Whether you subscribe to David Allen's, Julie Morgenstern's, Laura Stack's, Stephanie Winston's, et al's advice (or mine, for that matter) on productivity, there's a good chance that you don't do everything they recommend. Let's face it: it's a pain in the ass to break old habits (no matter how dysfunctional) and establish new ways of working (no matter how virtuous). If it were easy, there'd be no fat people waddling around the newest branch of Coldstone Creamery.
So if you're not able to swallow the whole productivity System of your choice and enter the promised land of an exquisitely balanced work-life, complete with a mind-like-water, email ninja-moves, and an unlimited supply of stress-free life-hacks and Google tricks -- what should you do?
I think that the weekly (or better yet, daily) review is about the best way to invest 10 minutes of your time. Lord knows, it's not a panacea for what ails you, but if you're only going to do one thing to tame the swirling chaos of your work, this might be it. Here's what to do:
1. Pick a quiet time when you can concentrate. Early morning, end of the day, Sunday afternoon, whatever. You'll need about 10-15 minutes.
2. Look at your calendar and review all the stuff that was supposed to get done this week, and all the stuff that you're supposed to do next week. Move any outstanding tasks to the upcoming week, and choose a specific day and time to do them.
3. If you're like most people and you employ your inbox as a to-do list, then do step #2 with your email messages. And while you're at it, consider how colossally inefficient it is to read and reread the same damn messages so that you can determine (once again) what needs to be done and which ones you'll actually handle. As you trudge through the undifferentiated detritus of your inbox, you'll understand the reason all those bank presidents in old Hollywood movies (and real bank presidents, too) had month-at-a-glance calendars on their desks.
4. Stare at the ceiling, chew on a pencil, and fish around for any miscellaneous items floating around the neurochemical eddies in your brain. Commit those tasks to the calendar as well, so that you can be sure to remember them when you're at the office and wearing pants, instead of at 3am when you're in bed and in your underwear.
5. Rinse and repeat.
Again, I'm not claiming that this somewhat haphazard approach will be a cure-all. Odds are, stuff will still slip through the cracks: when you don't have (in David Allen's words) a leakproof system, it's unlikely that the weekly review will capture it all. But as a tentative first toe in the waters of productivity, it's a pretty good place to start.