December 19, 2011

Review Often

Last month I continued my series on better project/task management. I wrote about three ideas for staying on top of your information intake process. These included taking time in the moment to make sure you have captured everything, highlighting important information for later recall and use, and setting aside time for formal review.

This month I want to expand my thoughts on reviews including when and what to review. A formal, periodic review is one of the key elements of the “Getting Things Done” approach to project/task management. It’s important to not only review your calendar and notes but also your goals, objectives, plans, projects and tasks. In looking at my process, I have settled on five key times to sit down and review.

They are:

At the beginning of each year I like to take time to do two things. First, I like to recap the previous year to see how well I did against the goals and objectives I set at the beginning of the year. Then I like to focus on the new year and establish my new goals and objectives. Once I have these new goals set, I can start reviewing potential projects and build my plan for achieving them. This plan is my guide for the coming year.

Once the year begins, I like to take time each quarter to review my progress against the annual plan. I use this time to review my goals, objectives, and corresponding projects. I check to see if they are still relevant and see if anything new has occurred or changed that might mean a change to my plan. If so, I make the necessary adjustments. I end each quarterly session with a updated annual plan.

Each month I stop and assess my progress toward completing my projects. I review each project, including active, on-hold, and canceled. I look at each project and check the progress against my plan. I also check to make sure that the active projects are the right ones for reaching my goals. My goal for this session is to come away with an updated project list.

The most important review session is the weekly review. This is when I sit down and review not only my active projects but also the individual actions/tasks. This is when I determine if I am working on the right things daily. I look at both the just completed week and the upcoming one. I look at my project list, my task lists, my calendar, and my notes. I end this session with an updated action/task list and a working plan for the week.

Finally, I set aside a few minutes at the end of each day to review my daily activities. I check my action/task list, my notes from the day, and my calendar. I use this time to prepare mentally for the next day. This allows me to go home each night and know that I am ready for the next day. This session keeps me on track for the week.

By following through with each of these sessions, I am able to keep a handle on the projects, actions, and other activities that move me toward my goals. Do you follow a similar process? Let me know your thoughts on periodic review.

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