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How to do a Daily Review

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A Daily Review is a check of your inboxes, tasks and calendar, to make sure you’re prepared for the following day. You capture everything you need to do in the day ahead, then work out when you’re going to do it. It helps close down the work day, so you’re more relaxed in the evening.

Intro

This is the last in my series of articles on how to do reviews. If you haven’t already read them, then do that first before reading this one:

How to do a Personal Yearly Review

How to do a Yearly Plan

How to do a Monthly Review

How to do a Weekly Review

What is a Daily Review?

If you’ve read my other articles on reviews, you’ll know that they’re about reviewing everything, rather than just your work life. This one is no different.

Your Daily Review is a review of your upcoming to dos, and your calendar. It works at the level of Tasks and hours. While it will mostly be about your work day, if you have ‘life admin’ to do, it should include that too. While you might still need to look at your calendar after this point (perhaps you have social events scheduled), you should be putting away your Task Manager.

OK, so you might still have ‘chores’ to do – things like washing up, or feeding your pet – but these probably don’t make it into your Task Manager.1 A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to put your main work tools away at this point, and even change out of your work clothes if you have them.

Difference from other reviews

In contrast to the Weekly and Monthly Reviews, your Daily Review is not the time to look at your Projects or Systems. If you’re changing these around on a daily basis, it’s unlikely you’ll be very productive.

Plenty of people – myself included – also do a daily journalling practice that typically comes just before bed. I consider that something separate from the Daily Review. A journal is for reflections, whereas the Daily Review is about getting things done.

Why should you do a Daily Review

Aside from the virtue of planning and reviewing generally, there are four key reasons to do a Daily Review:

You can remember the details of the day that’s just gone

This means you can capture any Tasks that came up during the day, or which didn’t get finished. That might be following up on a meeting you had, or finishing writing an email to a client.

If you’re into measuring things, the Daily Review also provides the opportunity to collect the data on your day that you might have forgotten by the end of the week, such as how long you spent on email versus writing.

You know what’s coming in the day ahead

The Weekly Review is the time to do the main planning for your week, but things tend to change throughout the week. Your boss might schedule a meeting, you might have to go and fix a client’s issue, or a friend might have asked you to go to lunch. By the evening before, you tend to know most of the things that are happening the following day, so you can alter your plans accordingly.

Being closer to an event also means you’re more likely to have the material you need for that event, including things you need from other people. For example, you might not be able to plan for a meeting two weeks before it takes place, but the agenda should have been circulated by the day before. Doing a Daily Review gives you the chance to check you’re ready for the day ahead.

You’re more likely to stick to your plan

Doing this level of planning means you can start the next day by doing your most important tasks, rather than procrastinating by sorting through your email, or organising your task manager. If you take the time to think through – and write down – what you’re going to do the next day, you’re more likely to stick to it than if you planned it a week ago.2

It helps close down the previous day

If you’re worried about the day ahead, it’s hard to relax. Doing a Daily Review gives you the chance to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be. That gives you the peace of mind to enjoy your evening.

When should you do your Daily Review?

Ideally, you do this around the same time each day, and allow yourself time to do something fun afterwards. It should book-end the day, so that your mind is clear for the period between the Daily Review and your sleep.

If you leave your Daily Review for the very end of the day (just before bed), you may find there are things you forgot to do that actually needed to be done that day. You end up spoiling your sleep pattern, which has knock-on effects for the next day. Plus, thinking about things to be done can get you in the wrong frame of mind, and make it hard to sleep.

It can be tempting to do your Daily Review before the end of the day, as a way of procrastinating on difficult tasks. That’s best avoided, as part of the idea is that you can switch off your communications channels and free your mind a little – which you won’t be able to do if you’re still working.

You should do your Daily Review on every day where you have work the following day. So if you work Monday to Friday, do your reviews Sunday to Thursday. If you prefer to keep Sunday clear of any work thinking, that’s fine – but I find it more relaxing to do a little planning on the Sunday night than to just sit with the ‘Sunday dread’.

Some people do their daily planning at the start of the day. This is a mistake. Doing your plan the night before means you can make progress on your most important tasks early in the day, rather than procrastinating and not getting finished.

Where should you do your Daily Review?

If you can do your Daily Review before leaving your place of work, that’s ideal. But obviously we don’t all have such a clear split of locations, and you might have Tasks to do at home before you can properly ‘clock off’.

You can try to make your Daily Review into part of a ritual so that you have mental separation between work and play, even if they’re not physically separate. Powering off your computer, changing clothes, meditation, and listening to particular pieces of music are tactics you can try to help you make the transition.

How to do a Daily Review

1. Build it into your existing system

The first thing to do is to build your Daily Review into your existing system. If you use calendar blocking, make sure there’s a few minutes in there (it shouldn’t take more than 10).

I also track whether I’ve done mine in a habit tracker. If you do it digitally, it’s nice to do it on your main work computer, so you can close it down afterwards – but you want to make sure it’s something you can do anywhere.

2. Check your inboxes

Are there any tasks in there that you need to capture? If so, do it quickly and move on – don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of doing the tasks, rather than noting them down.

3. Check your calendar

Look at your calendar for the day just gone, and the day ahead. Do you have everything you need for the following day? Are you prepared for any meetings? Do you need to send reminders to anyone you’re meeting? If you need to prepare something for the following day, and it’s going to take more than two minutes, make a Task or block some time in your calendar to do it.

4. Review your task list

Look at your Task list for the same period. If you have anything left from today that you haven’t finished, move it to the most appropriate time – which may or may not be tomorrow. Look at what you have on tomorrow – are your Tasks SMART?3 Is there anything you need to do that isn’t captured on there?

5. Budget time for tomorrow’s tasks

It should be clear on your calendar when you’re going to do the Tasks you need to do. Ideally do this by blocking the time. This is a good reality check – if your Task list now looks too long, revise it.

6. Collect any data (optional)

Some people like to record the time they spend doing various things, or key metrics like how many sales they made. This can also be a good time to complete any habit trackers, if you don’t have any habits yet to complete.

Key Takeaways

  • You should do a Daily Review so you’re better prepared for the following day. It can also help you avoid procrastinating on your important tasks.
  • It can help you relax in the evening, by ‘book ending’ the day
  • Review your inboxes, calendar and task manager for anything you need to do the following day
  • Set aside the time to do the tasks you have on the next day

Further Resources

There aren’t any external resources I would recommend on the topic of daily reviews. But if you’re hungry for more content, and haven’t already read my other articles on reviews, here they are:

How to do a Personal Yearly Review

How to do a Yearly Plan

How to do a Monthly Review

How to do a Weekly Review

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Footnotes

  1. I do believe in putting almost everything into your system, but these things are more like regular habits, rather than being discrete tasks.
  2. This is known as an ‘implementation intention’. Take a look at this article from James Clear if you’re interested.
  3. i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound, see this Wikipedia article.