Capturing is a fun step of Getting Things Done. The next two steps, clarifying and organizing can be stressful because they force you to make decisions and determine next actions. Step 4 which is reviewing, can go either way. The fun part of it is when you are done, it really is freeing knowing your system is clean and current. It’s like how your body feels after a workout, tired, but with an energy boost and a feeling of accomplishment. To take the workout analogy further, doing a review is also like the resistance you feel going to work out. It’s very easy to not do it even though you know it is the right thing to do. This is easily the step that most people either stop doing the GTD system entirely or even seasoned GTDers will skip. Just like working out when you do not want to though, doing the review (preferably weekly) will reap you a peace of mind and clarity you might have ever experienced.
What is the Weekly Review?- This is the oil that keeps the engine running for a GTD system. If you take away this part, you will have huge lists with no direction or update to see what is the most important thing to be working on and also what your high level tasks/goals are. Consistently doing the review process (again weekly is best and most recommended, but as needed is okay as well) will make sure that your tasks and lists are ready to take action on. When you have 15 minutes before you go somewhere and want to get something done quick, having your system ready to be able to give you something productive to do in that 15 minutes is priceless. The review process is basically looking at your inbox, lists, tasks, next actions, someday/maybe lists, goals, calendar, and overall system. You may not get to everything every review, but as long as you keep your inbox clean, know what is coming on your calendar, and have your next action list updated, you will be off to a great start.
How to Overcome Resistance- Doing the weekly review is tough. It is a lifelong habit that needs to be built that completely changes the way you process and view your time and attention. To find the time and energy to do it can be tricky. It is mentally exhausting to go through all of the things you wrote down, decide on what needs to be done, and plan out your next week/month. Below are some suggestions to build a successful weekly review habit.
- Make sure that you will not be interrupted or be interrupted as little as possible. This is something that needs your full attention to process everything and be effective.
- Pick a time/day each week and stick to it. Some like to do it Sunday to start the week. Others like to do it Friday to review and end the week. Either way is fine just as long as you feel comfortable doing it and are actually doing it!
- Try to prepare ahead of time- You don’t necessarily need to start having two weekly review sessions, but maybe have your main review and a secondary mini review another day of the week. You could go through your inbox or glance at your system to see if there is anything you can do ahead of time to process or complete.
- Make it fun!- Now this is a straight habit trick, but treat yourself to something or go out to eat, whatever you enjoy to make the weekly review something to look forward to. This way instead of dread and resistance showing up, you will actually want to do the weekly review because you are getting something tangible and rewarding back.
Mental Benefits- When you captured everything you probably felt in your head a clarity you might not have felt before. The weekly review helps bring even greater mental clarity. If we were to sum up why the weekly review is so important, we would say that it gives you a peace and calm knowing that everything in your life is accounted for and creates the space to think big and long term. When you only deal with “runway” tasks or fire drills, your brain never has a chance to breathe and relax. It is always going onto the next task.
Everyone’s review will look different. The time, the day, how long it takes, how in depth you go just to name a few. The three things that everyone should do in a weekly review though is
- Clear your inboxes.
- Review your upcoming calendar for the week/month and longer if needed.
- Review your next actions and other important lists. If you are using a task management system, this might look like your folders/tags/contexts.
This is one of the most rewarding steps of doing GTD, but it is also the hardest to keep up. If you can build this consistent habit though, you will reap the benefits of a clear mind and a smooth running GTD system.