Effectiveness Habit #6: Refresh

How do you really, really stay on top of things? Build today’s habit:

Effectiveness Habit #6: Refresh

Every day, as you will put new emails, take-aways from meetings, ideas, and requests into your hopper and as you complete tasks, your lists get out of date. Without Habit #6, your confidence in those lists drops and you will start trying to use your mind again to remember and organize everything.

Please don’t let that happen. Instead, refresh your lists daily and weekly.

Note: The amount of time and attention to detail you need to spend refreshing your lists can seem excessive. And it’s worth it for the real peace of mind you get all day. In addition to knocking off small tasks your hopper, your refresh puts you back in charge of your day. This is true even for people who, like me, are not naturally process- and detail-focused.

Daily Refresh

A daily refresh usually takes 30-60 minutes. At either the start or end of your day:

  • Scan emails, meeting notes, and your calendar for items to put into your hopper.
  • MOD each item in your hopper.
  • For any item you can do quickly (David Allen suggests this means anything you can complete in 2 minutes or less), do it. Examples: Do send a quick email confirming the time of a meeting. Do not write a typical document, read a typical article, or make a typical phone call.
  • Soak in the feeling of being on top of things again. 🙂

Weekly Refresh

A weekly refresh can take 45-120 minutes. Pick a time each at the start or end of your week to do a deeper scan and refresh:

  • Do a daily refresh.
  • Scan your list of outcomes. For each, if you do not already have a the very next doable described in your lists, then decide what the very next doable is and record that in your lists.
  • Scan your calendar for anything you may have missed in the prior week. Scan for anything that’s coming up in the next week (or more) that needs preparation or attention now.
  • Scan your Habit #5: Know Why documents to recall your “big picture.”
  • Scan your Back Burner list. Decide what, if anything, you will take off the back burner–and start working on–this week.
  • Scan your current outcomes and doables for anything that may have been lingering. Decide what, if anything, you’ll move to the back burner.

Give it a try. Get to the renewed senses of peace and being in charge. And, as always, post your comment and questions below.

3 thoughts on “Effectiveness Habit #6: Refresh

  1. This is a key habit, Mike … and it applies to your habit list as well. I really like the significant time you suggest for this – it’s so easy to get lazy about the act of “organizing”. It’s like taking the time to file stuff, clean off your desk, etc. when a task is finished, rather than plunging on to the next item on the list – if you don’t take this time, you pay later, for sure! My Achilles heel … rush, rush, rush!

    1. Hi Jay,

      And it’s many people’s Achilles heel. We all feel the pressure to rush and push. Some of us give in and try to get it all done. Other resist and try to hide or avoid. Both of these responses waste energy and effort. With awareness (and habit building through awareness), we can take a third way and relax into productivity.


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