Getting Things Done - GTD

To Reflect Means to Look at Things with Perspective

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Weekly Review Reflect Basic GTD Work-flow
"To make knowledge productive, we will have to learn to see both forest and tree. We will have to learn to connect." – Peter F. Drucker

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To Reflect Means to Look at Things with Perspective

We have seen how you can transform all the to-dos in your life into a set of perfectly organized reminders in a trusted system. We could say that the first three stages of the GTD methodology workflow form the “organizational apparatus” of the method:

  1. To Properly Manage Your Stuff, Start Capturing It
  2. The Ultimate Skill: Clarifying Precisely What Is What
  3. To Organize Is to Put Everything in Its Place

At this point you have captured a lot of vague and abstract information that dwells in your mind, converted it into perfectly defined written information and stored it in the right places to work with it when needed. You are now in control.

But it is one thing to have control and another to keep it. If you limit yourself to just capturing, clarifying and organizing, there will come a time when what you are doing will not exactly match what you need to do in order to achieve your goals in life.

The fourth step of the GTD methodology is called Reflect and consists of reviewing and updating the contents of your lists so that they form an current map of your reality, in order to be able to make effective decisions in all areas of your life.

Reflecting gives you the perspective you need to stay in control. It’s not just about what you’re doing, but also why.

This phase of reflection is done along three dimensions:

  1. Daily review
  2. Weekly review
  3. Higher-level review

The Daily Review

The daily review involves becoming aware of what you need to do today. It’s very simple because you just need to take a look at the two lists in your system that contain your own actions: the calendar and the Next Action list.

  • Calendar: Take a look at the actions you have scheduled for this day to remember where to go and at what time. If you have many events scheduled in the calendar you may have to check it several times a day.
  • Next actions list. Take a general look at your next actions and the contexts in which they should be performed to decide which things are going to be given preference throughout the day.

The daily review only takes a few seconds, but it gives you a feeling of complete control in your daily life. It allows you to be clear about what you are going to do today, while giving you peace of mind to relax and do whatever else you like to do at times when your responsibilities are covered. You can do the daily review at the start of the day or the night before.

The Weekly Review

The weekly review is a more thorough process that will allow you to gain clarity, keep your system updated and open a space for your creativity. Once you’ve done it, I assure you that you’ll be in a great frame of mind for the week ahead.

Gain clarity

To gain clarity you must “clean up”. At the beginning of the review, collect all loose papers and materials left over from the previous week. In addition to physical items, capture whatever is still hanging around in your head. Once you have captured all the unfinished business, you empty your inboxes using the clarifying and organizing processes we have seen in the previous articles.

Get up to date

To get up to date you need to check that your lists contain adequate, current and accurate information so that you can continue to rely on them fully:

  • Review the previous week’s calendar entries – do you find anything related to them that you need to do? If so, you know, you should capture it.
  • Review next week’s calendar entries (and any additional weeks, if you feel it’s necessary). Capture any actions you need to take before those future events arrive.
  • Review the list of next actions. Cross out the things you have already completed and add new actions if required.
  • Review the list of waiting-for actions. Is there anything that is not progressing properly? Make a note of any complaints you need to make.
  • Review the project list and make sure you have at least one next action related to each one of your projects.

Get creative

Once you’ve done the bulk of the weekly review and your whole system is up to date, it’s a good time for you to relax and think about what you could do that you’re not doing. What would you like to embark on? What ideas do you have?

Review the someday/maybe list. Is it a good time to accomplish any of the things you have on that list? If so, move the item to the next action list (and to the project list if necessary) to commit to it and generate the necessary momentum to get started.

Reviewing the higher levels of perspective

From time to time, you should review your system from a higher perspective. This big picture review has to do with your mission, your vision, your goals and your areas of focus, concepts that we will talk about in a forthcoming article.

If you manage your GTD system with FacileThings you will have everything you need to carry out the Reflect stage in all its dimensions. You will receive a daily email at the time of your choice with the necessary information to perform the daily review, and you can use a wizard to perform the weekly review in much less time than it usually takes.

screenshot of the FacileThings weekly review feature

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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