Monday, March 02, 2009

GTD, Lotus Notes & the eProductivity Challenge: The Weekly Review

Webster defines a coach as "one who instructs or trains."

I'm a big fan of coaching. Whether talking about a presentation coach to help hone your skills on the stage, a performance coach to help you better your 5k time or a life coach to get you to focus on your overall goals and objectives, coaching is a fantastic way to help you achieve your potential and then reach for loftier heights. In fact, I'm writing this post right now while waiting for my son to get out of his teen life coaching session. I occasionally work as a technology coach, helping people map out what they want to get out of using technology, then putting a plan together to meet that goal in the most efficient way possible. So right off the bat, I figured I would like the Weekly Review Coach functionality of eProductivity. I was wrong, though...I actually love it!

Ask any GTD fan, new to the system or grizzled veteran, what the biggest obstacle to complete mastery of the GTD concepts is and they'll likely tell you it is the Weekly Review. The Weekly Review is the part of GTD that brings everything into focus, helping you to close open loops, determine what is needed to move your projects forward and keeps you on track toward your higher level life goals. David Allen calls the Weekly Review the "secret sauce" and in my experience that is very true. I've posted before about my GTD journey to this point and the times when I was most on my game and feeling that I was living the vision that Mr. Allen maps out in his book was when I was diligently doing my Weekly Review. But let's be takes some serious focus to plan out the time to sit down every week to look over what you need to be working on. In fact, in some ways, the Weekly Review exerts a certain force of opposition if you are afraid of what you'll uncover. You need to do this, however, to get full clarity of what you should and shouldn't be working on. Thus, the concept of having a "coach" for helping you get through this process is outstanding.

The Weekly Review Coach in eProductivity is basically an enhanced wizard, walking you through all of the steps necessary for a successful Weekly Review. It's an elegant approach because it allows you to focus on just one thing at a time. This is key since maintaining this focus will drive you toward completion faster and allow you to be more thorough in your work. The coach kept me engaged, targeted and on track. I'll admit that in the past I got distracted chasing an idea or item down a rabbit hole. While this can still happen in any system, I felt more focused because I had the coach to guide me through the review in the correct order.

After launching it, the Weekly Review Coach takes you to the first step in the process: Collect Loose Papers. For each step of the Weekly Review, the coach tells you what you should be doing and gives you suggestions to improve your game. You can see a sample shot from the Weekly Review Coach below.

Steps of the Weekly Review covered in the Wizard include:
  • Collect Loose Items

  • Process Papers

  • Empty Capture Tools

  • Process Email

  • Empty Head

  • Review Action Lists

  • Review Previous Calendar

  • Review Upcoming Calendar

  • Review Tickler Files

  • Review Waiting-for List

  • Review Projects

  • Review Goals & Objectives

  • Review Areas of Focus

  • Review Relevant Checklists

  • Review Reference & Support

  • Review Someday/Maybe List

As you can see, that's quite an exhaustive list of things to do and it's no wonder that it can be daunting to consider performing a weekly review when you have all that staring at you. Of course, the scarier this process seems to you, the more you probably need to be doing it! Once the Weekly Review becomes an ingrained habit, the process goes pretty smoothly. Even so, there's always the temptation to jump ahead and work on something more interesting. When I used the Weekly Review Coach, I found that this temptation wasn't there. Instead, it kept me completely on task, a characteristic of a great coach.

After the first step is complete, you check it off and the coach automatically takes you to the next step. I love the layout of this wizard, along with the graphic representation of what step we're on coupled with the help text. Of particular genius is the way the coach allows you to do all of your work in context. Thus, when it's time to review your action lists or empty your inbox, the appropriate view appears directly below the coaching instructions (see below). I've talked about the effectiveness of this technique in interface design before, so it makes me very happy to see this being implemented in other Notes-based applications. This idea helps the user stay in that focused, flow state, further improving the user's performance of the task at hand.

I did my first weekly review in eProductivity on Sunday night and I was amazed at how fast I went through the process. Granted my system was nice and clean from just migrating all my actions and projects over, but I still credit the Weekly Review Coach with enabling this speedy completion. When you finish walking through every step (where you are even encouraged to work on the higher level stuff...goals, aspirations, etc.), you are presented with a nice summary report of when you started each step, when you ended and your elapsed time. This is a nice touch and will be a good reward and motivation for continuing to stay on top of the Weekly Review process.

You can find some additional information and screenshots of the Weekly Review Coach on the eProductivity site. I encourage you to take a look and consider this as yet another great reason to review eProductivity for your GTD implementation. If I had to use a single word to describe this software, it would probably be "frictionless". By that I mean that it so smoothly supports the GTD methodology, I don't really have to think about the mechanics of getting data into the system or getting the right information out of it. Instead, I can just do my work and be productive.

As it says on the eProductivity site, "Your Weekly Review just got easier". Yes...I'd say it did!

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