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Weekly Review frustrations and procrastination...

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  • Weekly Review frustrations and procrastination...

    Hi,

    I've searched around the forums and there are lots of posts about weekly reviews and methodologies in dealing with it. Perhaps I didn't find the right thread - so if someone has already asked a very similar question, please point me to it (no flames please). My situation is as follows:

    All of the following deals with personal life stuff. I use palm / palm desktop to create my projects (in memopad with next actions in there...can't wait until all Palm platforms will support 32K memos). My processing of incoming "stuff" is ok. However, my biggest problem is the weekly review. I've been trying to do it every Sunday, and as time has passed (I've started implementing GtD about 6 months ago), the Weekly Review doesn't get done.

    [revision: I've just realized that I've been using GtD for 18 months...seems my perception of time is different]

    Every time I sit down to do it on Sundays - it seems like a gargantuan thing and it takes a few hours (skipping the review of Somday/Maybees reduces it to less time but not by much). This has led me to procrastinate and avoid doing the weekly review. As a couple of weeks have passed, this has spirled into that "lost" feeling due to the lack of a weekly review.

    What am I doing wrong? Is there some better way to take smaller "bites" of the weekly review over the week and still feel that a "total view of everything" is being done?

    I saw some people mentioning doing weekly review on Friday afternoon, but this doesn't work since I'm at work (and this deals with personal life side of things)

    Would the GtD "fast" CDs help with this or "Ready for Anything" book?

    Sincerely (spirling out of control and deeply frustrated ),

    njnjboy
    Last edited by njnjboy; 11-18-2005, 12:34 PM.

  • #2
    I'm a newbie and defer to the seniors, but a wild guess is that your weekly reviews are daunting because you are wallowing in the mire of projects which have a psychological appeal for you but for which in point of fact you simply don't have clear next actions or successful outcomes clearly defined. As you know, deficits in either area are a possible source of the agony which you describe. Perhaps be faster and more ruthless in shunting aside your someday/maybes. And deal in your weekly reviews with projects that have tangible NA's and outcomes no matter how few or insignificant they may seem to you. It's better to do small things well than to aspire to do large things and not do them at all.
    Last edited by Vilmosz; 11-16-2005, 01:38 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Just review or more?

      Originally posted by njnjboy
      Every time I sit down to do it on Sundays - it seems like a gargantuan thing and it takes a few hours (skipping the review of Somday/Maybees reduces it to less time but not by much).
      How many active projects do you have?

      How many Someday/Maybe projects?

      Let's assume that you have 60 active projects. Does it really take more than 2 minutes to review the status of each active project? To make sure that there are no hidden traps?

      Maybe during Weekly Review you are doing more than just the status check of the projects?

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't actually THINK about things when I do my weekly review - I simply catch the thoughts that are running around loose in my head. Trying to actually THINK about your projects makes it a lot more daunting.

        Originally it took me 2 hours to do my weekly review. Now I can do it in as little as fifteen minutes, depending on how well I've kept up with things during the week. If I have kept up with things, it's simply a matter of making sure I have the most important things for the coming week highlighted so they don't get overlooked.

        I always do my weekly review while watching sports on Sunday afternoon. I'm in a lazy mood and I can piddle with it as long as I want. If for some reason I don't get it done then, I do it before going to bed or in the morning.

        I actually do a daily review every morning for fifteen minutes to plan out my day (a loose schedule). Since I've been doing that, the weekly review has been even easier because I'm up on what I need to do. In the morning, I do a little bit of catching those loose thoughts and I pick out six things that are the most important things for me to accomplish that day.

        You just have to figure out what works for you. I promise it does get easier. Try breaking it down into pieces if you need to. Good luck!

        Comment


        • #5
          All - thank you for your thoughtful response.

          I thought that the weekly review was about thinking about the status of a project.

          Pageta - when you do your daily review - what kind of items are your reviewing?

          I thought I was on the "right" track with GtD....maybe I'm completely off. So here is a summary of how I do it:

          - I use Palm memopad (on device and desktop) for projects (which as I understand is anything that has more than one action associated with it) and also Calendar.

