Category Archives: General

7 Quick Takes on HQ Trivia, Multi-tasking, and Talking Apps

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Winner!

I won HQ trivia! Not only did I win, I won it twice, and the first time, I didn’t even use an extra life!

If you missed the buzz late last year, HQ Trivia is a live, app-based trivia game. What makes it unique (besides being live and in an app) is that you have to get each question right to keep playing, and if you get all the questions right, you split the prize money with everyone else who got all the questions right. Thus, if the prize is $5000, and 5000 people get all the questions right, each person gets $1. But that, dear readers, is more than zero dollars, and for me, that’s what makes HQ fun.

I only started playing a few weeks ago, when my beloved Jeopardy! had a category called “HQ Trivia.” I took that as a sign and Alex’s blessing.

I had never won until, last Monday, the usual 3 p.m., twelve-question weekday game changed to an 8 p.m., eight-question game. In that game, I finally won… and so did 90,000 other people. Yes, that’s ninety thousand. For my victory, I received twelve cents.

You won, lndsyloves! $0.12 Congratulations!

Why were there so many winners? My guess is that the show’s question-writers and producers didn’t perfect how to balance the easy and hard questions (they start out ridiculously easy to weed out bots), so they wound up with way more winners than usual. They fixed that problem by Tuesday.

I finally figured out the (totally legit) trick to getting a free extra life without a referral on Tuesday, and then I won the 12-question game on Wednesday night, so I got another 99 cents.

I will probably use my winnings to buy a Dollar Tree lint roller. They are great quality for the price.

— 2 —

On Saturday night, I went to an event hosted by my local library. They showed The Breakfast Club and followed it up with a discussion by the author of a book about 80’s teen movies (Brat Pack America) and by John Hughes’s son, James. It was not as enriching as I’d hoped, but I appreciated the opportuty to get out of the house, see a new area of Louisville, and watch a great movie.

After I accidentally re-watched High School Musical 3 last week (it wasn’t very good either time), I needed a better movie to cleanse my palate. That did the trick.

— 3 —

One particular day during this past school year, the wi-fi was spotty, so I tried to load a page in Chrome while my computer wasn’t detecting any Internet at all. I got the default “no connection” page and accidentally pressed the space bar instead of my usual Ctrl+W keystrokes to close the tab.

Imagine my shock when I started playing a side-scrolling video game! I’d seen my students playing that game before, but I’d had no idea how they got to it. (Middle schoolers are smarter than we think.)

I only played it for a minute before I reset my Internet connection, but it was fun to stumble across an Easter egg the old-fashioned way for once.

— 4 —

I use Duolingo to practice and refresh my Spanish vocabulary and grammar. It uses computer-generated sentences, though, so some of them get a little ridiculous. I appreciated this video dramatizing some of the most ludicrous sentences Duo comes up with.

— 5 —

I completely lost my voice for five days last November. Maybe I’ll blog that story one day, but for now, I just want to recommend the app that I found to be an absolute life-saver. It’s called Talk for Me, and it’s designed for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Since I could hear just fine despite being unable to make a sound, I just needed something better than scribbled notes on a piece of paper. It was just the right thing, and it was free!

— 6 —

On about the third day of my lost voice, I started trying to consider emergency plans. I haven’t called 911 in a while, but I have done it before. If I’d suddenly needed to, how could I call for help without a voice? You can’t text emergency services; I checked.

Really, my only recourse would have been to call and leave the line open, hoping the dispatcher would approximate my location and send someone to check around. Once I found Talk for Me, I could have tried to use that, but even finding the app in the first place took a little while. I would have been left to fend for myself in an actual emergency. I couldn’t even yell for someone within earshot!

The only solution we really have for people who are permanently deaf or hard of hearing are those ancient alert buttons for the elderly or literally going to find a hearing person to call 911 for you. That doesn’t seem right.

— 7 —

Multi-tasking is a myth. The best currency in the 21st century is focus. I recently found a video to show all my haters. Seriously, try it, and see if it doesn’t change your mind about multi-tasking forever.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

The One Tool That Makes GTD Work for Me: My Done Journal

Today is my fourth GTD anniversary! I started using GTD (by taking baby steps) all those years ago. It changed my life. I mean that sincerely.

