Sampler #6: Why I use reviews (Part 4: Planning in more depth)


👋 This is Lucian speaking.

Thanks for sticking around all the way up to the fourth and final part of this mini-series on Reviews. This last bit covers some of the common obstacles when it comes to planning, that is: "What do I work on next?" and "How do I plan larger stretches of time?".

If you haven't read the previous sampler, I recommend using the links above to do that first!

Table of contents:

Amplenote Community Samplers like this one are inspired from our Discord and our Reddit, so please consider joining if you're not already there? 😎 Once on Discord, you can sign up for our volunteer Booster Club and we will grant your account a free month of Amplenote Unlimited, extra feature voting privileges and more!

Reading time: 5 minutes

linkPlanning in more depth

link⚙️ Deeper into task selection

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Planning is a skill that countless authorities have explored at length and we're only aiming to cover the "minimum viable system" in the bounds of these articles. That said, if I were to recommend a resource on the topic, I'd go with this Spreadsheet created by the clever people at Ultraworking, whom I've mentioned once already in this series:

If you check them out, you'll discover a generous list of tools and systems to assist your planning efforts. Among the most useful concepts is the "attention cost" attribute. When you start assessing the "cost" of every project, it encourages you to investigate how many of your resources that project will drain, when considered next to other competing projects as well as your lifestyle and availability.

Good planning tends to have cascading positive effects, in that, pragmatically, a "good plan" will help you work on the most important things, but psychologically, it will also act as a morale booster. If you're into optimizing the little things, check out Ultraworking's spreadsheet linked above!

link⚙️ Deeper into long-term planning

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One question hanging in the air when we talk about "dividing and conquering" is what to do with longer-term plans. How can we track goals and projects that take a year or even multiple years to complete?

According to the most tried and true techniques that people have written about, when it comes to long-term goals, it's better to "call them something else and treat them differently" (eg. an "Area" from Tiago Forte's P.A.R.A. or the "Vision" from David Allen's GTD). We will perhaps explore these approaches in future Community Samplers, should readers express the interest, but for the purposes of this article, let us cover some incipient tools that we can start using right away.

When thinking a year ahead or more, it's harder to estimate what is a reasonable amount of projects that you can commit to. That said, making a visual representation can help reduce some of that cognitive load. As seen in this video on yearly planning from Carl Pullein, you can create a table that represents a year, and then start filling in each column - first with commitments, trips and vacations, then with projects and initiatives for the year:

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

🌴 Mexico trip
No commitments
🌴💼 1 Month in Thailand
No commitments

Move inside a larger apartment

Move inside a larger apartment

Release my monthly newsletter

Learn how to play Electric Guitar

Learn Web Development

Learn Web Development

Build a patio

Another idea to consolidate your long-term plans is to frame your goals as "themes" and use them as a gentler nudge towards a particular direction. For example, 2023 might be "the year of Health" for you, or the third quarter of the year could be "the summer of reading", and so on. As covered by CGP Grey in his video, setting a "theme" is particularly useful for goals that you can't or don't want to break down in considerable detail, but also for grouping together similar projects. An example of how that might look below:


Week #1

Week #2

Week #3

Week #4


Sports & health


Sports & health


Money & investments

Short trip to Venice


Money & investments


Programming + travel

Spain vacation


Programming + travel

Spain vacation

Trip with parents




Reading & Deep work


Reading & Deep work


Reading & Deep work





link⚙️ The Annual Essay

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The final idea I'll cover is what I like to call "The Annual Essay". It is how I was personally first introduced to the idea of "reviews" in the first place, and while it initially didn't stick for me, The Annual Essay is now a reliable companion to the "Minimum Viable Review" I've been describing so far in this series.

If the techniques outlined so far in this article have been more procedural - e.g. Logs -> feeding into Retrospectives -> feeding into Planning -> feeding into higher-order Reviews, the Annual Essay has as much Structure as you want it to have.

Your Essay could be structured into a set of writing prompts, or it can be completely free-form. If you're going the "writing prompt" route and you don't know where to start, feel free to use this as inspiration:


What did you spend too much time on?

What did you spend too little time on?

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?

What were your traveling highlights?

What were the most influential people of last year?

Next year:

What are your traveling plans?

Who are the people you want to actively connect with?

What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that?

What can you do for your career/business next year?

While it's less obvious how to get value from the Annual Essay alone, this can be a great complement to your structured weekly and monthly reviews that you carry out during the year. The unconstrained form of writing can be a priceless opportunity to catch things that otherwise might fall through the cracks, and the essay format makes it very easy to share your review with the world, should you choose to do so.


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This was a long ride. If you've made it all the way to the end, your opinion is hereby requested, so please do reach out in the comments section of this blog. What are the most helpful ideas you've discovered while reading these articles and what can we learn from your own approach? With your help, we want to make the Community Samplers a place where people can share their best tips and tricks for staying more focused and getting more important things done.

I'll wrap up this mini-series by restating some of the best arguments for why you might start implementing Reviews into your own system.

More structure is sometimes more freedom. Set up a dedicated time for making a plan in the morning, in order to decouple "planning" from "doing". This allows you to focus on the actual work, avoid decision-making fatigue and maximize creativity.

Think small. It's easier to plan a week ahead that it is to plan a year ahead. It's harder to recall all of the nuance that described your past twelve months vs your past seven days. Use frequent reviews to check in with yourself and carry out your long-term vision.

Reconcile the changes. Your priorities, values and aspirations change all the time. More frequent reviews means you can catch those and stop working on what becomes obsolete.

Estimation is a skill. More frequent reviews let you hone that skill. Before you know it, you'll be thinking in terms of "cycles" (each cycle being the period between two consecutive reviews), and you'll be significantly better at gauging how long a project will take to complete.

Only adopt techniques that solve a specific problem. We've crammed a lot of tools and techniques in these two articles, so make sure to only adopt those that address a specific deficiency in your system.

linkAmplenote Templates

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As promised, below is a list of templates you can start using now. The easiest way to import these templates is as follows:

Visit the link for the template;

Bring up Amplecap;

Click on "Duplicate note" 🙌.

Read more about how to import templates using Amplecap.

The list:

See you around!

Plot twist

Thanks for stopping by the Amplenote blog. Did you know that the content of this "blog post" is just a plain old note, lifted from the author's Amplenote notebook? Rich footnotes, industry-leading to-do lists, and a security-first mindset make us a solid option for modern writers. Try it out yourself.