          My palm categories are as follows:
          A_top_3_for_now = an attempt to put the most important projects for the day here
          B_na_near = projects that I want to work on within the current and next month
          C_na_far = projects that are a few months away
          IN = in box for projects that come up between weekly reviews
          RECUR = recurring projects that have a link in Calendar (for example maintaining car is a recurring activity and I log in this project maintenance done)
          SM = Someday/Maybe projects
          WF = Waiting For = projects that are at a waiting for type of action
          ZARC-COMPLETE = completed project

          Keeping in mind that I consider anything that takes more than one action to be a project (that's what I understood from GtD book), I have the following number of projects:
          Total: 1214 projects (i.e. memos in palm)
          ZARC-COMPLETE: 674 (so actual "active" projects would be 540...with SM having 211 of these)

          So is the key to the review - just to review the status on everything quickly and not think about it too much????? How would I do a daily review in 15 minutes

          The weekly review steps that I try to follow are as follows (what I got from GtD book)...this is what takes me hours on Sunday:
          1. PULL OUT ANY LOOSE PAPERS: (from clothing, desk, accessories) and put them all in the IN basket for processing.
          2. PROCESS YOUR NOTES: review any recorded voice memo items, journal entries, meeting notes, miscell notes...list action items, projects, file...be ruthless w/ yourself processing everything.
          3. PREVIOUS CALENDAR DATA: Review past calendar dates in detail and create action items and transfer to active system. Be able to archive last week's calendar with nothing left uncaptured.
          4. UPCOMING CALENDAR: Look at future events (long- and short-term). Capture actions about arrangements and preparations for upcoming events.
          5. EMPTY YOUR HEAD: Put in writing (in appropriate categories) any new projects, action items, waiting-fors, someday/maybes, and so forth that you haven't yet captured.
          [For me: this processing memo IN]
          6. REVIEW "Projects" (AND LARGER OUTCOME) LISTS: Eval the status of projects, goals, and outcomes one by one, ensuring that at least one current kick-start action for each is in your system.
          [For me: process memo cats: a-, b-, c-]
          7. REVIEW "Next Actions" LISTS: Mark off completed actions. Review for reminder of further action steps to capture.
          [For me: process memo category:RECUR]
          8. REVIEW "Waiting For" LIST: Record appropriate actions for any needed follow-up. Check off received items.
          9. REVIEW ANY RELEVANT CHECKLISTS: Is there anything that you haven't done that you need to do? [This is still IN category]
          10. REVIEW "Someday/Maybe" LIST: Check for any projects that may have become active and transfer them to "Projects". Delete items no longer of interest
          11. REVIEW "Pending" AND Support Files: Browse through all work-in-progress support material to trigger new actions, completions and waiting-fors.
          12. BE CREATIVE AND COURAGEOUS: Are there any new, wonderful, harebrained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas you can add to your system?

          njnjboy

          Comment


          • #6
            Ummmm.... 540 active projects seems like a lot to me.

            Spending 5 minutes reviewing the status of each adds up to a 45 hour Weekly Review. No wonder you're procrastinating!

            Spending 10 minutes actually working on each project would take 90 hours in any given week, which seems like an unrealistic load to me.

            So my first suggestion would be brutal pruning of your list. If you don't know why it's on the list, eliminate it entirely. If you have no intention of working on it in at least the next month, move it to your Someday/Maybe list or even out of your GTD system altogether (for instance to an idea file of some kind).

            For what's left, seriously and realistically assess how much stuff you can actually achieve before the next Weekly Review. Decide what you're not going to do, and put those projects somewhere that you can ignore them until they become active or catch your interest again.

            For me, the maximum number of projects I can manage at any given time is about 50, and I can usually only actually work on 10 or 15 in a given week.

            Katherine

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by njnjboy
              I thought that the weekly review was about thinking about the status of a project. . .I thought I was on the "right" track with GtD....maybe I'm completely off. So here is a summary of how I do it:

              - I use Palm memopad (on device and desktop) for projects (which as I understand is anything that has more than one action associated with it) and also Calendar.

              Keeping in mind that I consider anything that takes more than one action to be a project (that's what I understood from GtD book), I have the following number of projects:
              Total: 1214 projects (i.e. memos in palm)
              ZARC-COMPLETE: 674 (so actual "active" projects would be 540...with SM having 211 of these)
              From what you describe, you are doing everything by the book; you are supposed to think about the status of projects during the weekly review, as well as higher-level goals.

              However, you have a lot of active projects. One obvious strategy would be to cut back on your projects, especially if realistically you are not going to get them all done. A second possibility would be to review your A and B categories more frequently and your C category less frequently.