In celebration of that anniversary, I’d like to share the one tool that has made my use of GTD (Getting Things Done) about more than just following the rules. I have one tool that makes the system come together for me in a way that the official parts of the methodology just don’t.

It’s my Done Journal.

What is a Done Journal?

I got the idea from Josh Medeski. The concept is buried in a post that is otherwise about why he gave up bullet journaling:

I created a Done Journal, writing down the day’s accomplishments and meaningful events. It was fun being able to flip though pages and remember the past, but I stopped the done journal after a couple months because it sucked up time and energy I thought could be better spent on my digital journal.

I’ve been blogging for over 15 years, so suffice it to say that I love having memories of the past. Josh didn’t give any details of the format for his Done Journal, but it sounded like a fantastic concept and name. I adopted it and made it my own.

Why I Keep My Done Journal

In Step 4 of the GTD process (Review), creator David Allen recommends looking back at your calendar from the previous week and looking forward a week or two. The goal is to identify any incomplete actions from the previous week and to spot any new Next Actions associated with upcoming events. When I was using Wunderlist to do my Weekly Review, I used that principle to delete the completed tasks from my account.

The part with all the deleting was initially just about Wunderlist‘s features and flaws. By default, the search feature includes completed tasks. That drove me crazy! The only solution was to delete all of my completed tasks. Can’t search them if they’re not there. And that is what I did for the three years I used Wunderlist. (I switched to Todoist last year, which searches completed tasks only when you specifically ask it to.)

So I deleted my completed tasks every week, but that made me sad. I worked hard to complete those tasks! I wanted some credit!

Enter the Done Journal. I keep it as a simple Google Doc, so it’s accessible in all the same places as my task manager (Todoist). It has been an amazing tool for reflection, review, and simply inspiring a sense of progress.

Computer keyboard, hand on mouse, and a coffee mug.

How I Use My Done Journal

I write an entry in my Done Journal each week, after I clear out my inboxes (digital and physical). The process goes like this:

  1. I open my Completed Tasks spreadsheet. Todoist compiles completed tasks automatically, but I find the interface too cluttered. I don’t need to see that many pictures of my own face! Instead, I use an IFTTT applet to create a Google Sheets file of each completed task with its date and project.
  2. I open my Done Journal, add today’s date, and start my two weekly lists. The first list is my top 3 completed tasks for the week. The second list is the top 3 things I’m thankful for from the past week.
  3. I review the past week on my calendar. This usually gives me at least one “thankful” item.
  4. I scroll through the Completed Tasks sheet, reviewing each row, remembering what I did and identifying items for my lists. I type them right in as they qualify.

That’s it! When I finish my lists of three items each, I close my Done Journal and add a “Weekly Review” line to my Completed Tasks spreadsheet so that I know where to start reviewing the next time.

My Monthly Review

At the end of each month, I do a Monthly Review. That’s not part of GTD either, but it’s critical for me. I review the past month’s worth of weekly entries in my Done Journal and write a paragraph-style summary of where I am in my life right now and what I anticipate for the next month.

Then I keep going. I started my Done Journal on March 10, 2015, and I have made an entry for every Weekly Review and Monthly Review since then. I’ve missed a few weeks, so I give myself more than three items per list when that happens, but I always use it to review what I’ve done. Sometimes I feel accomplished. Sometimes I struggle to pick out tasks that don’t seem tiny or “thankful” things that feel significant. But I always do it.


Do you use GTD? Have you found a tool that makes GTD “click” for you that isn’t officially part of the methodology? One blog post helped me so much—your comment could do the same for someone else!

