A critical skill used in any well-functioning time management system is that of reviewing and improving.
Reviewing is the skill of looking over both the contents of the time management system AND its functioning, with a view to preventing problems and improving the user’s personal productivity. There are two kinds of reviews, Content Reviews and System Reviews.
- Reviewing Content
In order to prevent a time management system from exploding at any time, a user needs to investigate the content in each of the components at regular intervals to ensure that the pipeline of time demands is not about be filled, or clogged. The best users are always referring back to the contents of their time management system in order to:
- update items in lists and schedule
- adjust the timing of tasks in a schedule
- place new items in their capture points
- dispense email from their in-box to different folders and lists
They set certain standards for themselves with respect to how often to review critical lists such as their “Waiting For” lists and “Thinking About” lists. These are usually reviewed daily in conjunction with a review of the schedule, and of various capture points.
- Reviewing the System
Less frequently, a user needs to conduct proactive reviews of their time management system. There are many subtle indicators, including their own level of psychic peace, that tell how well the system in performing, and where it is likely to fail. They should also be constantly searching for new tools to enhance their time management systems, knowing that new tools can help them to accomplish the goals of their time management systems with greater ease. They do the same with new practices, which they are continuously tinkering and experimenting with, to see if they can somehow better meet their goals of being more productive and gaining greater psychic benefits. They may also monitor Component #10 – Warning to ensure that it is working correctly.
Reviews are critical to a well-functioning time management system. The user’s environment is constantly changing, and there are new projects, responsibilities and time demands being placed on competent professionals. At each point, the professional has a choice to expand their capability to handle more, or to refuse to take on new accountabilities.
Professionals who do not conduct reviews are courting possible disaster, and also cutting themselves off from the opportunity to learn new thinking, techniques, and technologies that they might include in their system.
Reviewing is synonymous with continuous improvement, which an essential component of any time management system.
- A Novice or White Belt would have very few reviews of any kind. They are operating at a relatively low level of productivity and either regularly turn away new assignments (even at their low level of productivity) or accept them and fail to deliver. They have very little understanding that they have a time management system, and that it has limits. They don’t appreciate the number of time demands they are trying to manage or how to expand their personal capacity.Their system is unstable and likely to fall apart at any time.
- A Yellow Belt user conducts infrequent and unplanned reviews of the contents of their system. Several weeks may go by without a content review taking place. They have not yet developed the art of reviewing their System in an effort to upgrade or streamline it, however.
- An Orange Belt user conducts frequent and planned reviews of the contents of their system. They have not scheduled consistent System Reviews.
- A Green Belt has at least daily reviews of all the critical contents of their time management system and suffers few surprises. They also conduct frequent system reviews, and are always looking to create new practices and adopt new tools that may help them.