              Still another possibility is that you could consolidate some of your projects. One way would be to define some or all of your projects more broadly. For example, could some related mini-projects be combined into a higher-level project? Then your project memo would have an outline of the subprojects and their associated Next Actions, which would cut down the number of memos to review and perhaps make it easier to get a clearer, less fragmented picture of everything. Another way would be to convert some projects into actions. Three small consecutive actions, each obvious after the last is completed, could be combined into one action and thus remove one project from your system. For example, if "Back up hard drive" is a project that contains a series of 3 actions that must be done consecutively and in the same context, put them in the Note field of a single ToDo, and then you'll have one fewer project to track.

              And that brings me to the issue of tools. Managing this scale and organization of data in Palm Memo requires a lot of unnecessary maintenance. Sure, it can be managed if you spend enough time maintaining and reviewing it, but why?

              Comment


              • #8
                Create a focused vision of what you want to achieve.

                Originally posted by njnjboy
                1. PULL OUT ANY LOOSE PAPERS: (from clothing, desk, accessories) and put them all in the IN basket for processing.
                Everytime you are near your inbox - take out any loose papers from pockets and put them in the inbox. If your inbox is on your desk - loose papers from the desk should already be in your inbox.
                Originally posted by njnjboy
                2. PROCESS YOUR NOTES: review any recorded voice memo items, journal entries, meeting notes, miscell notes...list action items, projects, file...be ruthless w/ yourself processing everything.
                Processing a note should be done outside the Weekly Review if you expect that it will take more than 2 minutes.
                Originally posted by njnjboy
                12. BE CREATIVE AND COURAGEOUS: Are there any new, wonderful, harebrained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas you can add to your system?
                You should rather use your creativity and courage to filter out projects that are less important and create a focused vision of what you want to achieve (10k..50k levels).

                Besides I think the real-time project reviews (after NA completion) and daily reviews will help you to be better prepared for the Weekly Review.

                Comment


                • #9
                  njnjboy - thank you for this thread.

                  I'm also having problems in this area. The first week I did the review on Friday afternoon at the end of the day and it felt good. The 2nd week, it slipped to Sunday night and it was OK. I haven't done it in the couple of weeks since. Definitely not looking forward to it.

                  Somehow I have to make the same change that I've made in how I think of my todo list, paper inbox and email inbox.

                  Realizing that no one should be able to complete all of the items on their todo list that they should do - and if they are doing everything they have to do, they do not have a very good list at all - this helped me feel better.

                  Paper and Email inboxes I am keeping them processed because I either do if under the 2 minute rule, file for reference or move to an action needed box (definite issues in the action needed box - but at least I've had a chance to be aware of what went through the inboxes).

                  Weekly review:
                  I don't actually THINK about things when I do my weekly review
                  Perhaps a first step is to just "touch the items" without attention, delete items no longer needed, do easy updates and add items that we think of without struggling. Sort of the inbox approach, have a chance to touch the items and weed out obvious changes. Basically, be aware of what the projects even are.

                  As you indicated, sometime we have to actually think about the projects, but I'm starting to realize if I do it here the weekly review will not get done.

                  Filing, moving papers around - if I do this in the process, the weekly review also will not get done. If I can't do it right, maybe at least a scan.

                  Weekly review - definitely an area that is not working for me, because here we come face-to-face with the indication of the consequences of what we are not getting done (tempting to not think about it).
                  Last edited by Denver Dave; 11-17-2005, 08:36 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My Weekly Review Mistakes

                    I procrastinate on my Weekly Review as well. Part of the reason was that I was confused about the steps in the review process and was doing too much. Ultimately I realized that the Weekly Review is the time to look through my lists to see if I have missed anything, rather that a catch basket for work.

                    My Weekly Review is a four step process.
                    • Check the calendar from last week and look for open loops.
                    • Check the calendar for next week and see if you need to do anything before the meetings.
                    • Check the Projects List to make sure that every project has at least one Next Action.
                    • Check the Someday/Maybe list for the month

                    Some of the steps the book says are part of the Weekly Review should be done daily.
                    • Check the Waiting For List
                    • Check all the NA Lists for completions

                    I have been able to get in my Weekly Review once I identified the mistakes I was making. I still have problems with completion, but the Review is becoming more of a habit.

                    Here is/was my list of issues:

                    I did not plan a set date and TIME to do the Weekly Review.