7 Quick Takes on Tacos, “Constructive Criticism,” and Life Alignment

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Mr. Man and I met some friends of his for dinner last week at Migo. It was tasty. I always struggle with eating tacos because the filling falls out so easily. It makes me want more tortilla. But I’m not eating the taco because I wanted a tortilla; I’m eating it for the stuff in the middle. It feels silly to have to eat some of the filling off the shell with a fork, but that feels less silly than just making a huge mess while the good stuff falls onto my plate. Maybe that’s why I enjoy quesadillas, enchiladas, and pico de gallo more than tacos, tostadas, or salsa: my favorites stay put.

And you thought there was nothing to say about tacos besides “yum.”

— 2 —

Against all odds, Mr. Man and I won trivia again last week! Two first place finishes in a row (adding on to the week before) is unreal. The same friends we went to Migo with came to round out our team. It helps a lot that the “name that tune”-style round is one of my specialties, and he fills in a lot of the science things I don’t know. We’re both humanities nerds, but our nerdery appears to be complementary instead of overlapping, so that’s good.

— 3 —

Kyle Benson at the Gottman Institute blog shared a post recently about how to fruitfully respond to criticism in relationships. The institute focuses on married couples, but this advice totally applies to work relationships, too:

Despite what some people say, there is no such thing as constructive criticism. Criticism triggers a person to become defensive and protect themselves from an attack, which blocks the resolution of a conflict.

Yes, yes, yes! Think about it: no one ever asks to receive “constructive criticism.” It is almost always the criticizer who asks-but-isn’t-really-asking to criticize someone. If Mr. Coworker says, “Can I give you some constructive criticism?” and I say “no,” suddenly I’m in the wrong. It shouldn’t be that way.

The Gottmans rightly call criticism one of the “four horsemen” of the relationship apocalypse. It destroys people’s confidence and makes them respond aggressively and negatively. The asker, in turn, was aggressive and negative. Criticism is never constructive; it’s always destructive.

— 4 —

I had the honor of attending a local wedding last weekend as Mr. Man’s guest. He doesn’t dress up as much as I do for church, but he will for weddings. It was among the smaller weddings I have attended, so there wasn’t quite as much dancing as I usually experience. I realized, though, that I have spent so many weddings of friends entirely on the dance floor mainly to assuage my sadness at being so very single for so very long. It’s hard to feel like you’re alone when you’re busting moves surrounded by your friends. It was a very different experience to be there with mostly people I didn’t know but also with a date.

— 5 —

I participated in the Asian Efficiency Focus Challenge this week. I’m not sure I was the ideal audience, but I appreciated the experience all the same. The key exercise was evaluating my life for alignment. The process is simple: Make a list of the five things that are most important to you. Then make a list of the top five things you spend your time on. Are those lists the same? If not, what can you do to make them match?

— 6 —

I happen to have known this bishop when he was Vicar General of Austin, but it’s solid episcopal advice regardless:

— 7 —

The Pentecost novena starts today! I like to pray the version hosted by EWTN. Your mileage may vary.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Wunderlist to Todoist: Handling URLs and Links

I have been using Todoist for one month now. I miss Wunderlist (especially the blue gradient background), but I’ve found a workflow that suits my productivity preferences.

One thing that stood out when I first switched and didn’t yet have Premium features was the way I used URLs in Wunderlist. I hadn’t realized it was such a big deal until I made the switch.

For the record, I thought about including this in my initial switching post, but it’s such a niche usage that I thought I’d isolate it for people who are looking for this specific problem and not really anything else. Maybe the search engine algorithms will do us a favor.

How I Used Bare URLs in Wunderlist

One of my favorite Wunderlist features was that I could paste a URL into any item’s title and have it stay a URL but also become instantly clickable. I got used to seeing the bare URLs. Sometimes I want to see the bare URL. I even found a Firefox extension that gives me bare URLs from Google search results so I could paste them right in without having to click, wait for Google to process, and finally copy the real URL. It was a solid workflow, especially with well-formed URLs (the kind that use words instead of numbers, so you have some idea where the link is taking you).

Todoist has one feature I found supremely annoying. My imported URLs were still there, but they didn’t display as bare URLs anymore. Todoist automatically changes any URL to a hyperlink.

