Book Review: David Allen and the Weekly Review

 

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It took me a few years and a couple of re-reads of David Allen’s Getting Things Done before I finally started to appreciate why his “GTD” methodology has become so popular. (If you’re not familiar with it, you can take a gander at it here, but don’t worry- I won’t get into it too much for this post.) As much as I love productivity and organizing, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Sure, it seemed like a great way to get a grip on everything that was going on in your head, but how could tracking all of those tasks possibly help my workflow?

Actually, it helps a lot. I realized the majority of my time was spent in crisis mode, approaching each project with the grace of a bull in a china shop because it needed to get done, like, yesterday. Long-term projects fell by the wayside because they required too many steps, and appeared insurmountable when lumped in with other tasks on my to-do list, like “get milk”.

Other than teaching me that projects like “design client’s blog” do not belong on the same list as “mail birthday card”, adopting (some) aspects of the GTD methodology in my life has allowed me to improve my workflow by breaking down larger tasks into their most basic parts so that I can better prioritize projects and strategically choose how much time I spend working on them.

One of the best things that has helped me is adopting the practice of a “Weekly Review” even though I avoided it for ages. Putting aside a chunk of time every week seemed selfish and unproductive. I convinced myself that planning work wasn’t actually the same as working.

But it kind of is. One day when I felt like I was finally about to lose my mind, I tried a Weekly Review in a last-ditch attempt to control the swirl of thoughts in my head. Taking a moment to take a step back and take inventory of upcoming projects, meetings, and appointments was like a ray on sunshine on a cloudy day. It gave me clarity and focus where I had previously lacked. In fact, it was such a great experience that I did it the next week, and the next week, and the next.

I’m not perfect; I don’t do a Weekly Review religiously (read: weekly). When I do manage to do sit down and do one, I try to make it seem less like a chore by grabbing a great cup of coffee and putting on some of my favorite music. I mute my phone, grab all of my supplies and give myself an hour or two of pure planning bliss. For me this involves updating all of my to-do lists, planning my schedule for the week ahead, syncing my devices and coordinating all of my calendars. Depending on my time commitment and energy level I use the time to brainstorm future projects, or process notes.

Instead of keeping the practice rigid I try to tailor each weekly review to whatever my current needs are, both personally and professionally. In that way I’ve become to think of it more like a date with myself and so far the relationship is going well- I like to think of the Weekly Review as a way to be kind to my future self so she has some direction to her days and is better equipped to deal with real-life interruptions and crises as they come up.

If you’ve ever found yourself staring down at your desk at the end of the day with no recollection of what you’ve actually accomplished, a Weekly Review is for you. If you feel constantly interrupted, the Weekly Review is for you. Are you the most super-organized person in the world with the prettiest, most colorful agenda ever (like myself)? The Weekly Review is still for you. Use the time and give yourself permission to dream, and plan, and work towards your goals. It’s one of the nicest things you can do for yourself.

And this kind of date is totally free.

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Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

Wanna know more about the GTD methodology? Getting Things Done is the book I revisit the most frequently, but you also may want to check out Ready for Anything and Making It All Work. Let me know which is your favorite. Happy reading!

 

 

Book Review: Timothy Ferris on Scrunching Your Schedule

KBB_Book_Review_TimothyFerrisPeople are often surprised to find out that in addition to my freelancing career, I work part-time as an office administrator at a local family practice. It isn’t easy trying to balance a regular job between freelancing clients but I have to admit that one of the ways that I’ve achieved this is through Timothy Ferris’ technique that I like to call “schedule-scrunching”, as outlined in his bestselling book The Four-Hour Work Week.

Scrunching your schedule isn’t necessarily about sacrificing certain key elements of your workflow- for instance; it would be impossible for someone in a service-based business like my own to cut down on time spent with clients. Instead, making extra time during your work week depends on 1) figuring out which tasks can be streamlined or delegated; and 2) maximizing your schedule for efficiency by grouping together tasks.

Ferris sounds like he leads a pretty wild lifestyle- he dances competitively and travels the world- and he claims that his methodology presented in The Four Hour Work Week has allowed him the time and flexibility to pursue his passions. I’m a little skeptical about the feasibility of running a business using only a weekly four-hour marathon work session, but it’s definitely an attractive idea.

When applying this to my own schedule, I tried to make the most of the days when I work half-day shifts by scheduling client meetings or other appointments during the portion of the day I’m free. It means that for a few days every week I’m working my butt off but the payoff of building a couple of flex days into my schedule has allowed me the freedom to take on new clients, keep on top of housework, and develop personal projects.

For those of you who haven’t totally bought into the hype, there’s still lots of interesting tidbits on how to automate your business, on which tasks to delegate and how, and the most interesting of all (to the budget-obsessed like me), Ferris offers lots of different suggestions on how to cultivate the lifestyle that best suits you for as cheaply as possible. He covers everything from cutting down on business costs to finding cheap airfare so you can too make that dance competition on another continent.

As for me? I’m taking Timothy Ferris’ suggestions to heart, but I’m sticking to armchair travel for now.

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Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

Book Review: Cheryl Mendelson on Mastering Homemaking

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I’m a self-proclaimed Martha Stewart fan, and it’s not because I subscribe to the idea that a woman’s place is in the home; nor should women be the sole person responsible for the health and happiness of the entire household. I’ve just always relished the idea of having a clean and comfortable home filled with things that fill me with joy.

There’s a strange satisfaction that comes with cleaning and organizing that comes with completing even the smallest of domestic tasks. It’s a feeling that I always felt existed in opposition to my desire to pay attention to my career. How does a workaholic like me reconcile the urge to be domestic as well? Is it possible to be both?

While Martha Stewart launched a successful business and television career, lawyer Cheryl Mendelson used her passion for all things domestic to launch her writing career with the two volumes of housekeeping hints of biblical proportions. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is a meticulously researched and detailed guide for serious home-keepers who believe in the power of a clean and orderly house.

Note I use the word “home-keeping”, and I use it deliberately: this book is not about how to speed clean your home, or taking domestic shortcuts. Mendelson has amassed an encyclopedia on virtually everything you wanted to know about housekeeping and were afraid to ask. Food storage, linen care, even musical instrument maintenance all make appearances on the veritable laundry list (excuse the pun) of subjects covered by Home Comforts.

This might seem to be a strange subject to write about for someone with a career in law, but Mendelson argues both that her demanding schedule and strong domestic background fuelled her need for keeping an orderly house as an independent adult. Her solutions are practical and yet seem rooted in a more romantic time, where homes were seen as places for families and individuals to flourish and grow instead of storage facilities to keep an increasing amount of meaningless possessions.

A client of mine referred to me this manual for some housekeeping issues that I was having and I was so in love with it that my own copy is being shipped as I type this post. I’m looking forward to creating a new approach to cleaning based on some of her methods. Some people may choose to take or leave her advice if they are happy with their existing routines, but I would recommend reading it anyway. The material is so extensive there’s something there to excite novices and experts alike. For those who think they know everything anyway, they may want to check out her other manual (remember I said she had two?) titled Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens. Three guesses as to what it’s about, and the first two don’t count.

Finally, for all of ye nay-sayers who are reading this and scoffing at the idea of housework as being a vital part of our existence, consider this quotation from Mendelson:

“Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home.”

Now that’s one smart lawyer.

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Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.