                    I fixed this by making an appointment with myself. The idea being that I incorporate a new routine habit that I perform automatically every Friday. You never get stressed about routine habits in your life, because you always make time for them regardless of your schedule.

                    I got hung up on a single step.

                    I spent all my time processing and did not get to the other steps.

                    Processing the In Box is important, but it is more important to complete the entire Weekly Review. A partial review that covers everything is better than the perfect review that stops after a couple of items. Think of it like building a car. If you spend all your money on the perfect engine and don't buy any of the other components, all you have is a pile of junk. But if you buy all the pieces, you may have a crappy car, but you have a crappy car that works.

                    I have too many projects to review.

                    The other problem is too many open projects. I know people say they have 60+ projects on their plate. Honestly, I can work on 60 projects a week, but I cannot complete 60 projects a week. At most I will be able to get 5 or 6 done.

                    I am still not sure what to do about this. Probably, I'll plan only one NA for most and flesh out the five that I want to complete this week.

                    I am planning too much of a project at one time.

                    This is a multi part problem. What I used to do is define the entire project to completion the moment it showed up. This meant that I spent a lot of time planning projects and rather than working. So come Friday, I had a backlog of work and unplanned projects. I would try to plan out all the unplanned projects and get caught up on that, and the backlog of work meant that I had to realign all my existing projects. So there was a lot of planning and replanning.

                    What I realized is that I should not plan out every project. All I need to do is define one Next Action for each project. For simple projects it is easy to define the single atomic Next Action. Larger projects will take 30 minutes to an hour to plan because I need to evaluate options and priorities. For these the atomic Next Action is "plan 'project' up till 'goal point'" i.e. "plan 'Build A Car' up till 'I have bought the best engine I can afford'". This NA will go on my @Project-Planning List.

                    Every Wednesday I have an appointment with myself to check the @Project-Planning List and flesh out any projects that need extended planning.

                    Doing maintenance and creating projects during the Weekly Review.

                    When I noticed straggling projects, my gut reaction was to replan and realign them immediately. This meant that I had to look over all the project support materials, delete obsolete NAs, type in new NAs, etc. It took a lot of time. This meant that I did not get a chance to look over all my projects.

                    What I do now is separate "project maintenance" from "project status check". If I see a straggler that needs extended planning I'll add it to my @Project-Planning List and get to it when I have time.

                    Then there are the new projects on the radar. When I identified these during my Weekly Review, I immediately added them to my Active Projects List without looking at my current inventory of work. So I am adding projects and reviewing projects all at the same time and my inventory is never current.

                    The lesson here is - Never add projects during the Weekly Review. I have decided to only add projects to the Active Projects List after I have completed a Weekly Review and have a complete inventory of my workload.

                    The other rule is - Add 1 Subtract 2. I ultimately realized that every new project takes as much time to complete as two existing projects. The reason being that I have already completed a lot of work on the existing projects, while absolutely nothing has been done on the new project. In deciding to add a project I have to consider whether the new project is worth sacrificing two or more existing projects. Generally most new projects ended up on the Someday/Maybe List.

                    Reviewing unnecessary items/lists.

                    The goal of the Weekly Review is to get an overview of my workload and realign any straggling projects. By trying to cram too much into the review I am losing sight of this goal and wasting time performing an empty ritual.

                    Once I realized this. I pared down the review to the meaningful items. Trying to do a mind sweep every Friday is pointless. I do a mind sweep whenever something bothers me. Trying to cram that stage into the Weekly Review is redundant. The same can be said about processing the backlog in the In Box. The choice is between "processing In Box" or "reviewing Projects List". I process the In Box every day of the week. Friday is the only time I get to completely review my Projects List, so that must take priority over the In Box. Also my Someday/Maybe List is quite large. I have items on there that cannot be accomplished this year or the next. I am not going to "Go skiing on the Swiss Alps" anytime soon. There is no reason for me to be looking at this item every week. So what I have done is separate my Someday/Maybe List into "Someday/Maybe" and "Someday/Maybe - Nov". Items go on my monthly list first. If they don't get completed they go on the global list.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Do you need to record ALL projects?

                      First of all I would second KEWMS advice. You may have 540 projects, but there is no way they can be "active" in the sense that you will complete them in any time in the near future. David's advice is to have your Project list consist of those things which will generate the primary actions during the weekly review, and should be on radar for completion in the next month or two. You may want access the pdf article on Projects available on this site - it's free.

