Most academics waste time and miss opportunities because they don’t have a good system for managing their research sources. A good system includes efficient and effective procedures for (1) collecting potentially useful sources; (2) processing those sources; (3) organizing the results of that processing; (4) reviewing the results of that organizing; and (5) doing the appropriate actions.1
The Importance of Regular Reviews
One of the most important component of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system is the weekly review, in which you take the time to bring your system back into line with your current reality.
If you don’t take the time to review your system regularly, then it will degrade until it is no longer useful to you. At that point you will simply stop using it and go back to the dysfunctional non-system that wasn’t working for you in the first place.
Don’t let that happen. Set up regular reviews.
How Often to Review
As a GTD practicioner, I have a weekly review routine that covers many aspects of my life and work. Because different activities need to be repeated at different intervals, I find it helpful also to have daily, monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews. The idea is to review all of my systems as often as they need to be reviewed and no more.
I am planning to write in detail about my review process in future posts. For the moment, here is a quick overview. For each of my reviews I have a favorites folder in Google Chrome with a list of the activities I intend to do and all of the websites I need to visit. At the time of each review, I simply middle-click on the appropriate folder to open all of the items it contains in separate tabs. I then go through those tabs one at a time until I am finished.
I review my research sources during my monthly review.
What to Review
Review your reading queue and your project folders.
Review your reading queue in order to (1) delete any items that you have read or no longer intend to read and (2) look for sources in your reading queue that you should read sooner than you will at your current pace. Make any adjustments you need to make to ensure that you read those sources in a timely manner.
Review your project folders in order to (1) add and delete folders to reflect changes in your research interests and (2) review the items in folders for your current project(s) to make sure that you are handling them appropriately.
I do not recommend routinely reviewing the contents of folders for possible future projects. Just let the sources in those folders pile up until the associated project becomes a current project. Otherwise you will spend an inordinate amount of time managing things that do not yet need to be managed.
The final step in this system is to do the actions you have decided to do, i.e. to read the sources you have decided to read. My next post in this series will be all about how to read more efficiently and effectively.
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