What I saw in Wunderlist: wunderlisturls

What I see automatically in Todoist: todoistwheresthelinkannotated

What I see pre-trick (described below) in task edit mode in Todoist: todoisthalfurlannotated

So for the first time in recent memory, a “feature” was a nuisance for me.

My Solution for Bare URLs in Todoist

I tried deleting Todoist’s automatic link titles (the words you click on). It just converted them again. I tried adding the URL as a comment. That’s a Premium feature. I tried using parentheses or brackets around the bare URL. The URL was no longer clickable.

My solution was to change my typing flow a little bit. The main problem is a visual thing: the links don’t look any different from plain text until I mouse over them. I want to see some visual indicator that, at a glance, tells me “this part is a link.” So I added a caret symbol before the URL:

todoistcareturltrick

You can’t use carets in URLs, so there’s no chance it will get mixed in with the link. I don’t even generally see carets in page titles, and I don’t use them myself, so they don’t look like part of any normal text. Todoist still converts the URL, but it leaves the caret alone.

I ran a search for “http” and found all my imported tasks with URLs. (There were many.) The simpler-format URLs (without the “http://” part) won’t convert, but they also won’t be clickable. I had to update all my URLs by hand, but it worked. Hooray!

Todoist Just Isn’t Good Enough Without Premium

Now that I have Todoist Premium, I just paste my URLs into comments. The automatically-converted URLs actually look quite nice there.

This was a specific example of the reason I didn’t stick with Todoist when I was first looking for a task manager: I had to pay to get what I considered basic features. Sadly, nothing has changed. I became a power user with Wunderlist, and there’s no going back now. Check out my previous post for a little help with the problem of paying for Premium—and if that doesn’t work anymore, please let me know!

Recommended Reads: 19/2017 (in 7 Quick Takes)

pile of books

I was going to publish a regular 7 Quick Takes tonight, but I don’t have enough material! Life has just been rolling along pretty quietly. I have, however, been plowing through articles in Pocket, so it’s time for another installment of Recommended Reads to clear out my backlog. There are 7, so that counts, right?

7 Quick Takes, hosted by This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Title: Busyness Is Not a Virtue
Source: iDoneThis

I love the first part of this article for its descriptions of why we are so easily primed to say that we’re “busy.” As I like to say, of course you’re busy. Everyone feels busy. When is the last time you said, “Man, I just have nothing to do?” I love the second part for its quotation of Laura Vanderkam and her suggestion for a language shift. I’ve done this in my actual life. It has the effect of making me see my time differently and appreciate it more, but it also makes me extra annoyed when other people say they’re busy. It’s a tough game.

— 2 —

Title: An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media
Source: The Message

I’m never a big fan of the concept that non-white people have to express themselves in non-white ways (whatever that means); I’m too big a fan of code-switching for that. I did appreciate that this writer points out that there’s more to a culture than mere age. One millennial’s opinion is definitely useful, but one person can rarely speak for a group of millions.

— 3 —

Title: God of the Depressed
Source: First Things

More and more writers are offering angles on the tricky space between “God-help,” self-help, and professional help.

— 4 —

Title: I Thought There Was a Simple Solution to an Unwanted Pregnancy, But I Was Wrong
Source: Verily

I’ve never read anything quite like this woman’s personal account of her experience. Abortion, adoption, parenting: it’s one of the few I’ve seen where every option was truly before her. She found that her simple, easy solutions weren’t as easy as they seemed.

— 5 —

Title: How lack of reverence for the Eucharist puts people off Catholicism
Source: The Catholic Herald (UK)

The title says pretty much everything you need to know, but read it anyway. Then reconsider your demeanor in the presence of the Real Presence.

— 6 —

Title: How to Obey Like an Adult
Source: National Catholic Register

I know about what went down between Simcha and the Register, but her posts are still archived there, and they’re still good.

Any time the Church gives us clear guidelines for how we are to behave, it’s an act of mercy: She gives us a chance to put the responsibility on someone else, and just relax and be obedient children again. I don’t have to figure out if I’m personally being called to pray, fast, and give alms. Just do it, because your mother told you to!

