In 2003 or 2004, I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done for the first time.
For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it presents a very novel system along with countless specific solutions for dealing with the ongoing problem of managing one’s time and energy in a modern information-heavy world. I highly encourage you to read my multi-post series on Getting Things Done and how to apply it to your life. I found the book to be life-changing.
Anyway, over the years, I’ve used many different elements from Getting Things Done. I’ve used an “inbox” process off and on for many years, usually finding myself far more productive when the system was “on” rather than “off.” I’ve strongly taken to writing things I need to remember to do or to look up or to otherwise deal with on a piece of pocket notebook paper, then processing those pages once a day or so.
One of the most useful routines, though, is that of the weekend restock. I try to spend an hour or two each weekend doing this, and I’ve found it’s been essential in terms of keeping my life operating well in nearly every respect. Other than time directly spent with my family, it’s easily the most valuable part of my weekend.
Since I’m preparing this post as I go through my weekend “restock,” I thought I’d share with you what it entails. It only takes an hour or so and usually results in two end products: a to-do list of sorts for the weekend and a much better peace of mind.
The first thing I do is go through everything left in my “inbox” that rests on my work desk. During the week, I throw all kinds of things in there, like magazines that probably need to be thrown away, small scraps of paper with notes on them, items that need to be put away, things I want to look up, and so on.
During the week, I go through the “inbox” several times, but I usually end up leaving a thing or two behind because I don’t need to deal with it right now. On the weekend, I deal with those things.
I’ll do things like tear out recipes from food magazines and then toss the rest of the magazine. I’ll look up a book title that someone recommended to me and add it to my Amazon wish list. I’ll pay a bill using online bill pay, one that needs to have contact information added for the first time. I just take care of all of the little things that need to be done.
Often, I’ll end up with a handful of tasks that are “bigger” – they’ll take an hour or two. For example, I’ve been wanting to rotate all of the books on my bedroom bookshelf, as I’ve read almost all of them. I’ve been donating books to the library lately (as our town’s library is pretty small and they take donations), so I just need to figure out which books I want to donate, box them up, and take them to the library. Another bigger task is simply cleaning up my office, which is a mess.
After that, I spend some time thinking about all of my ongoing projects. I keep all of my ongoing projects in Microsoft OneNote, which is a great program for organizing notes and free-form materials grouped however you like.
I try to come up with one thing I can do in the very near future to move each project forward. If I don’t want to or am unwilling to do that, I ask myself whether this project is something I really want to value.
For example, I’m trying to write a draft of a fantasy novel. I have tons of ideas and other materials saved in my project document. My “next task” for the next few days is to either outline or draft the next chapter in the book.
When I’m done going through the projects – and there are usually several – I wind up with a nice to-do list. Everything on that to-do list is something that genuinely needs to be done or directly moves forward a large project I care about.
After that, I usually spend some time looking ahead into the future. What do I want my life to look like in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? I keep some project pages associated with these timeframes where I jot down ideas.
Over time, those visions for the future change. I usually keep track of the questions that have been on my mind and give them some thought. For example, do I want to push my children to go to college? If so, what portion of their college savings should I cover? Should I encourage them to have jobs or to be entrepreneurial?
In each case, the result is a far-future thing, but it’s something that impacts what I do right now. It impacts whether I save for their education and how much, and it also impacts how I talk to them about their future and what traits I encourage them to work on.
I don’t dwell on these issues forever, but I do try to give them some thought. I usually just hit on a few things that jump out at me each week.
After that, I’m usually done. I have a nice little weekend to-do list and, sometimes, a few general things to keep in mind as conversation topics for the week.
I find the hour or two I spend on this weekend “restock” to be one of the most valuable parts of my weekly routine. I hope you’ll find it valuable, too.