Don’t skip the review

Our work culture is obsessed with getting things done, which explains why we’ve been inundated with countless productivity tools, tactics, and strategies. There’s nobody to blame here as everyone’s trying their best to succeed and get the most critical work done.

From a productivity standpoint, everything gets down to the basics, and the humble to-do list is the most versatile tool you can use. I use it all the time. For my daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and even 5-year plans.

One aspect that has helped me more than the to-do lists is the ritual of reviewing what’s on my list. I think it’s one of the most overlooked and under-utilised aspects of productivity. Don’t believe me? Think of the times you have:

  1. Felt overwhelmed just by looking at all the stuff you have to do
  2. Discarded your to-do list for something flashy and brand-new (the shiny new object syndrome)
  3. Realised that your list is ever-growing

The main reason to-do lists don’t work is that we don’t take time to review them. Skipping the review process means you won’t pay attention to all the newer items that you add to your list on a day-to-day basis. And before you know it, the list grows into one massive headache! You don’t know where to start or which one you should focus your energies on, which is relevant and which isn’t.

And then you wonder what tool might help you from all this drudgery. The fact is that no tool is perfect for coping with the dynamic and ever-growing needs of our lives or businesses. If we don’t keep things in check, it’s bound to grow into something that’s intimidating and unmanageable.

For me, creating lists is one part of the process; reviewing them daily, weekly, and monthly is what helps me focus and execute on the main things. How do you do that? In two steps:

  1. Block out time each evening to go over the items you’ve struck off and the ones you weren’t able to (aim to have not more than six things on your list). Carry them over to the next day or jot down the dependencies, if any, and plan accordingly.
  2. Block out time each Sunday to go over all the things you have accomplished in the past week and the ones you are about to in the upcoming week. This will ensure that you’re not overcommitting by placing a hundred things to be done in a single workday.
  3. Block out time on the last day of the month to go over all projects you have delivered in addition to the pending ones. Reflect on the causes or the obstacles that came in the way. Jot down the dependencies and plan for the next month.

As you can tell, following the above rituals lets you be hands-on with your to-do list. Nothing accidentally creeps into your to-do list or takes your attention away from your primary goals. You’re intentional about your days, weeks, and months. And the best part is that it doesn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes if done every day. Over time, this reduces to a mere 5-7 minutes tops.

Yeah, I know, this isn’t rocket science, and you might have known about it. But do you practice it? (And remember — rockets, jets, and aeroplanes rely heavily on checklists. So, don’t underestimate the tool; appreciate the process.)

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