I could argue that the single-most important thing I do all week to keep myself focused and productive is the weekly review.
My process is based on the more extensive Weekly Review (capitalization added for emphasis and importance) in David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. My version is a bit shorter, but in my opinion still highly valuable and easier to emulate (as well as stick with on a regular basis).
It starts with a comprehensive inventory of projects. I keep these in Outlook Tasks tagged as “Projects – Active”. For me, a project is anything that’s more than one task. Something I can’t or won’t get done right away.
These projects cover a lot of ground. All work-related projects (for the business, for clients, for staff, etc.), all household projects, things I need to do in my personal life, etc. I use this as a safety net to keep track of all the more comprehensive things I want to get done. Oftentimes, if I come up with a project in the middle of the week that doesn’t need to be worked on right away, I’ll add it to the Project list and literally “forget about it” until the next weekly review.
I do also have a “Projects – Someday” list that’s full of things I eventually want to do. I typically review this list quarterly to see if anything needs to be moved to the Active list.
So, Sunday night. Dinner, get kids to bed, pour a nice little Scotch.
I print out that Active Projects list so I have it physically in front of me. I have it alphabetized by topic so it’s easier to work through. For example, something that’s a Heinz Marketing project might be titled “Heinz Marketing: Holiday Party Planning”. Sometimes a project will have notes included or attached, sometimes not.
Then, with Scotch in hand, I work through each Project on the list one by one. At each step, I do one of the following:
- Identify an immediate next steps for my task list: If it’s something I haven’t worked on yet or in awhile, I quickly identify the immediate next thing I need to do – the tactical, single next task – to move that project forward. Typcially this gets assigned to myself as a to-do later in the week. I don’t worry about whatever task comes after that. This usually gets notated once the first task is complete, or there’s next week’s review to pick it back up again.
- Make a note to ask for an update on something I’m waiting for: Sometimes I’m waiting for a deliverable or update from someone else, and the weekly review helps me remember to ask for and get that more quickly.
- Confirm (on paper or in my head) that I already have the right next step in my task list: Self-explanatory.
- Defer to next week: This happens quite often. Many things on my active project list just aren’t going to get attention in the coming week given other priorities. In this case, I give myself permission to literally forget about it until the following week’s review
- Delete the project: If it’s been completed, it’s gone. Sometimes projects get moved to the “someday” folder, but most of the time they stay active until they are completed.
What results from this is typically a fairly full to-do list for the coming week. But it gives me confidence that I’m focusing on the right things, and not letting anything fall through the cracks.
During the week, new projects get added. Sometimes that comes with an immediate first to-do on my task list, sometimes I just wait until the next weekly review.
I think of this as my weekly safety net. If I’m focused, I can typically get this done in 30 minutes or so.
If you do something similar, I’d love to hear about it. And if you give this one a shot, I’d love to hear how it goes!