Reviewing: Step Three of Getting Things Done

By now, you are probably getting pretty overwhelmed with the sheer amount of “stuff” that you have in all of your neatly organized lists. Take a deep breath…inhale…exhale…and let’s get started on a step that will help make sure that you don’t lose your mind or lose track of important things you need to do in the future. This step is called Review. It’s the third step of the getting things done process.

The Review step is a bit different from the first two steps in that it takes place throughout the semester in increments. In order to maintain a good gauge on what it is that you need to be doing at a given time, you will need to keep up with reviewing every semester, every week, and every day. This may seem overwhelming at first, but once you develop a rhythm it gets to be just like breathing. The more you review, the more that you can exhale knowing that there is nothing lurking in the recesses of your brain (or backpack) that is going to come back and bite you later.

As I mentioned, reviews of your stuff occur at three main levels: the daily review (“runway level” in GTD speak), the weekly review (“10,000 foot level”), and the big picture review (“the 30,000 foot level”).

It is crucial that you get into a habit of reviewing everything that you need to do. Whenever you get home from class, spend 5-10 minutes each day keeping things under control. This is called your daily review.

Daily Review

Process the items that built up in your “bins,” review your tasks on your calendar, make a run-through your to do list, and, in general, get updated on what you need to be doing and when you need to be doing it. Ask yourself the question “What are the most important things I can be doing today?”
Weekly Review


If you’ve skipped a time or two, or have never done a weekly review, you may need 2-3 hours. If you’re on top of stuff, it may only take 30-45 minutes. I usually do mine Sunday afternoons so that my work is waiting for me on Mondays, but Monday mornings works too. Some students like doing theirs on a Saturday first thing. The important thing is that you stick with it, so pick a time and place that works.

  • If any stuff has been floating around in your head or stuffed in your backpack unread, or piled up in your e-mail inbox, now is the time to process everything and get your mind free once again.
  • It’s also a time to review your to do lists and clean them up where necessary (combine actions, add some, delete some).
  • If there are projects on here that you need to continue work on, generate steps to add to your next actions list.
  • In general, this is your moment of calm reflection in which to plug the leaks in your system and familiarize yourself with the important tasks in your life
Ask yourself: “What are the most important things I can be doing this week?”
Semester Review
Once or twice per semester, it’s imperative that you do a semester review. In this review, set aside a good 2-3 hours. Preferably the first day you have all of your syllabi.
  1. Look at your syllabi, and write down any assignments on a calendar. I enter them as “all day events” in iCal. You can use a planner or agenda for this as well. Some students really love iStudiEZ pro for this.
  2. Make a list of all of the things that you need to be successful this semester. Books, supplies, email addresses and contact info, etc.
  3. Set yourself some weekly work time. Allow yourself to be flexible within the first three weeks while things are “gelling.”
  4. Ask yourself some big questions. Set goals, look forward, inspire yourself.

If you get into the habit of reviewing your lists of things you need to do regularly, you will find that you are much less stressed about the things you are forgetting. You set yourself up multiple layers of safety nets of remembering so that you can be sure to be doing what you need to be doing when you need to be doing it.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow we will talk about planning work time and scheduling to maintain your sanity.

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