long term goals. The system maintenance aspect -- matching projects with NAs and so forth -- is the least important, and in a well-designed system the least time-consuming, part of the review.

Katherine
 

andersons

Registered
pageta said:
It doesn't matter if you're using paper or eletronic gadget - you have to look through things and make sure you have caught all the loose ends.
I'm going to disagree because for the last 8 months I have not had to look through things to catch loose ends. Not as described in this thread. I think it's like saying, You have to fill a bucket in order to wash a floor. Well, not if you use a Swiffer WetJet or Hoover Floormate. Your tool locks you into thinking there is only one way to achieve a goal. The goal and the means to achieve it become confounded.

Here's another example. Goal: to be able to retrieve an email fast when I need it. With traditional software tools, I really had to file them in reference folders. But with Gmail, I don't have to.

The thing that everyone needs to do is find a way to remember all important commitments at appropriate times. There are many ways to achieve this, and weekly review of various lists is just one way.

I never have to spend any time reading through lists to make sure my projects have NAs defined. As soon as I complete and check off the last action defined for a project, the software lets me know immediately. So I am now keeping those commitments up to date most of the time instead of once a week. It is kind of like the new meat thermometer I have which rings when the meat reaches target temperature so that I don't have to keep checking and checking and checking it. Saves me time and achieves a better result.

pageta said:
In my life, not everything can be automated like paying bills online. I may have six ideas about how I can do a project, but I need to think them through and then select one to run with. If everything was completely automated, I would be bored. I like having something to think about. But how much I think about something all depends on the type of task and the amount of effort I want to put into it.

So yes, I would rather spend 1.5 hours than 0 hours if it means having a non-automated, interesting life.
True, not everything can be automated, like paper filing. But that's not going to stop me from automating what I can! I like automating tedious, error-prone, and boring tasks. Reading and re-reading the same action and project lists to make sure they are synchronized is exactly the kind of tedious task I want automated.

I love to think and spend plenty of time thinking. It's my job, actually. But freedom from thinking about low-level details -- like whether a project has an action for it on some other list somewhere -- gives me more time to think about the higher levels, like your example of comparing 6 different ways to achieve a result.
 

ceehjay

Registered
Allow room for different styles!

Recent posts on this thread, as well as another, just confirm what David Allen says. You have to fit GTD to your way of doing things. I carry a PDA for phone numbers, addresses, some lists, and games for down times. Essentially, it is a reference tool for me.

I tried LifeBalance. Oh, my! It was taking way more time FOR ME than to just do the task or make my paper lists. I hated it.

My job is fast and furious with tasks coming my way. NOW tasks. If I don't take the time to do a weekly review, I never get to sneak in the projects that move me toward MY personal goals. The luxury of lots of time to think just isn't part of my work life. If I don't schedule in a time (usually away from work) to think through both my work and my goals for my work, I spend too much of my time putting out fires. Even with the thinking through, I still put out a lot of fires, but I have learned how to take small amounts of time to work on projects that I consider important.

Thank God for paper. I repeat, I can write it down on the pad in front of me far more quickly than turning on the PDA or pulling up a program on the computer. I gave the PDA route a good try, but it didn't fit my job or my style of working.

I think the implication that some of us just aren't getting it is unjustified. There is not just one way to GTD. I love hearing how others use GTD, but I don't like the implications that someone else's way is inferior. Each of us will find the way that works best for us -- and it probably won't be exactly like any other person's way.

Carolyn
 

Brent

Registered
Absolutely agreed, Carolyn.

Katherine: For me, the way that I ensure that I'm spending appropriate time on projects is by performing this mechanical review. This process tends to show me the projects that aren't getting done, or that I want to change. In my experience, it does this more thoroughly than if I were to just think about my priorities, for example.
 

andersons

Registered
ceehjay said:
Recent posts on this thread, as well as another, just confirm what David Allen says. You have to fit GTD to your way of doing things.
What about when people's way of doing things is not effective? I have analyzed my ways over the years and found a lot of room for improvement. Just doing GTD required radical changes in my "way of doing things."

In fact, my greatest successes have come as a result of changing the way I do things. With certain results, people have asked me how I achieved them, as if it is something magical. But no, I had lots of failures and ineffectiveness, and I tore those apart looking for better ways. And even with ways that achieved good results, I have found better ways to achieve better results. Everything is negotiable. Show me a better way, I'm going to change my way.

