Tools for Thought

Thinking beyond productivity

A Pattern Language for Productivity, Pattern #22: Daily Review

by Andre · No Comments

A complete review of projects and next actions held once per week is critical for keeping your tasks management system trustworthy, preventing “stuff” (unprocessed agreements, intentions, information) from piling up in mind to the point of distraction. Weekly reviews can be empowering, but they can be too empowering. From the repose of the weekly review, everything looks doable, and it’s tempting to commit to more than what’s realistic.

The object of the weekly review is to batch our thinking about everything we have to do during the week into a single session. Then during the week, we work off of the calendar and action lists that hold the results of that thinking. If the calendar and lists go unreviewed during the week, the purpose of having them is defeated. Not only do we need to remind ourselves of what to do each day; we also need to reevaluate what not to do, and remove, defer or delegate it.

To keep your system current, schedule a Daily Review, in which you:

  1. Process your intray, email inbox and voice mail
  2. Do a mind sweep
  3. Review your calendar
  4. Review your action lists

The last three shouldn’t take long — 10 or 15 minutes at the most. The most time consuming component of the weekly review, reviewing the project list (aside from adding new projects), is not necessary here. Processing will take the most time, commonly an hour to 90 minutes.

Does anyone have that much time? Think of it this way: you can handle the load piecemeal throughout the day, regrouping each time you chip away at your inbox, or you can batch process the bulk of your new inputs into a single session. Keep in mind that what’s being processed is work, not something in addition to it. It doesn’t go away just because it’s not processed.

If processing is the your first order of business each morning, you have the security and serenity of knowing that your inbox doesn’t have any time bombs lurking in middle of the stack. And when new inputs arrive during the day, it’s much easier to process them in real time if desired, because they’re not part of a mass of unexamined priorities.

What about the oft-repeated advice not to check email in the morning? Here we’re not “checking” email; we’re processing it, responding immediately to under-two-minute messages, deleting or filing irrelevant or inactionable ones, and moving actionable ones to an @Action or Follow-Up folder — extracting any projects or next actions.

By methodically processing email instead of haphazardly checking it, we get if off of our minds and into the system. When it’s time to start working, we’re not preoccupied with our inbox because we’ve made decisions on everything that needs to be done with what has now been cleared from it.

Tags: A Pattern Language for Productivity