— 7 —

Title: Envy—The Adversary of Mercy
Source: Catholic Education Resource Center

I struggle with properly defining mercy and with remembering the difference between envy and jealousy, so this feels like it was written just for me!


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Wunderlist to Todoist: First Thoughts and Free “Labels”

I did it. After many happy years using Wunderlist as my task management tool with the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, I have switched from Wunderlist to Todoist.

todoistwelcome

I blame Microsoft. As I’ve already lamented here, Microsoft keeps snapping up the independent apps I love, taking their features, and shutting them down. I moved on from Sunrise because I didn’t want to use Outlook, so I’ve moved on from Wunderlist because I don’t want to use Microsoft To-Do. (Yes, that’s its real name.)

This is the first time I’ve ever switched task managers. In some of my GTD reading and podcast listening, I’ve discovered that switching GTD apps is not uncommon. It just sounds so messy. I spend enough time refining my system already; I really just need to get to the “doing” part!

Todoist made importing my tasks very easy. Everything came through the way it was in Wunderlist folders and lists, ready to reorganize Todoist-style. My due dates were there, although I had to reset everything that was recurring. The main import problem was that I needed to fix all my tags. The main usage problem was not having the features available to a Todoist Premium account. (But keep reading; there’s a surprise!)

How I Used Tags in Wunderlist

I started out not using tags at all. I have never been into contexts (a statement which is GTD blasphemy). I use way more due dates than by-the-book GTD allows. However, when I started applying GTD’s concepts of Projects and Next Actions in more detail, I found a use for tags in Wunderlist.

I kept a Wunderlist list for each Project, with a minimum of two items per list: the Next Action and the desired outcome. The name of the list was an abbreviated version of the desired outcome, since the sidebar is only so wide. I marked each Project’s Next Action with “#NA” at the end of the task title, and I marked each outcome with “#outcomes”. The tags were clickable, giving me a very easy workflow for my weekly review. No matter where that item appeared (in my Completed list, in a search, etc.), I could tell it was a Next Action (or outcome) and for which Project.

I wish Wunderlist had offered an automatic list of all the tags you’d created. It was awesome that tags would auto-complete as soon as you typed the hashtag symbol! That showed the data was stored somewhere specific in the program. However, there was literally nowhere else you could view all your tags except in that drop-down. I solved my wish for a task index by creating a list called “Tags.” I used the auto-complete drop-down to create one item for each tag. It took less than a minute.

wunderlisttags

Blurred for privacy, but otherwise my real tag index.

I had to fix things when I switched to Todoist, but my homegrown tag index came in handy for remembering what tags I’d used.

My Solution for Free Labels in Todoist

Todoist uses labels to provide the functionality that Wunderlist called “tags.” I think “tags” is the more universal term for that function, largely thanks to Twitter and Evernote, but Gmail calls the same function “labels,” so maybe that battle over nomenclature will never end.

However, in Todoist, labels are a Premium feature. Bummer. New users and those willing to hack the system a bit can do without, but I had a different vision in mind for a tool that could handle sub-projects. I wanted my own solution, and I didn’t want to pay for it. (Again, keep reading.)

My most-used tags in Wunderlist were:

  1. #NA for GTD Next Actions
  2. #outcomes for GTD Project outcomes
  3. #MrManAgenda (with my boyfriend’s actual name) for agenda items
  4. #waitingfor for Project items that I’m waiting for (non-Project waiting-fors went on a dedicated Waiting list)

My free solutions are, respectively:

  1. Apply the Priority 1″ flag
  2. Apply the Priority 2 flag
  3. Make this a sub-project
  4. Begin each task with the text “waitingfor” (all one word)

Converting my old tags to for-free labels seemed like a huge undertaking—until I realized that Todoist allowed me to view all of the items from all my Project plans lists in one long screen, because I kept them in a single folder in Wunderlist. I simply scrolled down the screen, looking for NA’s and outcomes in each project, deleted the plain-text-starting-with-a-hashtag-symbol, and used the inline language parsing feature to specify “p1” or “p2.” Once I’d finished, I appreciated the way Todoist changes each task’s checkbox (which is actually a circle, not a box) to the color of its priority. The red and orange really stand out!

todoistpriorities

Image from the [Todoist Support page on priorities](https://support.todoist.com/hc/en-us/articles/205873321-Priorities).

