How a Weekly Review Keeps Me on Track

I’ve mentioned before that I use routines to manage my time and eliminate decision fatigue. “Use” might be a bit of an understatement. I probably abuse routines. I’m a routine addict.

Whether it’s for blog writing, marathon training, recital planning, or birthday card sending, I have systems and routines in place to keep my business and personal lives running smoothly.

Today I’m going to highlight one of my most valuable routines: the weekly review.

What is a Weekly Review?

For me, the weekly review is an opportunity to close out one week and prepare for the next. It keeps my big goals front of mind and keeps me moving forward. It’s also a chance to think about what’s not working and come up with solutions.

Elements of a Weekly Review

This weekly review outline is based on the one provided by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done (or “GTD” for the super nerds, like myself). Allen’s book has influenced a lot of my work patterns and it’s where I first encountered the idea of a weekly review.

1. Get Clear

  • Brain dump
    The point of the brain dump is to get all the little or big things I need and want to do out of my head and into my my central task management app, which happens to be Todoist. (This is the list I work from on a daily basis, so if it’s not in here, it will not get done.) I go through a trigger list (like this one) to be sure I haven’t missed anything. This process immediately gives me more clarity. For some of my clients, just implementing this part of the weekly routine is a game changer—one told me she looks forward to it because of the calm she feels after she’s captured everything on her mind.
  • Collect and process loose papers, materials, checks
    This is when I deposit those checks and record them in my accounting system, transfer my hastily-written Post-It reminders into calendar appointments or tasks, transfer meeting notes into a digital reference file, and throw away or recycle as much paper as possible!
  • Get inbox to zero
    I aspire to an empty inbox, but I don’t get there every week. I consider anywhere things (messages, notes, “stuff”) collect to be an “inbox” that needs to be emptied every week. For me this includes email, text messages, voicemail, Facebook, the physical inbox on my desk, that pile beside the bed, etc.

2. Get Current

With everything captured into one system, it’s time to review where I’m at and set my focus for the upcoming week:

  • Review previous calendar data
  • Review upcoming calendar data
    I look at the next 3-4 weeks out to help me prioritize my activities for the upcoming week and plan ahead for upcoming deadlines.
  • Review “Waiting For” list
    This is a list of tasks that I’ve delegated or emails I’ve sent to others that may require follow-up.
  • Review goals
    I’ve been using the 12 Week Year to set my big picture goals and part of that process is completing a weekly scorecard. Reviewing my goals right before I plan my actions for the next week really helps me focus on the things that are most important and most effective.
  • Review projects
    A project in GTD speak is anything that has more than one task: planning a recital, organizing a group class, building shelves in my studio, etc. I have dozens of projects, but they’re not all active all the time. This is where I figure out the next steps required to move active projects forward.
  • Review tasks
    My task list has hundreds of tasks in it, but I use filters in Todoist to show me only the most relevant ones when I’m working day-to-day. Once a week I quickly skim through all of my tasks to clear out anything that has become irrelevant and choose what I’ll work on in the upcoming week.

3. Get Creative

  • Be creative and courageous
    I love this weekly reminder to do something that takes me outside my comfort zone. It makes me look for opportunities to be creative and encourages me to take the bold steps that I may be resisting.

When to do a Weekly Review

Some people like to start their weeks with a review, as a way of getting focused on the week ahead. I think that makes great sense, but it didn’t work for me. I get really excited to dive into my work on Monday mornings and trying to step back to do any serious reflection just wasn’t happening. Instead, I schedule time every Saturday morning to review my past week and plan for the upcoming weeks. I also go through a review to get myself back on track after I’ve been traveling.

Developing Your Own Weekly Review

The Weekly Review outline from Getting Things Done is a good place to start, but at different times in my life I’ve added or removed things to fit my current situation. For a system to work, you have to make it your own. Don’t be afraid to change the format to make the review work in your life!

Another tip: when I first started doing a weekly review it took forever to get through the whole thing. It was discouraging and made me dread the review even though I felt much more on top of things when I was finished. Now I set a timer to limit how long I’m allowed to work on each section. It makes me work more efficiently and also gives me permission to call it a day even if my inbox isn’t completely empty.

What do you do on a weekly basis to keep your sanity?

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