The weekly review

So you've got your lists set up, and you process your inboxes daily, and tasks flow smoothly through the projects and next actions lists. How do you know everything is OK? You need to take a look at every part of your GTD system, and your life, to make sure everything's in its right place, and you've not forgotten anything.

The weekly review is a fundamentally important part of making sure you stay on top of things. You need to review all your lists, and calendars, inboxes, etc., and have a short meditative moment where you reflect your life, and try to think of anything you may have missed so far. If you do this regularly, and with some thoroughness, you'll be certain that you've captured everything into your system.

You might not need to do such a review weekly. If you live a very calm, regular life, you might only do it rarely. On the other hand, if your life is a maelstrom, you might want to do a review more often than once a week. Experiment, and see what works for you.

Here's my checklist for doing a weekly review:

  • Process inboxes.
  • Review journal entries since previous review. Write a summary of the highlights of what has happened.
  • Review calendar entries since previous review, and for the next month.
  • Empty head from things.
  • Review projects. Make sure each has at least one next action. Remove any projects that are finished or aborted, or move them to someday/maybe if that's appropriate.
  • Review next actions list. Are they all of good quality?
  • Review waiting for list and mail folder.
  • Review pending and support files:
    • physical folder at home
    • folder in e-mail
  • Review someday/maybe.
  • Review "Read and Review".
  • Review areas of focus, goals.
  • Re-process inbox.

It usually takes me a couple of hours per week to do a good review of the entire system. Sometimes more, if I do a thorough review of all my open bug reports, for example, but I only do that if I have the time, and haven't done it in a while. (A thorough review of the bug reports tends to mean reading through everything, and sometimes checking that bugs still exist.)

It's common for me to postpone doing a review, if I'm tired or busy or have any of a number of other excuses. If it gets really bad, I postpone the review for months. In that case, it can take a bit of an effort to do the review, which acts as further encouragement to push it forward.

The way I get out of that is that I need to be reminded of the strong feeling of relief and being in control that I get after doing a review properly. I feel that I'm on top of things, that regardless of what surprises the universe may throw at me next, I know where I am now and what I need to do next. (And then I often go read the Internet instead, but that's another problem.)

In fact, doing a review gives quite an energy spike for me. I feel motivated to work on things right after a review. Because of this, I try to schedule my reviews for Monday mornings rather than, say, Friday evenings.

Other reviews

In addition to the weekly review, it is good to have another kind of review about once or twice a year. For this, I find it's best to do a weekly review first, and then concentrate on bigger issues: what do I want out of life? How do I want to live in one year, five years, twenty years, or in my retirement? What do I need to do to achieve those things?

I've not done much of that yet, so I don't have a lot of concrete advice about that. I'll add more about it when I do.