Should I just restart?

There’s lots of good advice here about how and whether to tackle the backlog or reset. I won’t add to what’s already said, but it sounds like you could also use some motivational help for regular daily reviews.

The general wisdom is that it takes three weeks to make something a habit. That pretty much jibes with my experience.

No matter how you tackle the backlog, I’ll share some motivational advice that’s helped me tremendously:

  • Decide on a time of day and duration for your reviews that will work for you almost every day. Ideally, pick a time when you’ll have energy and will likely be free of distractions. It doesn’t matter whether it’s first thing in the morning, the last thing before you go to bed, or any time in between: Just tell yourself forcefully that that hour (or whatever) is for WK reviews and only for WK reviews. Be convincing.

  • Acquire a dedicated physical calendar and a red felt-tip pen. Display the calendar prominently wherever you expect to do your reviews.

  • Every day you do some reviews, make a big red X through that day on the calendar. It doesn’t matter if you do one review or three hundred. If you do at least one review, you get an X.

  • Play DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN. Try to make that string of big red X’s as long as possible.

  • Decide on some small reward for yourself (coffee or snacks work great, but web surfing, tv, adult beverages, or whatever also work). Reward yourself whenever you review a significant number of items. Bask in the glory of that long unbroken string of big red X’s while you enjoy your treat. Try to only reward yourself after accomplishing your daily goal.

That’s it. The first time you achieve an unbroken 3-week string of red X’s, you’ll almost certainly discover that it’s become a habit and you’ll feel strange if you don’t do your reviews at that time.

The rather awesome heatmap user script will automate the calendar for you, and is definitely worth installing even if you follow my advice above and go the manual route. But nothing beats the visceral satisfaction of physically marking a big red X on a paper calendar. I’m also a fan of the workload graph extension to the heatmap to see a graph of how many reviews you’re doing on average.

Lastly, real life trumps. All the motivational tricks in the world can’t prevent the occasional lapse. Never be too hard on yourself for breaking the chain, but try to make your reviews a habit.

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