Try as I might, I cannot escape the reality that having a plan is not good enough. I have to work the plan. It’s painful, but true. In a GTD set-up, the review process, especially the morning review, is the basic component of “work the plan” mode. What is the point in having a list, after all, if you never look at it?
The key to making your organization work for you at all isn’t putting into place the perfect system — the key is review.
So we’ll spend the next few Fridays talking about why reviews are so important and when and how we should be doing them.
What does “review” mean?
A real review process will lead to enhanced and proactive new thinking in key areas of your life and work. Such thinking emerges from both focused concentration and serendipitous brainstorming, which will be triggered and galvanized by a consistent personal review of your inventory of actions and projects.
Remember that this system does not remain rigid and dictatorial. Your system cannot be static, like a mechanical clock that ruthlessly continues to tick. Rather, it is a focusing tool that holds information so that your brain is free to engage in creative thinking. By reviewing your lists and materials when necessary, you keep your brain from taking back the job of Reminder-in-Chief.
It is review combined with thorough collection that makes your lists trustworthy.
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In other words, you are not done when your system is set up. Not only do you then have to do what you have to do, but systems simply don’t stay set up, they don’t run on their own, and they don’t work if they can’t adapt.
The review process is not a bunch of extra time spent keeping a third thing constantly juggled; review fulfills your organization’s purpose: keeping your head clear and your intuition trustworthy.
With your lists in place and looked at, you can maintain “operational intensity” and effective relaxed control.
So, assess your life and work at the appropriate horizons, making appropriate decisions, at the appropriate intervals, in order to keep your mind clear & current.
When you can calmly review all things you are responsible for doing, you can make a judgment call and feel confident in your choice.
The daily morning review is critical to your system being useful. Begin the day by looking at your calendar. You need to know what must happen today before you can figure out what should, could, or might happen today. Your calendar will tell you what time you will have available. Going out for a doctor’s appointment anyway? Can you get any other errands out of the way while you’re out? Is it your only day at home all week? What will you be preparing for dinner tonight?
Your calendar shows you what the landscape of your day looks like so you can get an idea for what maneuvering you might need to do to get the essentials in; look at it or your written routines or schedule to try to find pockets of discretionary time you might miss if you just fly by the seat of your pants.
After you see the lines of your day on your calendar, give your next actions lists a glance. Remind yourself what you have going, check if you have deadlines coming up, and see if there’s one or two things you want to commit to getting done today.
If you have routine checklists or a daily schedule, perusing it for a minute in the morning might help keep them forefront in your mind so that you follow through throughout the day. If you homeschool, you might also want to see what you have lined up as school plans for the day, too, to help yourself mentally prepare.
Your personal system and behaviors need to be established in such a way that you can see all the action options you need to see, when you need to see them. This is really just common sense, but few people actually have their processes and their organization honed to the point where they are as functional as they could be.