“Take a pill, it will make you feel better,” or “Buy this revolutionary exercise equipment and you’ll be 10 lbs. thinner next week!” We all want quick and easy fixes to our most pressing problems, but quick and easy does not always solve the problem. In terms of time management, there are tons of tools out there to make you more efficient: calendar programs, to-do list apps, project management software, etc. These tools provide fantastic options for capturing all your “I have to’s” and “I need to’s” as well as a place to record them in a well organized system. However, there is no guarantee of success if you don’t have a plan for consistently reviewing your system, re-assessing your priorities, and creating a plan of action for doing what you need to do.
Rather than completely relying on a “magic tool”, follow the advice of David Allen (creator of the Getting Things Done system) and schedule a Weekly Review. The Weekly Review is a time when you confirm that everything is where it needs to be – your calendar is up to date, your to-do lists contain everything they should (you are not keeping things in your head), and your projects are progressing as they should. It’s a great feeling to be able to scan your lists and know that you’re on top of what you need to get done. All you have to do is make the time to take action.
Schedule the Weekly Review – Yes, you are busy, and adding one more thing to your calendar can seem impossible. However, if you don’t schedule a review of your commitments, you’ll probably spend more time reacting to what appears to be the latest crisis (think of your e-mail inbox) rather than doing the things that you deem a priority. So the first step for success is to schedule a 30 minute to one hour block on your calendar. For some people Friday afternoons work well, for others Sunday evening or early Sunday morning are a better option. Whatever works for you, the time needs to be one where you can access all your tools, review your lists with a clear head, and determine your priorities and plan of action for the week ahead. To ensure you don’t forget the appointment, set a calendar reminder for yourself until the Weekly Review becomes a habit.
What NOT To Do – The Weekly Review is not a time to do the things you need to get done. You should remove all distractions like e-mail, the phone, and interruptions from others. It’s your time to focus on yourself, your priorities and your commitments. During this time you can reassess whether completing the sales projections for your boss is more of a priority than scheduling a meeting with the three new prospects you just identified. If you determine that both need to be done in the next week, you need to schedule the time on your calendar to work on the projections as well as add a task to your to-do list to contact the prospective clients and set-up a meeting. Don’t actually work on the sales projects or send the e-mail, remember this is your “planning” time, not your “doing” time.
What to Review – There are a few key parts to making the most of your time during the Weekly Review:
- What you cannot look at or process right away. Use it for mail, unpaid bills, magazines, memos, notes, expense receipts, business cards you need to enter in your contacts, etc.)
- Process your Inbox – This means adding items to your calendar and to-do list and filing paperwork as needed. The more often you process your inbox, the less time it will take during the Weekly Review.
- Review your e-mail inbox for action items that need to be added to your to-do list.
- Check your calendar for upcoming appointments and meetings. Think about actions you need to take to prepare for the meetings and add them to your to-do list.
- Dump your brain of all those nagging items that you have yet to add to your to-do list.
- Review your to-do list for items that are no longer pertinent (get rid of them) and prioritize the remaining items for what you are going to focus on over the next week.
The Weekly Review can help you to feel more in control of your time as well as empowered to tackle what you need to get done each week. Commit to it and embrace it as another “tool” in your arsenal of time management resources.