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.
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!