contexts: weekly review

January 29, 2009 | 1 Comment

This is part of a series on Contexts where I explore some of the unique contexts I’ve been working with in my GTD system.

While David Allen’s Getting Things Done has shaped a lot of my workflow, my efforts at implementing a weekly review have been half-hearted. For more than a year, I’ve scheduled an appointment with myself every Monday morning for a weekly review. This is meant guarantee that I would have some time as my week began to collect my thoughts, update my task list, and look at the week ahead. Sometimes it has been just that…but often not.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had never made the concept of a weekly review my own, in spite of it’s presence in my calendar. I am pretty good about doing a daily review of my task list — bumping items up and down in priority…and even marking some of them complete. (It seems like more tasks get shuffled than completed sometimes. I’m sure you can’t relate though.) So while I often feel like I have a handle on my task list, I have been missing some of the larger questions and tasks that come with a weekly review.

As I’ve been revisiting my contexts, it occurred to me to create a Weekly Review context. So, when Monday morning rolls along, I can open this context and work through the tasks. I have them all set to recur with a new start date the following week once I complete them. Working through this list helps me tie up loose ends and have everything in a ready stance for the week to come. Here are some of the tasks I complete each week:

  • Review Current Documents: Remove the “current” tag from any documents I no longer need readily available. (Related post: a folder for the trendy kids)
  • Review Current Projects: A quick glance at what projects I have in OmniFocus…especially helps me to remember to mark complete the projects I finished the week prior.
  • Prioritize Projects and Tasks for this Week: I like to assign tasks to certain days using start and due dates so I’m not overwhelmed everytime I look my list. I usually am anyway.
  • Tag Documents in Leap: I primarily use tags rather than folders to organize documents using Leap. Tagging recently created documents assures that they can be easily found later. (Related post: spring cleaning the documents folder)
  • Tag items in Yojimbo: I probably toss 15-20 notes and ideas into Yojimbo every week. Much like my documents, making sure they are tagged helps me sort them and find them later. (Related post: capture everything: the incubator

I find that I spend about 45-60 minutes working through this list, but it is time well spent. It gives me a fresh start to the week, and a sense of a clear mind and a clean computer to tackle what I’m facing.

If you do a weekly review, what does yours look like? I’m sure there are a few other items to add that could be helpful for me.

  • Here’s my weekly review routine, FWIW. I hope this isn’t more than you bargained for! 🙂 Items in parentheses are optional, depending on how busy I am with other things on the day of the review. I also do 4-year, yearly, quarterly, monthly, and daily reviews (theoretically — in practice I probably miss one out of every three or four weekly reviews and manage maybe three or four “daily” reviews a week).

    A few notes on items in the routine that might not be obvious:
    – I use IceCoffee to create command-clickable links to websites or files anywhere on my system in any text field.
    – I keep a file of notes that I want to refer to during the weekly review using the Quicksilver append-to-text-file trick.
    – “Unavoidables” are things like tax filings that I don’t particularly want to do and that don’t really contribute to any of my goals or personal commitments, but that could get me in trouble if I blow them off.
    – “Focus project” is my term for a project that can’t be done in small steps, but requires an uninterrupted block of time to do effectively, like a writing or programming project. Not to be confused with my “Focus” for the week, which is a sort of overall theme or area that I may want to concentrate on for the week.
    – Autofocus is a new time management system by Mark Forster, author of _Do It Tomorrow_. I implement it in TaskPaper and find it useful more as a supplement to keep me productive *after* I’ve finished my must-do tasks for the day.
    – “Update tagged weekly action plan” just means removing the &Today tag from the comments field of last week’s action list and adding it to the new one. I use an &Today tag more or less the way you use your Current tag, though I use it more for routine files than for projects.
    – The “daily templates” are routine to-do lists for each day of the week, covering both daily routines and weekday-specific tasks like trash to the curb on garbage pickup day.

    Earn, Learn, Relate, Create

    Save review log
    Clear environment
    Check Weekly Review Notes
    Review previous week’s actions, progress, lessons learned; note causes of any incomplete actions
    Review status of monthly projects & quarterly objectives
    Is it possible to check off an annual goal this week?
    If not, how about (at least) one quarterly objective?
    If not, how about (at least) one monthly project?
    Edit or eliminate any monthly projects that are no longer current
    Identify any opportunities to eliminate/delegate/automate
    Define all actions, practices, and habits for each monthly project
    Review Tolerating list
    Plan Unavoidables
    Review previous and upcoming calendars; be sure events have “get ready now” alarms:
    CleanTX Forum
    Green Tech Alliance
    Identify at least one meet-new-people networking event OR three potential lunch partners
    (Check Chronicle entertainment listings, Elephant Room schedule)
    (Pick an affirmation of the week )
    (Review commitment hierarchy )
    Determine context and time estimate (in 1-hour chunks) for each action
    Separate must-do (Top 3) and may-do actions; identify Focus (must be a strategic objective or practice)
    Rough out time budget
    Schedule focus projects and any other actions and habits that require scheduling
    Finalize weekly action plan
    Copy tasks to Autofocus
    Copy @Errands tasks to phone
    Update tagged weekly action plan
    (Review and revise daily templates)
    (Purge Project Support files)
    Decide what day(s) to cook

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