Productivity in the Workplace (and at home): The Weekly Review
I was recently interviewed by the Juice on ways that I stay productive at work. I thought that I would write a short series on my particular methods of productivity. This is more of a description of how my system works, there will be very little technology mentioned. If there is interest, I could write a followup for the specific techniques that I use, however, I suspect that such information would be less useful to others than the general overview that follows in this series.
[flickr]photo:279594916(small)[/flickr]And someone said, Let the tasks within the system be gathered together unto one place, and let the structure appear: and it was so.
And people called the linked tasks Projects; and the gathering together of hopes and dreams called they Goals: and saw that it was good.This step is key. This is also the hardest one to do. The idea here is that most of GTD covers TACTICAL productivity. This is great. It allows you to prioritize on the fly, and make sure that work flows through you as you sit in a zen-like state doing-doing-doing. It’s also a great way to make sure that all you ever do is, well, do. There is nothing in there that allows you to consider whether you are doing what you really should be doing.The weekly review is the STRATEGIC part of the system. Once a week, I go through my entire system and check my progress. I check my collection points (more on these later) for work that needs to be done. I look at tasks (individual work items) and re-schedule them as needed. I look at my projects (collections of tasks), and decide which ones I care enough about to work on in the following week. I then look at my goals and decide how well I am doing.
I track my projects and goals in a wiki, so that it is accessible wherever I am. In theory, I should be able to-do this on my Treo, but it just didn’t work for me that way. I’d love to be able to keep my project lists with me wherever I go, but they just get too complex with task decencies and external resource dependencies. Since I’m online most of the time, I find this to a reasonable compromise. I may not be ideally productive, but I wasn’t using the ideal system anyway because it was too hard to use.
Also, I split my review into different parts. This, I suspect, is different from the standard GTD implementation. My work week starts on Sunday, which I think of as my “focus / reboot day”. This is the time when I work on servers if they need preventative maintenance. Then, I focus on my tasks, my projects, and my life.
I start by looking at my email out box, my time tracking, and my checked-off to-do items. I use this data to write my boss a weekly status report. I cover what I did in the last week, and highlight anything that I think he needs to know. This gives me three big benefits:
- My boss knows what I’m up to, as there are often weeks where we do not communicate directly at all.
- I get the information on a weekly basis of what I did that was important. This helps me update my resume when needed.
- I get a sense of closure on the week, and I enter into the planning phase with a sense of accomplishment (usually).
The next phase is to look at the next week. I go through my to-do items and re-schedule the following week with things that I intend to do. I look at everything sitting in my collection points and deal with any filing that I may have put off and generally clean things up. I then go to my wiki and scroll through every project that I have listed as active, and adjust status in the wiki AND create to-do items on my Treo as needed. I then add a section to my report covering what I hope to accomplish in the next week. Then I send it to my boss (and myself).
Lastly, I go through my goals section and evaluate how I am doing at achieving my overall goals. This forces me to realize my personal flaws and try to come up with a way to deal with them. I also get a chance to pat myself on the back if I’m doing well.
For example, I am quite good at modifying my diet and am eating much healthier than I was. However, I am LOUSY at maintaining an exercise program. Too bad you can’t outsource things like that.
Then, I’m ready for my weekly work influx to start.
- How often to you get status reports? How often should you?
- What’s it worth to you to know what your employees think are important?
- Would you like the chance to correct priorities before an employee runs down a rabbit trail.