Working On The Weekend?? - Next Action Associates

Question: What do the following have in common;

  • Buying a bible
  • Selling fish and chips
  • Shooting Welshmen in Hereford

Answer: They are all things that used to be illegal if you did them on a Sunday (although it was legal to shoot Welshmen in the 1400s as long as you did it with a longbow, presumably since it was quieter).

However, doing the GTD® Weekly Review on a Sunday has never been illegal, and still isn’t.

I thought it was worth stressing this point because recently I had to. I had enquired to a client about the health of his Weekly Review and he’d seemed somewhat sheepish as he told me, “I did it over the weekend.” It was interesting that he seemed to feel a little guilty about this and further probing revealed the reason; he thought it should be a Friday activity.

To be clear, nowhere in the GTD holy scriptures does it command ‘Thou shalt do thy Weekly Review on Fridays’. It’s not in the book, in our teachings or on a tablet of stone at the back of David Allen’s garage. Friday is a very popular day, of course, because most peoples’ work has a weekly rhythm to it, and the day before the weekend is a great day to systematically dispose of a week’s worth of accumulated stress, but it’s not the law.

Longer-term GTD practitioners realise, as their practice matures, that a deeper determinant of the timing for the Weekly Review is knowing when you need one and when it works best for you. You won’t find them doing a weary and resentful Weekly Review late on a Friday afternoon just because they think they should.

A weekly cadence to this critical practice is a good goal, though – less than that and you tend to find mistrust of your system creeping in – but once you realise that the actual timing of the Weekly Review, like the rest of the GTD methodology, works best when it’s customised to YOU, then what are the options?

In terms of days other than Friday, well, six are available. I’ve known clients for whom Wednesday afternoons were perfect because meetings happened elsewhere in their organisation and it meant that their most distracting colleagues were out of the picture, enabling them to focus. I also had a client who loved Thursday nights because that was when her partner took their son out for guitar lessons and she loved that (the quality of the Weekly Review rather than the absence of the child, I think.)

And it doesn’t have to be just one day. An evolution of my own GTD practice that has endured because it helps, is splitting the Weekly Review over different days. On a Friday I like to try to ‘Get Clear’ – i.e. get everything into the ‘hopper’ at the top of my system so that I’m then working with a full deck of the most recent stuff that’s landed. I find this part of the Weekly Review relatively straightforward and mechanical; for the most part it’s systematically checking and emptying ‘buckets’ and it’s actually quite therapeutic. Friday is an OK day for clearing the decks like this – my mental energy isn’t at its peak after a busy week but that’s alright because what I’m really doing is teeing up the deeper, more ‘thinky’ parts of the Weekly Review that come next.

These ‘thinky’ bits – i.e. parts of the Weekly Review requiring deeper, more thoughtful reflection, especially reviewing the projects list – tend to work better for me on a Saturday or Sunday morning. What these provide is time that is completely unhurried. It might fly in the face of good versus evil notions about working on the weekend, but I find that it’s the time when my reflective processes work best because there’s no chance of the phone ringing, no new and shiny things dropping into the inbox, and no clock ticking down until the next meeting.

That kind of headspace is essential to have when you really want to let your mind explore the nooks and crannies of your system, or just wander free with a more creative and loose focus. It’s total ‘me time’. I used to resist the idea of weekend activity like this until I realised that I actually liked it.

I’ve noticed other people adopting some interesting customisations to their Weekly Review down the years that actively adjust their focus and energy in a similar way. Printing off their project list and reviewing it on paper rather than on screen is one that brings a different quality of focus. Reviewing the project list in a different order each week is another, to avoid always reviewing the later projects in a more fatigued state. Doing the Weekly Review in a different location like a coffee shop is common, too, or even maybe in a different part of the house. Indeed, for me, the simple Friday part of the review happens in the home office – the usual work location – but for the deeper weekend parts of the review you’ll find me in the living room, sitting on the floor against a nice warm radiator surrounded by spider plants. And then it doesn’t really feel like work any more.

My favourite example of mixing it up like this comes from music producer and GTD practitioner, Jimbo Barry in a podcast he did for us;

“More and more, for me, the Weekly Review is just everything. Every week now it’s something that I look forward to on a Saturday morning. I do it here at the studio (but) not in my actual room. There’s an atrium upstairs that gets a ton of light. On Saturdays it’s practically empty so there’s nobody around. I can lay everything out on the table if I have a lot of papers and stuff and I can put on a bit of music and have coffee. It’s very civil. Taking my time. I love that on a Saturday.”  

So back to reassuring my sheepish looking client. In his eyes I could see he was unsure about the answer to that commonly-asked GTD question, “When should I do my Weekly Review?”

The answer is, “It depends”. The time to do a Weekly Review is whenever you need to and when it works for you. Feel free to experiment and go with your intuition. That it works for you and that you’re doing it regularly is the only thing that matters.

Legal disclaimer: No Welshmen were harmed in the writing of this blog.

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