The only missing part of my solution is how to handle a Project that has worked its way down to one task: something you’re waiting for that is the last remaining action (and therefore also the Next Action and the desired outcome). I’d suggest using just the Priority 1 flag since the fact that you’re waiting for it is the main reason it’s not done yet.

For a Next Action that is also the desired outcome but for which you are not waiting for something, I would still use just the Priority 1 flag. If you’re looking at your system for Next Actions, you don’t want to miss one that’s doable just because it looks like an outcome.

Finally, for other tags, I would recommend using a unique text string (something that’s not already a word) so that you can add it to the name of the task and search for it when you need it. The hashtag symbols from imported items will still be there in plain text, but you won’t be able to add any text starting with a hashtag in Todoist because it will try to assign your task to a project. (I guess if you used Wunderlist tags for projects, you’re still in business!)

So, since my Wunderlist tag for items to do or discuss with Mr. Man was “#MrManAgenda,” I would write “MrManAgenda” in any new agenda items, and I would remove the plain-text hashtag from imported agenda items. Then, when I sat down with Mr. Man, I would search Todoist for “MrManAgenda” and be all set.

A Big Surprise

Converting to Todoist made me realize that Wunderlist’s free tier was probably too feature-rich for zero dollars. I got used to having power-user features for free. Todoist doesn’t give you those for free. I started missing Wunderlist very quickly. As I described above, though, I was well on my way to making Todoist free work for me.

Just like when I started using GTD, I did some Googling for how to best use Todoist… and if there was any way to get free Premium time beyond the 30-day trial.

Astute readers might have already figured out what happened: I got four free months! I had spotted a few posts with promo codes for free Premium, but they were old enough that I thought the promotions had surely expired. Nope!

To get free Todoist Premium, go to todoist.com/redeem and enter the codes 1MillionTasks (for 1 month) and skillshare (for 3 months). They are stackable, adding up to four months total, and they worked for me as of April 30, 2017.

I was very surprised, but also very happy!

Initial Thoughts on Importing from Wunderlist to Todoist

In the import, subtasks came over seamlessly. I don’t generally use subtasks, but the few I had were just fine. My Wunderlist notes became Todoist comments. (Different term; same functionality. See the “tags vs. labels” discussion above.) I couldn’t add comments without Premium, but I could edit any comment that already existed. (Presumably, I could delete the random empty comments that were imported with some tasks that hadn’t had any notes in Wunderlist, but I wasn’t about to try it and lose a free comment!)

Todoist’s smart due dates are very useful. It is so nice to type “every month on the second Wednesday” and have all my computer cleaning tasks schedule themselves just right!

My checklists (for computer cleaning, house cleaning, blog posts, etc.) had all been preceded with numbers to allow easy sorting in Wunderlist. Those came over to Todoist, but not quite seamlessly.

As a completed task, the items still show numbers on mobile, but not the right numbers:
todoistnumbersannotated

But for some reason, the numbers don’t show up in the not-yet-completed task:
todoistnonumbersannotated

This is a known bug. I just took the numbers out, so they don’t show up anywhere now. The recurring tasks seem to stay in the correct order when I complete them out of order, though, so that’s okay so far.

Completed tasks can’t really be deleted from Todoist, which would have been terrible for my personalized Weekly Review if I hadn’t found another solution almost instantly. I use an IFTTT (pronounced like “gift”) recipe that adds a line to a Google Sheet every time I complete a task. I review that sheet each week, add a line so I know where to start reviewing next time, and skip the step from my old procedure where I deleted everything. It’s working well.

Finally, in the aforementioned Googling, I found and marathoned Carl Pullein’s excellent step-by-step, bite-size tutorials about using Todoist. The best episodes are:

I miss Wunderlist, but I’m excited about the possibilities that Todoist is offering me. It took several hours to get up and running, and of course I’m still tinkering with my system, but I am still getting things done.

