How to do a Weekly Review in Under an Hour

By Leo Babauta

It’s one of the reasons we put off GTD’s Weekly Review: because it can take so darn long. Many of my reviews have come in at 2-3 hours, and if I get interrupted a number of times, even longer. When something takes so long, and we are so busy with other projects, no wonder many people skip this critical component.

I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to take that long.

I recently posted that the Weekly Review is the key to both GTD and to achieving your goals. That being said, if you are a busy person, it’s key that you are able to get this critical component done in under an hour, or even 30 minutes if possible.

It can be done. Here’s how:

  1. Process your inbox daily, and review your next-action lists daily. Try to get your inbox down to zero by the end of each day — you don’t have to do everything in the inbox, but you should go through it and for each item, trash, delegate, file, or put it on a to-do list (see 3 Steps To a Permanently Clear Desk). You should also review your next-action lists at least once a day, checking off completed items, adding new things, deleting unnecessary things. Try to get into this daily habit if possible. If you neglect this step, do not stop — it will just make the review a little longer, but you can still do it in under an hour.
  2. Before your review (either that morning, or the day before) make sure your inbox is down to zero. If you haven’t been keeping it empty all week, well at least do it this once, right before the review. It will save a lot of time during the actual review. This includes your email inbox, btw. (See Email Zen: Clear Out Your Inbox)
  3. Clear off your desk, if you haven’t already. A clear workspace is important to minimizing distractions.
  4. Close all distractions, and tell people you are not to be disturbed for an hour. Close your email (inbox should be empty), your blog reader, games, anything that isn’t necessary for the review.
  5. Have a checklist ready. I printed a bunch of checklists for the weekly review — all the steps of the review, and the checklist for the mind dump. (See the end of this article for links.)
  6. Focus on the review, and plow through it. You need to get into the zone. There are times when I am writing an article, and I just crank it out. There are times when there are 200+ unread blog posts in my Google Reader, and I can crank through them in 20 minutes. Do this for your review. Just crank. Do not let yourself get distracted. Just crank!
  7. Reward yourself when you are done. Ahhh. The satisfaction of a completed review is unmatched except perhaps by things that should only be done by your significant other.

Update: By request, here are links to the checklists I mentioned in Step 5 above:

I print both these checklists out for my Weekly Review (I have a stack of them in my desk).