Collect Loose Papers and Materials: Pull out all miscellaneous pieces of paper, business cards, receipts, and so on that have crept into the crevices of your desk, clothing, and accessories. Put it all in your in-tray for processing.
Get “IN” to Zero: Review any meeting notes and miscellaneous scribbles on notepaper or in your mobile devices. Decide and list any action items, projects, waiting-fors, calendar events, and someday/maybes, as appropriate. File any reference notes and materials. Get the “in” areas of e-mails, texts, and voice mails to zero. Be ruthless with yourself, processing all notes and thoughts relative to interactions, projects, new initiatives, and input that have come your way since your last download, and purging those not needed.
- Physical Notebook
- Physical Objects
- Text Messages
- Email Inbox
Empty Your Head: Put into writing or text (in appropriate categories) any new projects, action items, waiting-fors, someday/maybes, and so forth that you haven’t yet captured and clarified.
- Review Action Lists: Mark off completed actions. Review for reminders of further action steps to record. Many times I’ve been moving so fast I haven’t had a chance to mark off many completed items on my list, much less figure out what to do next. This is the time to do that.
- Archive completed or inactive projects, briefly reviewing each note and moving it to other notebooks if it could be useful there.
- Review Previous Calendar Data: Review the past two to three weeks of calendar entries in detail for remaining or emergent action items, reference information, and so on, and transfer that data into the active system. Grab every “Oh! That reminds me . . . !” with its associated actions. You will likely notice meetings and events that you attended, which trigger thoughts of what to do next about the content. Be able to archive your past calendar with nothing left uncaptured.
- Review Upcoming Calendar: Look at further calendar entries (long-and short-term). Capture actions about projects and preparations required for upcoming events. Your calendar is one of the best checklists to review regularly, to prevent last-minute stress and trigger creative front-end thinking.* Upcoming travel, conferences, meetings, holidays, etc. should be assessed for projects to add to your “Projects” and “Next Actions” lists for any of those situations that are already on your radar but not yet on cruise control.
- Review Waiting For List: Any needed follow-up? Need to send an e-mail to get a status on it? Need to add an item to someone’s Agenda list to update when you’ll talk with him or her? Record any next actions. Check off any already received.
- Review Project (and Larger Outcome) Lists: Evaluate the status of projects, goals, and outcomes, one by one, ensuring that at least one current kick-start action for each is in your system. Browse through any active and relevant project plans, support materials, and any other work-in-progress material to trigger new actions, completions, waiting-fors, etc.
- Review Stuck Projects: Stuck projects are project that have no next actions. For the definitions of what a project is and how to check if it stuck, customize the variable ‘org-stuck-projects’.
- Review Any Relevant Checklists: Is there anything else that you haven’t done, that you need or want to do, given your various engagements, interests, and responsibilities?a
- Review Someday Maybe List: Check for any projects that may have become more interesting or valuable to activate, and transfer them to Projects. Delete any that have simply stayed around much longer than they should, as the world and your interest have changed enough to take them off even this informal radar. Add any emerging possibilities that you’ve just started thinking about.
- Be Creative and Courageous: Are there any new, wonderful, harebrained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas you can capture and add into your system, or “external brain”?