Wunderlist and GTD: My Weekly Review

A sad time has come, dear readers: I have to find a new app for my to-do list.

Microsoft acquired Wunderlist (WL) in late 2015. Nothing much had changed since then besides an Outlook integration. But last week, MS and WL announced the preview of the new app, which is called To-Do. The name and current bare-bones functionality leave much to be desired. I have to face the reality that my beloved, life-changing task management app will be shut down in the next few months.

I used Sunrise, too, and I ran away as soon as Microsoft announced its sunset (pun intended), so I am doing the same with Wunderlist. I always had a second-choice app in mind, so it’s time to make the move.

In the meantime, I’ve had the draft of this post ready to go for a while, so it’s also time to press “publish.” The concept of applying GTD principles to specific apps remains relevant even if my specific app will soon be no more.


I like to have an elevator pitch ready for my life-changers, so of course I have one for Getting Things Done (GTD). It sounds like this:

GTD is a productivity methodology popularized by David Allen in his book of the same name. It’s based on three principles: ubiquitous capture, the two-minute rule, and the Weekly Review. When you think of something you need to do, you capture it. Write it down immediately—unless it can be done in less than two minutes. In that case, you do it immediately. Once a week, you review everything you’ve written down.

The part that thwarts even GTD black belts is the Weekly Review. In my opinion, if you’re not doing the Weekly Review, you’re not doing GTD. Period. Once you build the Weekly Review (WR) habit, you will wonder how you ever maintained a to-do list before.

Do I always do my WR? No—but when I skip it, I feel the pain. When I was home with my family for Christmas 2015, I fell out of all my usual routines. I skipped my WR for two weeks straight and was horrified at the result. But I recovered, and now I make the WR a priority.

Tips for Actually Doing Your Weekly Review

  • Pick your best day and time. I do my reviews on Tuesday. The middle of the week is when my life slows down a little bit. I started out by scheduling it for Sunday. I never did it until Tuesday anyway, so I finally just changed the schedule. The best productivity method is the one that works for you!

  • Move quickly. It’s a review, not a retreat. It is easy to get bogged down in your Projects list or to get distracted by items you capture along the way. Just keep going. Project planning is a separate process.

  • Finish your review every time. It is best to complete the WR all in one go, but that’s not strictly necessary. A WR checklist is a checklist for a reason: if you need to stop before you’re finished, you can pick up where you left off. The point is to do a complete review once per week. Starting on Friday afternoon and finishing Saturday morning is okay. I start mine on Tuesday morning… or afternoon… and sometimes finish on Thursday. That works for me.

My Weekly Review Checklist

Screenshot of my Weekly Review.

Click for full-size.

I adapted this from the official checklist (scroll down at that link), and I have modified it since then as my needs have changed. I keep my checklists right in Wunderlist (WL) so I can check them off as I go. They are set to repeat weekly (duh), so they regenerate right away, which gets the checklist ready for next time.

As you can see, my actual checklist starts with step 00. Wunderlist will sort that to the top alphabetically, so I use it. Step 00 is processing my physical inbox. That doesn’t always happen at the same time I do the rest of my review. It’s limited to a place (my room) and time (when I’m at home), whereas everything else can happen online from anywhere.
The rest of my Weekly Review goes like this:

  1. Process Inbox list. Almost everything I put into WL goes to the Inbox smart list first. Here, I do the second and third steps of the GTD workflow: clarify what I’ve captured, and organize it into my other WL lists.

  2. Review Completed list and past week on calendar and write entry in Done Journal. This is the “get current” part of the official checklist, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the WR. My Done Journal is not part of GTD, and I do not keep it in WL. It deserves its own post. (Update: Read that post here!) For now, suffice it to say that I go through the Completed smart list in WL and look back on my calendar (from the time since my last review to “today”). Anything that triggers a new thought gets captured. I move over to the Inbox list, type, hit Enter, and go back to reviewing. Don’t stop to clarify!

