Friday, May 04, 2007

The Weekly Review

This is such an essential part of how I work now that when I miss it for
some reason I feel a sense of confusion and anxiety. However when I do
complete it I feel just the opposite.

Like most of the revolutionary changes in my habits over the last 16
months, this is from Getting Things Done. But this one is the motor that
powers everything else about the system. Basically all the lists I use in
my daily work get updated and cleaned up, and so do all the papers and
objects in my working area.

I block out early friday afternoons for this - recommended because if the
process turns up something urgent then you can still catch people at work.
I have to make sure to allow no less than 2 full hours. The fact that I've
missed no more than a handful of weekly reviews in the last year - in the
middle of a work day on a typically busy week, all through writing my
thesis - speaks to how critical it's become.

So what it involves is going down a checklist that I made in Microsoft
Word and print out each time. I changed it around a lot at the beginning,
but now it's pretty much stabilized. Here's the short version, of the
absolutely key parts of my weekly review:

* Dumping my pockets, backpack, and desk clutter into my inbox (this step
is great - today I realized I've been carrying a loaf of bread in my
backpack to school and back for three days)
* Pruning all my to do lists
* Copy reminders and notes from my pocket index cards into my PDA
* For every project on my list, check out that the timetable is on track,
and figure out what is a visible, physical action I can do towards it to
put on a to do list.
* Process all my inboxes (more on this in future, but basically go through
every item one by one and put it away, chuck it, or do one step towards
dealing with it, until the inbox is empty)
* Go through my deferred work boxes, to make sure nothing is mouldering in
* Empty my garbage and recycling

My real list is much longer, since it's such a habit I can easily attach
more items to it that need to happen regularly - like making backups.

Interestingly, the emptying garbage & recycling is one of the best
results. There's an insidious bit of mental resistance to getting rid of
something if you have a full recycling box, and fixing that alone can help
organization a lot.

When this is all done, my desk is clean and clear. Everything is in its
place. In the words of my favourite kids book, Rhyme and reason reign once
more, sense and sanity prevail. And not just physically, I know that my
projects are mentally in order, since I've looked at them and their
deadlines and figured out what the next step is for each. I can leave to
enjoy my saturday with a lightness in my step.

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