The Weekly Review is an Operating System

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen calls the Weekly Review the “Master Key to GTD.” He claims it is the single most critical habit one must adopt to capture open loops, manage commitments on an ongoing basis, and maintain a “mind like water.”

Yet it is also the most difficult habit to maintain. Allen has noted and I have seen many times in my own work, that even dedicated GTD practitioners have trouble maintaining the cadence of weekly check-ins at a higher horizon.

I think I know why, based on my experience with habit formation: weekly habits exist on an unstable middle ground. They happen frequently enough to be lynchpins in your weekly productivity, yet not often enough to be natural habits in your daily productivity. They are too consistent to fall into the “opportunistic, when needed” bucket, yet not consistent enough to fall into the “daily routine” bucket. They take long enough to require dedicated focus, yet not long enough that it would make sense to dedicate a full cycle.

This instability creates an intense cognitive dissonance around Weekly Reviews — we know we should get good at this practice, and yet we also feel in our bones it is not worth the effort required. It becomes an exercise in stoic determination, sticking to the plan in hopes of uncertain future rewards.

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