GTD Best Practices: Review (Part 4 of 5)

David Allen calls the Weekly Review the “critical success factor” to GTD. Why? It’s the glue that keeps it all together.  It’s also one of the steps people tend to resist the most.  Here are some keys for getting the most out of the Review phase to keep your GTD system humming along.


There are 11 steps in the GTD Weekly Review.  David Allen recommends leading yourself through this every 7-10 days to get clear, current, and creative.

Get clear – ensure all your “stuff” is processed

Collect Loose Papers and Materials
Get “IN” to Zero
Empty Your Head
Get current – review your system and update lists

Review Action Lists
Review Previous Calendar Data
Review Upcoming Calendar
Review Waiting For List
Review Project (and Larger Outcome) Lists
Review Any Relevant Checklists

Get creative – follow your intuitive thinking

Review Someday Maybe List
Be Creative & Courageous


Review your system regularly.  Sounds simple and obvious enough, but this is a challenge for many GTD implementers.  The downside of letting Reviews lag is that you risk your mind starting to take back what it downloaded into your system. You start thinking about things more than they deserve and can start to get leaks in your system.

Any Review is better than no Review. Don’t have the recommended 1-2 hours to do a thorough Weekly Review? Dedicate whatever time you do have and choose the step that most has your attention for that week.

Give it time to make it a habit.  Try at least 4 Reviews before you decide you just can’t do them.  It takes time to groove new habits and create a new reference point. Once you really taste what clear, current, and creative feels like, you’ll move mountains to make it happen, regardless of how busy you are.

Stay focused on reviewing not doing. It’s tempting to get in to handling some things you find in your Review. That’s fine for the quick less than two-minute ones, but be careful that your Review doesn’t turn into a catch up on backlog time.

Pick a day and time that works for you. This is one of the most common questions we get asked as coaches. Any day works, as long as it works for you. Universally, Friday morning seems to be the most common day. Choose a time when you tend to be brain sharp, not brain toast. I would also pick a time that leaves you buffer room to handle things that would not be good to find/fix if no one else is around (like end of day Friday).

Hope this helps!

Just joining this series? Read part one on Collect, part two on Process, part three on Organize, and part five on Doing. You’ll also find a few podcasts related to the Weekly Review in our free public podcast stream. And David Allen has a Guided Weekly Review webinar on GTD Connect.

Kelly Forrister is a senior coach & seminar presenter with the David Allen Company







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  1. I have to disagree with the suggestion of doing partial or broken-up reviews. If you don’t do a thorough job your mind won’t trust your lists are complete and up-to-date. In that case you won’t feel good about any decision you make.

    In my opinion, a weekly review needs to be like a workout in the gym. When you’re in the gym you’re not checking e-mails or making calls or thinking about work. You are isolated from the daily grind and focused on the exercises at hand (you have to be or you might get hurt). That kind of disengagement provides the mental stress relief from the exercise. You also can’t spread a workout across days (i.e. you can’t warm up on Monday and do the heavy lifting Tuesday). It’s one session, one workout and you leave feeling better than when you arrived.

    If you honestly don’t have the time to do a weekly review regularly then you must renegotiate your commitments so that you do. It’s critical for staying on the GTD wagon.

  2. Loved the article, but it left me hanging… no Part 5? Where is the “Do” phase described?

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