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My simple daily review

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A daily review is an integral part of my overall ‘impact system’. It sits alongside other key parts of my system, including a weekly review, which I’ll cover in a separate post.

My daily review has two primary objectives:

  1. Increase my impact: I’ve learned over the years that the aim isn’t to be ‘productive’ and get lots of stuff done. Impact comes from getting the small number of really important things done.
  2. Reduce my mental load: I typically have a lot going on between my day job, family, hobbies, self-improvement and other projects. My system gets actions, ideas, appointments etc out of my head and captures them somewhere so I don’t have to remember them all.

My version of a daily review is something I’ve been using, tinkering with and refining over the better part of a decade now. It works well for me, so thought I’d share it. I still tinker with it from time to time, including recently modifying the review to work with a daily planning journal I’ve been road-testing.


Here’s some important factors that have gone into designing my daily review:

  • Lightweight: it needs to be simple and easy to maintain, and completed in 20min or less. I’ve tried so-called ‘productivity systems’ like Getting Things Done (GTD), but found them too difficult to keep up with. I want to get on with the important stuff, rather than spending all day reviewing and planning. My system was initially inspired by a ‘simplified’ version of GTD that you can read about here Practicing Simplified GTD (
  • Flexible: it needs to work for whatever is going on in my life, and be easy to adjust if I have a particular short term focus (like a habit I’m focussed on). There will be days where I miss doing the review. I need to be able to pick back up without facing a pile of work to get my system back on track.
  • Biased for action: I’m a procrastinator, and I’ve learned that (for me) motivation typically follows action, not the other way around. I use routines that get me ‘unstuck’ and off the starting line.


Here’s what I use for my daily review:

  • my notebook and pen
  • to-do list app (I personally use todoist, it’s great)
  • email and calendar
  • daily review template


Here’s how I do my daily review:

  1. Review:
    • Did I complete my Most Important Thing and One Quick Win (more on these terms later)? If yes, is there an obvious related next step? If no, do I need to carry over to today?
    • Process my email inbox for the previous day. I try not to get stuck responding to anything that isn’t more than a quick yes/no answer. Anything that requires work goes on my to-do list.
    • Check my notebook for any actions (I mark these with an asterisk during the day so I can find them quickly while scanning) and add them to my to-do list.
    • Check and update my to-do list, tick off things that are done and add anything missing/new.
  2. Plan:
    • Check my calendar for today and tomorrow, and see if there is anything I need to do before upcoming meetings/appointments. Add these to my to-do list.
    • Pick my Most Important Thing for the day, usually something off my to-do list. I prompt myself to remember that this should usually be something ‘small’, taking less than 1 hr to do. This is to force myself to be specific, and avoid just selecting a major project that I have no hope of completing in one day. If I need to work on a bigger project, I decide on a meaningful but achievable part to get done today.
    • Book time into my calendar to do this Most Important Thing. I aim to make myself unavailable to anyone else until this thing is done. I’m pretty ruthless with this and schedule it early in the day if I can. I reschedule other appointments if need be. After the Most Important Thing is done, I’m happy to be more giving with my time.
    • Pick my One Quick Win. This can be anything, as long as it is short, easy and I can do it right now without any pre-work. I usually aim to do this straight after my daily review to get myself moving.
    • Identify any other things I’d like to get done today. I don’t hold myself particularly accountable to these, but it gives my day a bit of focus and prioritisation.
    • Plan out my day in my calendar, blocking out time for other things I want to do (I’m usually pretty flexible with everything other than my MIT).

The template

We’ve developed a printable template for the daily review. Download your free copy of the Daily Review Template here.