Categories | Community Contributions | Implementation
A Community Contribution from Carolyn J. Sullivan about her experience with the GTD Weekly Review. We would love to hear your experience with the Weekly Review in the comments.
I’ve been using GTD principles since I was first introduced to them in 1994-95. I was part of a consulting group at Polaroid responsible for supporting cross-functional new product development teams in the areas of effectiveness, organizational learning, and functional expertise. After some research, a colleague found the Time/Design system, and before long we had arranged for David Allen to come in and deliver what was then called the “MAP Seminar.” I don’t exaggerate when I say it changed my life, and I have applied the questions “What’s the desired outcome?” and “What’s the next action?” to every conceivable personal and professional issue since.
The thing that astounds me most about GTD is the fact that, 25 years later, I discover nuances and have epiphanies on a regular basis – this is truly an organic approach that grows with the user. My latest epiphany came a few weeks ago and concerns the dreaded Weekly Review. I thought: “If I feel stress in any given week, it’s because I’m trying to think about several ‘big pictures’ while simultaneously reigning in the chaos that threatens to run away with my sanity!” I realized that my ability to think clearly during the ebb and flow of my days, my ability to be with any input that arises for me, is directly proportional to the time I’ve spent that week in reflection. On a daily basis, I am calmer and more focused when I meditate in the morning. When I say “meditate,” I am using the term loosely – I mean that I’ve been able to have some quiet, non-thinking time either sitting and watching my breath, or perhaps staring out the window or writing in a stream of consciousness way. When I don’t have that little buffer between my sleep state and my full-on, awake, “handling things” state, then I find I’m a little off-kilter.
On a weekly basis, I have the Weekly Review. It is a time to reflect, and not do. Now when I do my Weekly Review, I treat it as a real meeting with a real assistant. When I frame the weekly review as a session, during which I get to delegate to an assistant (rather than figuring out what I need to do) then it takes on a liberating quality instead of feeling like another should. I suppose you could really file this approach under “acting as if,” but whatever you want to call it, it works for me. When I’m delegating to someone, I have to be very clear as to what I want them to do. I can’t vaguely say “Work on the Thompson Project.” I need to give that person specific tasks to accomplish. Tasks that I can review with them the following week in order to determine how much progress has been made. That way I can re-calibrate and re-negotiate if necessary based on “our” available resources. If it seems as though I’ve been over-loading my assistant, and only a few of the intended tasks have been accomplished, then it’s time to take a step back and see why this might be so, and how we might fix it. Obviously this approach can work extremely well between a person and their flesh-and-blood assistant. But it’s an approach that has made a light year of difference in the effectiveness of my own self-review. The Weekly Review becomes less emotionally charged; less about beating up on myself for what I didn’t do, and more about setting myself up for success.
There is nothing like the feeling when I’ve thought through everything on my plate, have decided what needs active attention and what can be put on the back burner, and have subsequently identified precisely what needs to happen to move it all forward. It allows me to be present in each moment, and to move into the daily role of “self-assistant” – fulfilling my “manager’s” requests and not really worrying about much beyond getting things done. How many of us who have been managers haven’t longed for the day when we didn’t have to “worry about stuff all the time”?! The Weekly Review, done consistently and with perhaps a little internal role-playing, has given me the best of both worlds.
Carolyn Sullivan is Director of Marketing for Rosewalker Design Project, which specializes in antique restoration and the creation of mixed media decorative arts. She also works a full 40-hour-plus work week as an Executive Assistant for an international logistics company. She loves to write and play music, read, watch films, and just be.