How often is weekly: a reflection on OmniFocus reviews

How often should we press the Review button on the OmniFocus toolbar? The GTD system recommends weekly reviews. By default OmniFocus creates a weekly review schedule for each project (although you can change it through the Project Inspector). This is logical because our work and life have weekly rhythms. In his 1990s bestseller “The 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People”, a GTD system predecessor Stephen Covey also recommends weekly reviews. In his argument, Covey refers to major religions which prescribe to free one day a week from work and devote it to pray or meditation. This is persuasive, but not so simple.

The problem with weekly reviews is that they require large chunks of time (often 2–3 hours for me). If you can’t find this time (for example, due to travel or a major project deadline) you may miss a weekly review. This reduces your trust that OmniFocus has accurate and updated information on your tasks and projects. As a result you may be inclined to ‘go with the flow’, start ‘working from the Inbox’. This will make your system outdated, further reduce your trust, and require more time and effort for the next review, etc. Such problems may quickly snowball. As David Allen puts it: “If you choose not to do weekly reviews, it’s fine. But then be prepared to do reviews in your mind every minute.”. Not very good for focusing. Until recently the only advice out there was to be literally religious about not missing weekly reviews.

There may be a new wisdom emerging after MacSparky published “Task Management When the Bullets are Flying” a couple of weeks ago. David Sparks recommends project reviews every day. In this case, you don’t need to review all 60 projects, but could really focus on 5–10. The quality and timing of reviews may be thus be improved. David claims that “Despite having several plates in the air, there is no broken china at my feet.” His advice seems very wise: the pace of life certainly requires daily vigilance and OmniFocus allows it. Such practice does not eliminate the need for weekly reviews (where going through OmniFocus project reviews is only one element) but makes them more realistic.

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About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He also coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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4 Responses to How often is weekly: a reflection on OmniFocus reviews

  1. Rob Forsyth says:

    One option I use is to take advantage of the fact that review interval is a project-level attribute. I set the more mundane “housekeeping” projects and collections to 2, 3 or even 4 weekly intervals, maintaining a weekly discipline but only having the “hot” and a selection of the “cooler” projects to concentrate on

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    • Aleh Cherp says:

      Thanks Rob! I think it is a very good idea to keep routine and trivial projects reviewed less frequently than complex projects. However, sometimes it helps to look at those routine projects as well because they may contain very important tasks and help you to remember certain things during the next week.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Daily planning with TaskPaper and TextExpander | Academic workflows on Mac

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