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One aspect of GTD that has surprised me is the weekly review. The idea here is that, once a week, you go over all your projects (and their associated tasks) and all your someday/maybe items, to make sure that your current projects are all on track and that your current projects are what you think is most important to work on right now.

This seemed like a sensible enough idea to me: in particular, it’s all to the good to have an reminder to lift your head a bit and step away from the details in order to get a broader overview of what you want to be doing. And, at home, it’s worked out in a fairly straightforward fashion.

It’s worked out well at work, too, but with one surprise: doing a weekly review takes forever! Well, not forever, but about an hour on average: put another way, even though I have GTD and the whole agile toolbag to help organize both my general priorities and my specific next actions, I still have to spend around two percent of my working time making sure that I’m not going off the rails. (Hmm, what percentage of my working time is spent on planning and organization in all its forms?)

It’s definitely worth it, though: much better to spend time to learn each week how I’m starting to go off the rails than to save time in the short term by doing the wrong thing! (Ending up with a bad product and, probably, spending more time later picking up the pieces.)

So what’s going on there? Part of the difference between work and home is that I just have more moving pieces at work than at home: I’m interacting with more people, and I have more projects. Come to think of it, maybe I have about the same number of projects at both places, but I’m generally happy for the ones at home to be done when they’re done, while the ones at work have more pressure behind them.

Part of the weekly review at both places is a sweep through my e-mail folders: actions/waiting/scheduled/conversations. That definitely takes more time at work than at home: I save a lot more e-mails, and I’m more likely to have to spend time thinking about whether or not I’m comfortable with, say, letting an e-mail thread in ‘conversations’ rest, or whether there’s a covert action / project / someday lurking in it.

But probably the biggest difference is that, at work, I accumulate new potential tasks at a much higher rate than I do at home. Each week, new high-priority items will come along; I’ll typically shuffle them into the projects / action item lists somehow, but every week I need to take a hard look and ask myself if I can really expect to make progress on all of these projects. And the answer is almost invariably no, at which point I have to move something from projects to someday / maybe, and communicate that decision to other people.

Looking back, it seems that I’ve been doing GTD for more than half a year now. I remain convinced that it’s a great system: well-thought-out parts, simple ideas, and I’ve found it personally quite effective. Though I still have a ways to go to implement it fully: in particular, I’m seeing more and more that I need to regularize my filing system at home. But I have a project for that (together with its next action or two) in my projects file, so I’m confident that I’ll accomplish it!

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