  3. Delete completed tasks. WL keeps every task you mark as complete. Every single one. That, to me, is clutter. I don’t need that kind of clutter in my system, so I delete them at this point in my WR.

  4. Review upcoming week on calendar. I capture anything that comes up as I look over the next week or two. This step frequently reminds me of things I forgot about! GTD is designed to let you forget about things until you need them, so it helps you set up a reminder system. This is one of the reminder phases.

  5. Review #monthlygoals. I don’t use stars or subtasks, but I do use limited tags. This is one of them. I currently have just one monthly goal, but this step reminds me that I should be making progress on that one goal every week. My monthly goal is also part of a Project. This part of my system is still messier than I’d like, but it works for now.

  6. Review Week list. WL makes a smart list of everything that has a due date for the next seven days, sorted by day. I look through it and reorganize as needed. Using WL for web, I drag-and-drop items from one day to another. In the web app, I can also remove due dates completely or change them to today or tomorrow with the right-click context menu. I capture anything that emerges in the process. I also compare my scheduled tasks for each day to my calendar. If I’m not going to be home until 9 p.m., there’s no use pretending I’ll get much done that has to happen at home. And yes, a lot of things are scheduled. For me, what gets scheduled gets done.

    Screenshot of my Projects and Project Plans.

    Click for full-size. Blurred for privacy. Yes, that says 2016; I’ve been working on this draft for a while.

  7. Review Projects list and plans for #NA or #waitingfor and #outcomes and log completed projects. I keep one Projects list and a separate Project Plans folder in WL. For this step, I sort the Project list alphabetically and add or remove due dates where applicable. I make sure I have the same number of lists in my Project Plans folder as items on my Projects list. For example, if I have 15 Projects and 16 Project Plans, then I’ve finished a Project and I need to delete the now-empty Project Plan list.
    Then, I click the tag (which is a clickable link because it’s written into this step on my WR checklist; see WR screenshot) to search for each Project’s Next Actions (NAs). The search results are sorted by list, so I count to make sure the number of lists with NAs matches my number of Projects. If not, one or more of them needs a Next Action, or it has something I’m waiting for that keeps me from taking any action right now. I click the “outcomes” tag and do the same thing. I do not review my Project Plans here! That’s how you get stuck doing a three-hour WR.

    Screenshot of my AoF list and items from my Dance AoF.

    Click for full-size. These are my real AoFs, by the way.

  8. Review Areas of Focus. I keep most of my tasks sorted by Area of Focus, so this is an important step, and it usually takes the longest. I actually read/skim through every single item. I sort each list by due date and review what’s in there—especially items I added in Step 1 of this WR.

  9. Review Waiting list. I follow up on anything that’s been here for a while, adding dates for hard and soft deadlines. Throughout WL, I use due dates as an electronic version of my physical tickler file. I’m okay with just remembering the difference between hard deadlines and soft ones.

  10. Review Someday/Maybe list. I skim this. I save the hard work of digging in and deleting things for my monthly review (which also deserves a separate post).

  11. Review Trigger list. I customized a version of the official list that I copied-and-pasted from 43folders. It doesn’t always jog my memory, but sometimes it does!

  12. Review Goals, Vision, and Mission. These are separate lists I keep for the “higher horizons” of GTD. GTD is not great for managing the higher horizons (long-term goals), but it’s useful to remind myself on a weekly basis why I do what I do.

  13. Download Wunderlist backup to hard drive. Just in case. Considering how much I rely on this app, I should probably back up more than once a week. I could probably recover if I lost a few days, though.

And that’s it! Everything I’ve captured during my Weekly Review is now waiting in my Inbox list, where I will process it. If I somehow miss processing for a whole week (like that Christmas), those items will be processed during Step 1 of my next Weekly Review.

The Weekly Review is just an overview. Finish it so you can get back to doing.

Additional Resources

Leo Babauta offers some tips for getting your Weekly Review done in under an hour. Tip #6 is my favorite.

If you’re an audio person, the rebooted GTD podcast has an episode that walks you through your Weekly review. You can download it and play it every week, if that helps you. It’s like having a free, non-personalized coach!

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