For me, effectiveness always trumps preference. If 2 ways of doing things are equally effective, then I will choose the one I prefer. But I will choose a more effective way over a way I prefer. And I will also learn new ways if I think those will be more effective after I have learned them.

It is not my personality to file stuff. I just don't like it. It takes time. I hate clutter, so I would rather shove it all in a drawer or closet. But I have been convinced that filing is more effective for retrieval. If a better way gets invented, though, I'm going to take advantage of it.

I believe that to be most effective, you have to fit your way of doing things to reality. And you have to be flexible to change your way of doing things to take advantage of new technology. It is rarely ideal to rigidly adhere to one way forever.

I know people who just will not change their way of doing things and are now out of work because their old way is inefficient; there is now a new and better way; but they resist learning and using the new way.

ceehjay said:
I tried LifeBalance. Oh, my! It was taking way more time FOR ME than to just do the task or make my paper lists. I hated it.
If we are to be critical of overhead in general, nothing beats the initial overhead of GTD -- collecting and processing ALL your stuff and setting up a system to organize it. When people come to this forum overwhelmed by that initial time-consuming overhead, what do we tell them? "Stick with it, it will get easier, it will be worth it." Why not complain about how we could be just doing tasks instead of collecting and processing a huge Inbox?

It takes more time to do all the workflow advocated in GTD than to "just do the task" or "just make a list on paper." There is a lot of overhead in following GTD. It takes a lot of time. If I am showing someone how to GTD, I can't say, "just do the task" or "just write a list on paper." That's not a fair description of the whole process of GTD.

The whole GTD process is also supposed to include Organize and Review. The reality is that if I optimize Collect to be fast by using paper, I have to spend a lot more time and energy during the Organize and Review stages. I think that some people experience problems with the whole workflow of GTD because they have optimized Collect and Process but have failed to optimize Organize, Do, and Review.

Reading many posts about Weekly Reviews on this forum (and others), I have seen that
1) many people do not do it;
2) some people do it regularly, but they have often streamlined it considerably from the description in the book.

One of the time-consuming things about unmodified GTD is keeping projects and actions linked and synced. It is clear that some could really gain by finding faster, easier ways to do this. How many people may have tried and abandoned GTD because they struggled with this part of it?

Initially it took me more time to enter actions to Life Balance than to jot them on paper. But that was because I had not optimized my use of the tool. Now that I have optimized, though, I can enter tasks nearly as fast with Life Balance as with jotting them on a nearby pad of paper, plus I save time and effort during all the other stages of workflow.

So why shouldn't I describe these advantages as best I can for the people who may benefit from it? It's OK for people who use paper to criticize digital, but not the other way around? I have used paper. And I have used both Life Balance and GTD long enough to have given them both a fair shot. I got past the initial overhead with both of them.

ceehjay said:
Thank God for paper. I repeat, I can write it down on the pad in front of me far more quickly than turning on the PDA or pulling up a program on the computer.
I hear this complaint about computers and PDAs all the time, and I think it is not always justified. I repeat, it is possible to rapidly enter tasks to a computer or PDA.

People sometimes unfairly compare the time it takes to enter something in a PDA versus on paper; the comparison is unfair because they use the computer/PDA in a grossly inefficient way, while they have optimized their paper capture to the max. When I first used digital capture, I was inefficient, but I have since found efficient ways. All I have tried to point out is that it is possible to optimize digital capture too, especially if you work at a desktop computer a lot. I can process my Inbox and enter 20 new actions to desktop software faster than anyone can write them down on paper.

Is it fair if I compare my optimized digital capture to an inefficient use of paper? Say I have a leather binder with a lock and then complain about how long it takes me to get the binder, unlock it, find a pen, flip through the pages to find the right one, get the ink flowing in the pen, and then write down my note? Paper users would tell me to keep a pad nearby open to the right page, and get a better pen.

Compare apples to apples. Optimized paper to optimized digital, over the whole lifespan of what you need to do with the idea you are capturing, including Organize and Review if applicable.