                      I would guess some of the projects you have are longer-term items, which should perhaps go onto a Long-Range or Short-Range Goals list. Someday/Maybe is a list that should be review weekly, so you can feel safe putting things "on hold" there if you commit to reviewing it.

                      Secondly, not everything that is a project necessarily needs to go on the list. David says "when the cat litter stinks, you change it." When you get hungry, you don't need a list to tell you to eat. The point being that what you need on a list are things that will blow up if you don't review them regularly. Somethings have thier own "built-in" reminders. You don't have to list them.

                      When you divide your Projects list into things that you intend to COMPLETE in the next few months, and move others to Someday/Maybe, and again others to Long-range goals and Yearly (or longer) plans, you may be able to trim your list down. This will allow you to focus, which I am sure is almost impossible with 540 Proejcts. However, remember that these other lists also need to be reviewed regularly, just not weekly.

                      HTH,
                      Gordon

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bernard
                        The other rule is - Add 1 Subtract 2. I ultimately realized that every new project takes as much time to complete as two existing projects. The reason being that I have already completed a lot of work on the existing projects, while absolutely nothing has been done on the new project. In deciding to add a project I have to consider whether the new project is worth sacrificing two or more existing projects. Generally most new projects ended up on the Someday/Maybe List.
                        Thank you for your insight. I especially liked the above idea.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Kathrine - thank you for your response.

                          Originally posted by kewms
                          Ummmm.... 540 active projects seems like a lot to me.
                          So my first suggestion would be brutal pruning of your list. If you don't know why it's on the list, eliminate it entirely. If you have no intention of working on it in at least the next month, move it to your Someday/Maybe list or even out of your GTD system altogether (for instance to an idea file of some kind).
                          I'm hesitant to move it out of GTD altogether because then I'll pick it back up mentally. Someday/Maybe makes more sense, but then that becomes a huge list that's supposed to be reviewed during the Weekly Review.

                          Originally posted by kewms
                          For what's left, seriously and realistically assess how much stuff you can actually achieve before the next Weekly Review. Decide what you're not going to do, and put those projects somewhere that you can ignore them until they become active or catch your interest again.

                          For me, the maximum number of projects I can manage at any given time is about 50, and I can usually only actually work on 10 or 15 in a given week.
                          The realistic assesment of the stuff is what takes lots of time. Thank you for your feedback about pruning.

                          njnjboy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by njnjboy
                            I'm hesitant to move it out of GTD altogether because then I'll pick it back up mentally. Someday/Maybe makes more sense, but then that becomes a huge list that's supposed to be reviewed during the Weekly Review.
                            The best way to handle it really depends on the nature of the stuff.

                            I keep an idea file because, as a writer, I collect lots of ideas for things to write about. Most of those will never be pursued at all, and many of them will sit for months or even years. If I'm stuck, I flip through the file, but I can easily ignore it the rest of the time.

                            If that doesn't work for you, you could try having multiple Someday/Maybe lists, for review at different intervals. Some might need to be reviewed weekly, but some only monthly, every six months, or yearly. For example, do you really need to think about a Someday/Maybe trip to ski in Switzerland or surf in Hawaii *every* week? If not, then push it off to the next time you want to think about it, say when you're planning your vacation time for 2006.

                            The bottom line is that reviewing 500 projects a week is simply not possible. Prune the list in whatever way makes sense to you, but realize that it has got to be pruned.

                            Katherine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Pruning idea

                              Some really great ideas on this thread!

                              Maybe this is just repeating KEWMS' point, but my big lesson from neglected weekly reviews was to first drop the urge to review everything every week. Once I got out of that box, it was fairly easy to come up with a list of things, major and minor, that I felt I needed to review on a regular basis, without worrying about how regularly I'd review them. Then, based on how frequently each item changed, I was able to put them in "daily", "weekly/biweekly", and "monthly" review buckets.

                              As I purged and pruned my list, two common Weekly Review "bugs" stood out:
                              1) An overly horizontal review, when there are too many things to review. The fix was to spread them out across multiple sessions. Also, I stopped reviewing "dead" stuff (an idea file can stay "dead" until you need ideas)
                              2) An overly vertical review, when some items take more time than others. The fix was to remove these from WR and create separate "vertical focus" sessions for them.

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