In David Allen's book Getting Things Done, this organizational guru encourages weekly reviews as a way to stay on track, stay in control, and ease the management stress in your life. He says that everything that might potentially require action must be reviewed on a frequent enough basis to keep your mind from taking back the job of remembering and reminding.
All those "open loops" like active project plans, next action steps, agendas, waiting for flags, and someday/maybe lists should be reviewed once a week. This, says Allen, also gives you an opportunity to ensure that your brain is clear and that all the loose strands of the past few days have been collected, processed, and organized.
Here is an except from his book...
If you’re like most people, you’ve found that things can get relatively out of control during the course of a few days of operational intensity. That’s to be expected. You wouldn’t want to distract yourself from too much of the work at hand in an effort to stay totally “squeaky clean” all the time. But in order to afford the luxury of “getting on a roll” with confidence, you’ll need to clean house once a week.
The Weekly Review is the time to gather and process all your “stuff,” review your system, update your lists, and get clean, clear, current, and complete.
Most people don’t have a really complete system, and they get no real payoff from reviewing things for just that reason: their overview isn’t total. They still have a vague sense that something may be missing. That’s why the rewards to be gained from implementing this whole process are at least geometric: the more complete the system is, the more you’ll trust it. And the more completely you trust it, the more completely you’ll be motivated to keep it. The Weekly Review is a master key to maintaining that standard.
Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do that last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.
What is the Weekly Review?
Very simply, the Weekly Review is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again. It’s going through the five phases of workflow management- collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding involvements - until you can honestly say, “I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to.”
From a nitty-gritty practical standpoint, here is the drill that can get you there:
1. Loose Papers. Pull out all miscellaneous scraps of paper, business cards, receipts, and so on that have crept into the crevices of your desk, clothing, and accessories. Put it all into your in-basket for processing.
2. Process Your Notes. Review any journal entries, meeting notes, or miscellaneous notes scribbled on notebook paper. List action items, projects, waiting-fors, calendar events, and someday/maybes, as appropriate. File any reference notes and materials. Stage your “Read/Renew” material. Be ruthless with yourself, processing all notes and thoughts relative to interactions, projects, new initiatives, and input that have come your way since your last download, and purging those not needed.
3. Previous Calendar Data. Review past calendar dates in detail for remaining action items, reference information, and so on, and transfer that data into the active system. Be able to archive your last week’s calendar with nothing left uncaptured.
4. Upcoming Calendar. Look at future calendar events (long- and short-term). Capture actions about arrangements and preparations for any upcoming events.
5. Empty Your Head. Put in writing (in appropriate categories) any new projects, action items, waiting-fors, someday/maybes and so forth that you haven’t yet captured.
6. Review “Projects” (and Larger Outcome) Lists. Evaluate the status of projects, goals, and outcomes one by one, ensuring that at least one current kick-start action for each is in your system.
7. Review “Next Actions” Lists. Mark off completed actions. Review for reminders of further action steps to capture.
8. Review “Waiting For” List. Record appropriate actions for any needed follow-up. Check off received items.
9. Review any Relevant Checklists. Is there anything you haven’t done that you need to do?
10. Review “Someday/Maybe” List. Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to “Projects.” Delete items no longer of interest.
11. Review “Pending” and Support Files. Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new action, completions, and waiting-fors.
12. Be Creative and Courageous. Are there any new, wonderful, hare-brained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas you can add to your system?
This review process is common sense, but few of us do it as well as we could, and that means as regularly as we should, to keep a clear mind and a sense of relaxed control.
To find out more about the book "Getting It Done" and its author David Allen, click here.
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