Humming Home Habits: Assess

During this series we’re talking about the organizational habits that help us stay on our game during the busy school season.

Previously, I’ve developed

This week we’ll discuss assessing and then next week we’ll wrap up with “Aim”: how to set good goals and target our attitudes.


Assess for a Humming Home

I’m always in the future, and assessing means looking back, so I’m not very good at it and I prefer to postpone it.

However, looking back is the best first step in moving forward. You can’t know what tweaks you should make unless you examine how things went and why they went that way. And I do like to make tweaks.


Assessment in Two Steps: Retrospect & Review

So, here are two parts of the assessment process and three times to run through it. This is the integral part of staying on top of what you have going on that makes all the difference.


The first part of the assessment process is the retrospective step. This means looking back over the time that has elapsed since your last assessment and doing a little analyzing.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. This is the time we examine our lives and make them worth living. The reason this examination makes a life worth living is that we look at where we are and we look back to see how we got here. What do we like about where we are? What did we do or not do that made it happen? What do we not like about where we are? What did we do or not do that brought that about?

Now, this could quickly spiral out of control into a self-critical mess; at least, that’s what happens to me and is perhaps part of the reason I avoid it. However, we can pull out of that nose dive by starting off with this goal for our assessment:

Identify the one practice or habit that had the most positive effect.


Identify the one practice or habit that had the most detrimental effect.

Then, think about this:

How can you encourage that good habit still more? How can you cultivate it and help it flourish – thereby continuing to flourish yourself?

And conversely

What habit or practice should replace the detrimental one?

You can’t just cut a bad habit; it must be replaced. What small steps can you take to make it harder to practice the bad habit and easier to practice the replacement? Step up your environment for success, don’t try to do it by sheer willpower. See my Switch series for more ideas in that regard.

You are looking for two answers only, not a complete life inventory: What good practice will you cultivate and what bad practice will you replace?

That’s it. Small, steady changes made incrementally over the long haul will get us farther than booming and busting.


The second part of the assessment process is to review. This is the time to set yourself up for the coming day, week, or interval.

During the review (according to a GTD set-up), three key tasks are performed:

  1. Empty your inboxes (especially whatever you use for ubiquitous capture) and make sure nothing you need is about to slip through the cracks. Make sure everything is on the calendar that needs to be, your current project lists are up-to-date, bills are paid and not lost, and notes you want to keep are where you keep such things.
  2. Set aside a certain amount of time (15-30 minutes) to just do as many of the little nagging things that pop up on your radar as you can. Pay the bills, answer the email, file the papers, shred the junk mail, clear your desk – whatever small tasks you tend to put off, use this time to batch-process them. However, the way you do this fast and avoid procrastinating is to use a timer and limit yourself to only doing each batch-process task for a set, short amount of time. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference this makes!
  3. Get your lists ready: Depending on which review this is (daily, weekly, or interval), you’ll have different lists to print and prepare, but at each review, you want to look at them all:
  • Calendar
  • Task management
  • Interval plan
  • Weekly overview
  • Daily card

Looking these things over this frequently will help prevent things falling through the crack and will help you make wise in-the-moment decisions, because you’ll have a clear sense of what you have going on.

Assessment Three Times

There are three key periods to perform an assessment in order to keep your stuff conscious and your mind clear.

every interval

Late last year I tried using our six-week school terms to set boundaries around my own projects and habit-building efforts. I have been so happy with the results! Six weeks is the perfect period of time to try to learn a new skill, reinforce a habit, reach a small goal, or get something done. If I try planning anything specific or concrete any farther out, chances are high that something is going to happen which will alter the situation significantly enough to derail the goal. However, six weeks is predictable enough and a close enough deadline to promote that “nearing the deadline” motivation necessary to beat procrastination.

So, before beginning a new term or interval, I sketch out an action plan: One house target, one project goal (because I love projects and always have something going), and one habit.

every week

David Allen, of GTD fame, maintains that the weekly review is the key to the entire GTD methodology. An hour on the weekend to go through the three steps above is the practice that will make your systems work for you.

every day

Every morning we need to look over our lists and see where we are and what needs to be done. I like using an index card for this daily list-making, as I talk about in this Simplified Organization hangout:


If you really want to work at establishing these habits in your life, do it with me at Simply Convivial Membership. Membership contains all my self-paced courses to hold your hand through setting up the support systems and the attitude shifts we need to cultivate to make long-term change.


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The direction & accountability homemakers need to make noticeable progress in their home management skills.

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