Creating a Weekly Preview from your Weekly Review
I've long felt that the two most important aspects of following GTD are having an inbox where you can quickly record any task that occurs to you and then the regularly scheduled review that keeps your system on track and up to date with your priorities. For me, the weekly review has always been the key component. It's what keeps me sane and prevents me from becoming overwhelmed. I know that at the beginning of every week I'll have a full hour dedicated to reviewing each project, killing off anything that no longer needs doing, and identifying any tasks that might have slipped my mind.
Last year, however, I changed how I did my weekly review and split it into two sessions. One on Monday mornings that I call my weekly preview and one before I check-out on Friday afternoon that I now call my weekly review.
The Weekly Preview
Every Monday morning before I begin work, I block off an hour to review all of my projects and take a look ahead at the week. Like David Allen suggests, I consider each action in all of my projects and decide whether or not I'm still committed to doing it or if it should be dropped.
During the course of the weekly preview, I consider what my large goals for the week should be. I do my best to adjust my next actions so that as I work through my tasks during the week, they naturally lead me closer to completing what I set out to accomplish on Monday.
I also take this time to do any work that influences how I spend the rest of my week. For example, I review all of our finances and any upcoming bills that are due. I also scan through my external triggers project to see if any of the triggers have happened and if I need to make any new tasks based on them.
My weekly preview is where I get my head straight, my mind focused, and my plans in order for the upcoming week. It's about setting a concrete plan for what you want to accomplish and building the motivation to see you through the week so that the tasks you commit to get done.
The Weekly Review
My weekly review happens every Friday afternoon. It's an hour I spend reviewing what got done, what was left behind, processing all of my inboxes, and making sure everything is ready to go Monday morning so I can spend the weekend with a clear mind.
First, I switch to my OmniFocus completed perspective and review everything that I accomplished. I often pull out items that need to be included on status reports or that should go into my journal. Then, I re-visit every project and make sure each one has a valid next action so I'll be able to choose what to do come Monday morning. I also take one final look at my external triggers to see if anything changed since Monday.
And that's it for the review of my actual OmniFocus data.
The rest of the review is spent processing all of my inboxes. That means going through
- Any documents I've scanned to PDF
- New photos I've taken that might need to be sorted into albums
- Any new notes added to my Evernote @Inbox
- Any remaining tasks in my OmniFocus inbox without a project or context assigned to them
Finally, I login to Mint.com and see how our spending for the week compared to our budget.
And with that, I'm done and ready to enjoy the weekend with a clear mind. The weekly review is where I assure myself that everything is in order, is safe to mostly ignore for the next two days, and will be in a good state to pick back up on Monday morning.
Like so many of my posts about productivity and OmniFocus, none of this stuff is that advanced. It's really just a bunch of realizations that I've codified into routines and habits. (And that I'm having fun turning into posts on this blog.)
As for how my weekly preview and review work in OmniFocus...
I have a single action list in OmniFocus called Routines. As I've written about before, "I use it as a dumping ground for all the periodic checkins I have to do to keep my other trusted systems running smoothly." Inside it are two tasks called "Weekly Preview" and "Weekly Review". Within each of those tasks are all the other actions specific to each one that I've written about above.
The "Weekly Preview" task is set to repeat and be due every Monday. And the "Weekly Review" repeats and is due every Friday.
About six months ago I deleted those tasks and trusted that they were habitutal and I'd do them every week as planned. Everything went fine for a few weeks, but eventually I would bargain with myself and say "Well, I didn't take many photos this week, so I don't really need to go through and sort them." That happened once, twice, and then before I knew it I had hundreds of photos in my backlog to process.
Once I realized I was getting lazy, I put the tasks back into OmniFocus. I discovered it wasn't so much about remembering to do all the review actions each week, it was about that magical little checkbox next to each task that I can't mark done until the task is really done. It holds me accountable.
And that's the best way I can summarize the benefit of following a consistent pattern of reviewing your system. It holds you accountable to the priorities you've committed to. And staying true to your commitments is the single best way towards achieving your goals. And if you're not getting closer to your goals, why even have a system in the first place?