I find paper capture best for things that do not require later organization and review. For inputs that come and go quickly, paper or even short-term memory would seem best. Say I get a letter that requires a phone call and I decide to do it after lunch. Jot it on a post-it and just do it without entering it into my system. Paper is great for this kind of capture, but it should also be noted that the whole thing doesn't go through the GTD machine. GTD itself is overly complex for lots of do-it-as-it-shows-up work.

Likewise for people who spend little time near a computer, capturing to paper is most effective. And for people like my father who cannot type.

But if I get an input that is going to be part of a project, that I'm going to want to review later, that I want to be in my GTD system, entering it via PDA or computer really saves me time in the long run. I push one button on my PDA. I am now in my Life Balance Inbox ready to add a new task. I grab the stylus, and start writing. My Graffiti writing is slightly slower than my illegible handwriting (only because I use a Clie), but the total time start to finish is barely slower on the PDA because I have minimized it. I push the button again, and now I'm looking at my @Home list, where my brand-new task is listed near the top of my prioritized list.

What is so bad about this? This is great. It's effective.

ceehjay said:
I think the implication that some of us just aren't getting it is unjustified. There is not just one way to GTD. I love hearing how others use GTD, but I don't like the implications that someone else's way is inferior. Each of us will find the way that works best for us -- and it probably won't be exactly like any other person's way.
I would hope that people are willing to consider their systems' overhead without feeling upset. I am just trying to rationally discuss advantages and disadvantages. Nothing can be learned from constant "me too!" agreement.

No, there is not just one way to maintain a GTD system. Outlook is popular, for example, especially when modified and customized. I don't know much about using current versions of Outlook for GTD. So I read those threads looking to see if it could be better than my current way. If I see a big enough advantage in Outlook, I'm going to switch.

But just because there are many ways, it does not logically follow that they are all equally effective. Some may have been devised to fix the disadvantages of others.

Reading posts on this forum, I want to be open-minded to learn about more effective ways to accomplish the goals of GTD, where more effective = less overhead to achieve the same or better result. What's the best outcome I can achieve with the least amount of time and energy?

Over the past couple years, I have improved my system and my effectiveness, partly from getting ideas from others' success and changing my own ways. Frankly, my early systems had problems. No improvement is ever possible without being willing to ask, Where and how could I improve this? It is not a threat, it's an opportunity to grow.
 

kewms

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I seriously question whether a single "most effective" GTD implementation exists. There is simply too much variation in work requirements, work environments, and individual work styles.

Yes, it's certainly useful to look at an individual implementation and consider how it might be made more effective. I doubt any of us would be here if we weren't open to suggestions.

But it does get rather tedious to be told over and over (and over and over) again that all of our organizing challenges would be solved if we would only select the right tools and take the time to learn to use them properly, and that those of us who shun the One True Way are rigid, out of touch with reality, and doomed to obsolescence and unemployment.

Katherine
 

jkgrossi

Registered
As an aside, where do you guys perform your weekly reviews - at home or at the office?

I've had 2 hours blocked on my calendar on Friday afternoon for the past month, and not once has the situation been where I wasn't called into some emergency meeting or was just so plainly overwhelmed that I couldn't spare the 2 hours (I could, but that would mean sticking around for an extra 2 hours on a Friday).

I'm starting to wonder if it would be more effective to do the reviews at home... the only thing holding me back from doing that is the bulk of the "stuff" that needs to be reviewed is at work.

Any suggestions? Where do you guys complete your reviews?

Jim
 
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pageta

Guest
I've heard some people say they do their weekly review on Wednesday at work because that gives them time to get with other people and follow-through. If they approach them on Fridays, they are thinking about the weekend, and if they do it first thing Monday morning, they're getting back into the swing of things. Doing it on Wednesday they can follow-up on things at a time when people are in the thick of things and can do something about the topic at hand.
 

jkgrossi

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pageta said:
I've heard some people say they do their weekly review on Wednesday at work because that gives them time to get with other people and follow-through. If they approach them on Fridays, they are thinking about the weekend, and if they do it first thing Monday morning, they're getting back into the swing of things. Doing it on Wednesday they can follow-up on things at a time when people are in the thick of things and can do something about the topic at hand.
Thanks for your reply... I tried doing it on Wed, but I found that during the middle of the week, I'm too much in "do" mode to really "think".
 
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