A GTD Weekly Review for Insanely Busy Managers (30 minutes or less)

written by Dan Silvestre

gtd weekly review template

The GTD Weekly Review is the best work habit you can develop.

It’s Friday evening and I’m staring at my computer. I’m thinking: “I haven’t accomplished much this week”.

Sure, I put in 60+ hours at work. Yet, I have this feeling I’ve got nothing important done.

Welcome to my life a few years ago…

Fast forward to today:

I’m in control. I know what I have accomplished this week. And I’m ready for next week.

But getting to this point was not a straightforward process. I used to spend a couple of hours on Sunday reviewing every single thing—my tasks, goals, strategy, and plans.

And I hated it. So I started skipping it. I dreaded doing it.

With practice, I’ve tweaked it into a simple GTD weekly review. I review my week, update my to-do list, and get ready for the upcoming week.

And then I close my computer and end my week.

Today, you’re going to discover my simple GTD weekly review.

If you…

  • Have no idea what to work on Monday morning
  • End the week feeling you haven’t made any progress on your goals
  • Try to focus on too many things each week, achieving little in each
  • Feel you’re not in control of your week and work

Then you need to develop the GTD weekly review habit.

Think of it this way:

A GTD weekly review is a time for reflection. To become proactive in your life, rather than reactive.

It’s 52 new week’s resolutions instead of just one New Year’s resolution.

It’s 52 opportunities to start fresh.

The GTD Weekly Review

Here’s the mistake most people make:

The GTD weekly review is not for planning. Or for getting things done.

The goal of the GTD weekly review is to ensure everything is on track.

An efficient GTD weekly review aims to:

  • Clean your inboxes. Empty all your physical and digital workspaces. Move things to their place and delete everything that can distract work in the upcoming week
  • Review your week. Reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. Update your to-do and projects list. Remove unimportant tasks and update your calendar with any new relevant information
  • Prioritize and schedule. Decide your tasks for the week and time block your calendar

Here’s the first thing you need to do:

Schedule a block of 30 minutes on your calendar every Friday at 5 p.m. Set up a reminder for it.

This is when you’re going to do your GTD weekly review, every single week.

This will bring you a sense of closure and wrap-up before the weekend.

And come Monday morning, you are ready to tackle the new week.

Step 1: Clean your inboxes

​Chefs​ have a ritual called the mise-en-place – “put in place.” To have all your ingredients prepped and ready for cooking.

We too must get everything organized.

That’s the first step of the GTD weekly review: to clear your workspaces.

Clear off your desk from clutter and papers, receipts, and miscellaneous paper-based materials. Wipe down your desk if you want.

Then, move on to the digital workspaces:

  1. Clean Email. Move emails to the appropriate folders. Avoid the temptation of replying to emails. If you need to take action on an email – reply, follow-up, bump – add it to your to-do list. Add reminders to the emails you’re waiting for a reply to
  2. Empty Desktop & Download folders. Move files to their appropriate location. Both locations should be empty when you’re done
  3. Check Calendar. Do a quick check of the previous 2 weeks and the next 4 weeks. Make a note of anything that catches your eye. Look for remaining action items and reference data. Add them to your to-do list if needed
  4. Empty Read Later apps. If you use Pocket, Instapaper, or bookmarks, empty your current reading list. Delete sources that are no longer useful and move the ones you want to keep to their correct location
  5. Process Notes. Ensure they are all classified properly, whatever tool or system you use. ​I use Roam for my Zettelkasten.​ Look for unfinished to-dos. Move notes to a better home

This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

When you’re done, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Review your week

I like to use ​Plus Minus Next journaling​ by Ness Labs:

Draw three columns. At the top of each column, write “+” for what worked, “–” for what didn’t go so well, and “→” for what you plan to do next.

It looks like this:

gtd weekly review your week

Then, fill it with events from the past week.

Wins and highlights from the past week go in the first columns. Tasks or events that didn’t go according to plan go into the second. Whatever you want to work on next go in the last column.

Here is an example from this week:

gtd weekly review my weekly review

Don’t worry about ranking items. Simply write down anything that comes to mind.

This also takes a couple of minutes.

We’re now going to use your “Next” actions in the final section of your GTD weekly review.

Step 3: Prioritize and schedule

Now, it’s the time to rank your “Next” actions. You want to make sure your focus is on important tasks. This allows me to discard anything that’s not important and not urgent.

I use Khe Hy’s ​$10,000/hr Work Matrix​ (which I also talked about in my ​weekly planning​ system):

10k framework

Grab your tasks and put them in the appropriate quadrant of the matrix. By the end of this simple exercise, you’ll know your high-leverage tasks.

Use my $10K Framework Template to prioritize your tasks if you want:10k framework weekly review template

As for low-leverage tasks, delegate them if possible (more on the levels of delegation​).

Finally, schedule time on your calendar to work on your tasks. This is called time blocking. Set alerts for critical tasks.

By planning your week in advance, you prevent distractions from ruining your day. You remain focused on your most important tasks.

Optional: Dive deeper with questions

This section is optional. I go deeper on my weekly review asking myself questions and journaling my answers.

The value isn’t so much from answering them, but rather from the exercise of thinking about them.

It’s a chance to look at the bigger picture.

Going deeper helps you uncover patterns or simply empty your mind completely. It also helps to get a broader perspective of your week.

I do it when:

  • I had a particularly bad week — helps me understand how to improve
  • A great week has just finished — can I discover patterns so I can replicate them?
  • I have a little more time to do my weekly review — allows me more time for reflection

Here are some of my favorites:

  • What’s the biggest constraint on my output right now? (from the book “The Goal”)
  • Which projects or tasks, if done, would render all the rest either easier or completely irrelevant?
  • What went well last week and what could I do to build on that?
  • What would next week look like if it were simple and easy?
  • Can I learn something from what went wrong?
  • What can I remove to simplify my work?
  • Is there something I would like to change in the way I work?
  • What kinds of things am I avoiding?
  • What am I looking forward to on Monday?
  • Did I do my best to <achieve this thing>?
  • Who can I reach out to for help this week?

Grab a pen and paper and get journaling.

The Life-Changing Magic of the GTD Weekly Review

“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustav Flaubert

The GTD weekly review might seem like yet another task on your to-do list.

But it’s so much more than that.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it’s the most important productivity habit you can develop.

Here are some pro tips to make sure your GTD weekly review goes smoothly:

  • Focus on reviewing, not doing. Fight the urge to start doing things. Add them to your to-do list and move on
  • Embrace trade-offs. You can’t do it all. Realize that when you’re choosing to do one task, you’re saying “no” to many other tasks. And that’s a good thing
  • Use a checklist. This will make your review so much easier

Once you get into the habit of doing a GTD weekly review, the whole process takes about 15-20 minutes.

That’s all it takes to go from chaos to clarity.

To feel in control and ready to tackle the next challenges.

Why not start today?

Tags:: Getting Things Done, GTD, weekly review

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