Even if you're busy, don't skip planning

There was a time 2 years ago when I said I did GTD, but that wasn't entirely true at the time. While I used OmniFocus as a task manager, I wasn't fully committed to GTD because I skipped the most crucial part.

The weekly review.

But I’m busy

The thing is, I was busy and a review takes at least an hour, maybe 2, if I’ve let things slip. Those are 2 hours I could spend getting things done, so in the earlier days, I found myself habitually skipping over the review to actually accomplish tasks.

I eventually learned that when I didn’t have a plan for the following week I would expend all the mental energy I would have applied to the review on planning from day to day.

Trust me on this: If you skip the review and planning, your ideal week is totally out the window.

While you may save 2 hours by skipping a review, it’s likely you'll lose at least twice that in productive time in the week. When I audit my schedule, I find that I actually get in about 5 hours less work in the weeks when I don’t do my weekly review.

By ‘reclaiming’ those 2 hours and investing them in planning, that's 3 hours I gain back rather than spending those 3 hours on unproductive work.

Components of a weekly review

A full weekly review consists of the following steps for me:

  1. Empty all my inboxes (email, Todoist, Evernote) and actually decide what to do with each item.
  2. Review every project and every task in each project.
  3. Put the important actions for projects into the days they should get done (usually no more than 3 per day).

When I do my review, I use the 7-day view in Todoist. Since I review on Friday I can see all the way through Thursday of the next week and can plan all my tasks for Monday through Thursday.

My Fridays are run differently from Monday through Thursday. The morning is typically full of meetings, I do my weekly review in the afternoon, then work on a personal project (or go bike riding in nice weather). NO client tasks are scheduled on Fridays.

A quick weekly review

Yes, life happens and some weeks don't go as planned. For example, last Friday my wife was really sick, and my kids were sick too, so I did my morning meetings and aborted everything else. I did a few things at home while my kids played and watched TV but I simply didn’t have time for a full review.

That meant I did my ‘quick review’ which addresses only 2 things.

By focusing on those 2 things, I was still set up for Monday and Tuesday, which meant I could then spend 15 minutes on Tuesday planning for the rest of the week.

No skipping

If you’re a busy person with a busy team, the best thing you can do to control productivity is make a plan. Plan out the times that team members can get in touch with you, and likewise, plan when you’re on ‘heads down’ work and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you utilize a remote team and value allowing them to work when they want, identify a range of times throughout the week where you can be interrupted and also let them know the times you definitely are not available (unless something's on fire, of course).

Putting time into your weekly planning session is one of the most important things you can do to stay on track with your schedule and actually get things done each week.

photo credit: 1uplego cc