This is the third in the series of posts about the organisational methods outlined in David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”. This post examines the importance that review, update and reflection play in the system. If you missed the previous two posts, you can read them here and here.
When I first started with the Getting Things Done system I had to really force myself to review my lists regularly and to stick to what was in my diary. You do need to regularly review both in order to make the system work. No matter how good your system is, if you don’t visit it and reflect on its contents, it won’t be functional. No diary can ensure you are where you are supposed to be if you don’t actually look at it after all.
Some people like to review and update the lists daily, having a mini-brain dump/mind sweep session as their last task before finishing work. Others do it once a week, often on a Friday night, or on a Sunday.
If you find you are adding the same thing to your To Do list each week, or regularly moving a task to a fresh list without dealing with it, then ask yourself why that is.
Is it outside your skill set? Is it not as urgent as you first thought? Is it too large a task? Does it need to be broken down a bit to make it manageable? Do you hate doing the task? Do you need to outsource it to ensure it gets done? Do you really need to do it at all, or can it be removed from the list?
By keeping on top of the list, adding to it, reviewing it and reflecting on it, your mind is aware that you have the tasks under control and isn’t wasting energy racing around in circles trying to remind you about things and making you feel stressed.
Once a week, review your list of tasks completed and still to do, and the brain dump list, and make your plan for the week. Sunday evening is a great time to do this part. You will hopefully be fresh, rested, have a clear head and be starting to consider the week ahead. Preparing on Sunday allows you to start on Monday with purpose and know what your goals for the day and week will be.
Keeping the systems up to date and reviewing the tasks regularly takes practice but it can produce some great rewards.
“Do it, Defer it, Delegate it”
David Allen suggests using the “Do it, Defer It, Delegate it” approach.
If a task will take less than two minutes to complete you should just do it right away rather than adding it to a list.
If it will take more than two minutes then you should defer it, that is, document it on a list, and, if appropriate, add it to the diary or planner, so that it can be done at the most suitable time.
Finally, for those tasks which are very time-consuming, are not your area of expertise, or you absolutely hate doing, you should delegate the task to someone who has the time and expertise to do it well on your behalf. If you hate the task then you will either put it off, do it badly, or it will take you much longer than it should. All of which will have a negative effect on your productivity and impact on your work-life balance.
If the thought of cross-checking and updating that spreadsheet sends you to sleep. If your paperwork backlog makes you want to poke out your own eyes with frustration. If you’d rather handle a live snake than fill in those forms, then the answer is simple. Delegate those tasks. If you have a task or two that you aren’t that keen on doing, why not get in touch with me here.