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A Case for the Wednesday Weekly Review

A Case for the Wednesday Weekly Review

If you practice Getting Things Done®, the productivity method authored by David Allen, then you should have at least heard about the “Weekly Review”. Hopefully, you are also practicing it as well.

According to GTD, your weekly review should consist of an evaluation of your outstanding involvements. It’s a time to empty your mind, process your inbox, and review not only your Calendar but also your various “GTD buckets”: actions, projects, ticklers, someday items, and reference material. Most of us set aside one to two hours for the weekly review, in which the main benefit is to cultivate your trust not only in the GTD method but also in the tools you’re using to implement the method.

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I speak to a lot of GTD’ers, and discovered that many of them fell off the GTD wagon many times. When we drilled deeper we found that a very large majority of them (close to 90%) did not do a weekly review. Digging deeper still, we discovered that nearly all of them scheduled and planned to do their reviews on the weekend: there, my friends, lies the problem.
No matter how ambitious we are, as soon as Friday afternoon raises its head, most of us are thinking about play—not work. GTD may be the best productivity method in the world, but the weekly review is not play, no matter how you spin it.

After speaking to many users, we turned inwards and realized that many of us in the office who were not consistent had, in fact, scheduled their reviews on the weekends. So we decided to change: with the exception of one person who does his review on Friday, the rest of us scheduled our reviews on Wednesdays. Wow, what a difference a few days makes. During the week, I’m in “work” mode: I’m highly focused on my targets, working on my projects, and gaining momentum gradually as the week progresses. I usually peak on Wednesday. It turns out that’s the ideal time for the weekly review.
The best part, of course, is that this way my weekends remain mostly about play.

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1. Use Weekends to Recharge

Your creativity is fueled with the fires of experience, but you can only be productive if you rest. It’s a simple equation and it means that you need to spend your weekends doing the things you love, not reviewing various tasks and practicing your GTD.
I found that I ruined my weekends when I spend them dragging myself back to what I was doing during the week: it felt like a ten-ton hammer was looming over my head during the weekends. So, scheduling the reviews on Wednesdays turned out to be perfect; being rested and in control is a great combination.

2. Accountability Buddies

Having accountability buddies who will remind you to do a review is great. Hopefully, you are not the only one at the office that’s practicing GTD; if you are, your next action is to get a GTD buddy at work.
If your colleagues at work are practicing GTD, it’ll be easier to keep on top of the weekly review. Sharing your GTD ups and downs will help create a dialog in the office, and it’s much harder to miss a weekly review when others are talking about their successful ones. Think of it as your GTD support group.
So, yes, telling your buddies at work that you need a little push to do that review can help you—nobody can push you while you’re at home (except your spouse and you don’t want that).

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3. Stay Focused

Most of us ride the same productivity curve during the week: we ramp up on Mondays and are running on full cylinders on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Thursday morning we start to lose our steam. The mid-week review is great way to refocus and re-energize—by reviewing what we have accomplished and what is still on our plate, we get both a tap on the back and a kick in the behind.
If you’re doing your weekly review on the weekend, and it’s working, then as the old saying goes “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, if are missing your weekly reviews, if you’ve fallen off the GTD Wagon, or perhaps you feel lackluster on Thursdays and Friday, why don’t you give it a try? Let us know what you think!

Featured photo credit:  Elderly and young men, working in very different fields of activity via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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