This next step is a crucial one because the system stands or falls with it. My first article in the GTD series for music studio teachers began with a brief look at the GTD Methodology. Up to this point we gathered and collected all the loose ends around us that have cluttered up our physical and mental spaces in step one.
Then we clarified what we had collected in step two. What does all of it mean to us in terms of what needs to be done?
In step three we organized what we gathered and clarified into various systems or holding places and we gave some thought to the tools and resources we would use for this purpose.
In step four, we now come to what I consider one of the most important steps: reflect and review. We review what we have, and we do that on a regular basis. At the same time we reflect on what we have, where we have been, and where we want to go. This step keeps us from going stale or getting stalled, and it prevents us from slipping and sliding back down the mountain into the old habits of cluttering our physical and mental spaces.
GTD methodology tells us that the best review happens weekly, preferably the same time each week. How long the review lasts will vary from person to person. Review is not engagement, meaning that we do not act on the items that we review other than to make notes that clarify or clean up. We make sure that our list items are current and clear.
If I have any loose notes somewhere, I need to be sure that my system has gathered and collected those notes. If I have anything lying in my inbox (or electronically too), I need to clean that out and gather it, clarify it, and organize it appropriately. I will "engage" or act on these things later once I put them on my "next actions" list. For now, I note these items, clarify what they are and what needs to be done in order to be done with them, and I put them in the proper "containers."
How to do a Weekly Review?
So how to do a weekly review? First, I find it helpful to take a look around me to be sure that I have not forgotten to include something in my system. Is there something lying around that needs me to gather or capture it, clarify it, or organize it? I search around my physical locations and inside my head. I look for loose ends or things that I forgot to record or collect. I thumb through my weekly planner for the past week, maybe the week before that (just in case), and the coming week. Sometimes this act will spark a memory of something that I wanted to remember or accomplish, and I then include that item in my GTD lists.
One reason I like the Omnifocus 2 for Mac program, aside from it being available on my iPhone and my MacBook Pro, is that it includes a "review" feature. It reminds me weekly to do the weekly review. I open up the app, look through every item on the lists, and mark them "reviewed" when I finish. Simple! Quick!
If you are using lists on paper, sit down with your favorite beverage and start looking through your lists. Cross off tasks that you completed, add new items to your lists, and rewrite your lists if it helps you to gain a better footing on what you need to accomplish in the next days, week, or month.
Bullet Journal and GTD Weekly Review
My bullet journal serves a lot of my GTD purposes right now, and I find that I look through that journal much more often than once a week, although I think it is a terrific idea to set aside a specific time for this special weekly review. I think by setting aside a special time that we create a better focus. I thumb through many pages within my journal, not only to enjoy what I have written there -- the splashes of color, the notes I included, the new collection sets I created -- but because I look to complete items on the various pages so that I can "close out" the page as being finished.
As of this moment, I use my bullet journal as the "brain dump" area. As I begin a new month, I leave a page (or 3) open to allow me to collect any ideas, thoughts, reminders, or notes throughout the month. When I begin a new month, I add a new set of pages for this brain dump to continue in the next month. Meanwhile, during the previous month, I systematically check off things that I accomplish. At some point, I will reach the "almost done" point, and I will then decide to migrate any tasks that I still deem relevant to the next month's brain dump list, or I will cross off tasks as irrelevant, unnecessary, or no longer something I want to do. Then when the items on the page are dealt with, that means I can "close out" the page. It is done and never needs to be revisited again unless I want to reminisce about to do lists from the past. I put a star at the top of the page, and I can make that page a thing of the past.
Weekly Review for Music Studio
What are some things that we need to be sure to review in the music studio? Here is a list of things that I like to review each week:
Tuition Payments -- Are they current? Do I need to send a reminder to anyone? Have I deposited checks in the bank? Have I brought my studio's financial records up to date?
Physical Environment -- How clean is my teaching space? Do I need to put things away, run the vacuum cleaner, or organize the bookshelf? Does my space look clean, energized, and exciting for learning, or does it look tired, dull, and messy? Are there things lying around that remind me of things to include on my lists of things to do?
People -- I like to consider this category to help me remember to contact people that I need to connect with. I run through my student list to see if I recall anything. Was I going to send an email to a parent? Schedule a special parent-teacher conference? Suggest something helpful to a parent for a home practice? Contact another teacher about doing a joint performance? The people category can also refer to people I need to connect with, such as my accountant or bookkeeper, someone in charge of a venue where I want my students to perform, or someone associated with my local Suzuki community.
Calendar -- I like to look ahead by the month or two in case there is a holiday or special occasion opportunity. Since I have not been as good at this in the past, I have resolved to make notes about these sorts of opportunities and events for the coming year. As I note these things this year, I am also making a note of them for next year as well. When I look at the calendar, I also recall future plans I might need to add some next steps to take care of.
There are other regular reviews that might be helpful, such as monthly reviews, quarterly reviews, semiannual/biannual (6-month) reviews, and end-of-year reviews. Just about any time frame you want to use would be appropriate for some sort of review process. I have not discussed goal-setting in the context of GTD, but goal-setting is certainly the sort of topic that would apply here.
Daily Review Focus
A friend of mine also follows an interesting review plan on a daily basis, which I find intriguing. She suggests that there be a particular focus on each day of the week. You are permitted to do other things besides that particular focus, but when you have a focus on a particular day of the week, you will visit that topic definitely once a week. Some suggested focus ideas might be to take the above topics and assign them to particular days. On those days, you will first and foremost give attention to that particular area.
You might also find a "weekly review" easier to accomplish if you do it in bits and pieces. I often do this, and the Omnifocus 2 for Mac allows me to review whenever I can. Anything I mark as reviewed is then set aside until a week later.
Make Review Your Own Creation
How you do your weekly review can be your own creation. There is no right way to do this. In fact, many people adjust things to suit their own personalities and needs. Everyone's review may look different from everyone else's review. The purpose of the review is to stay in touch with the things that you have gathered and collected and to make sure that you keep focused on what next actions to take to make forward progress.
The most important reason for doing a weekly review is to keep your system operating properly. If you neglect this aspect of GTD, then you begin to distrust the reliability of your system. You begin to hold things in your head again or leave them piled up in an inbox or on a corner of the desk. When I forget to do my weekly reviews, I find that my counter tops get covered up again with stuff.
So make a weekly appointment with yourself to review your stuff. With my bullet journal lists, I enjoy looking through things regularly. I have begun to highlight certain areas of my life with certain colors (personal is pink, writing/creating is blue, university/symphony/gig is orange, and studio is green). I also use splashes of color and sometimes some cute stickers here and there to make the pages more pleasing to the eye. My color pens really help me do this. I pick the color that suits me for the day, and because these pens are erasable, mistakes are a thing of the past.
At the moment I concentrate my thoughts on how I can turn the bullet journal into even more of a GTD masterpiece. For now, things work fine. This tool has really helped me stay focused, and it helps me to gather all my stray thoughts. I turn my thoughts into projects and special pages once I have captured the thoughts initially. All good. I hope to write a specific post in the future that is related to the bullet journal because it has really helped me.
Here are some links to the items I talked about in my articles. If you wish to explore further, click on the picture or link:
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Until next time,
Happy Practicing! (or GTD'ing)
----- Paula -----
© 2016 by Paula E. Bird