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Table of Contents

Most people are busy. We know this because they’ll tell us when we ask them. You know that whole thing where you say “How are you?” and the standard reply is “Busy.”. We all have busy days, but are we busy with the right things? We end up filling our days with favors and work for other people. How often is the work that we do on a daily basis actually contributing to our personal goals? Often times in a workplace environment we also quickly get bogged down, doing work that is important to our colleagues, but not necessarily vital to our core function. A weekly review is a way that you can combat this. In this article we’re going to learn what a weekly review is and how it can help us achieve our goals and become more productive.

What is a weekly review?

A weekly review is something made popular by David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. His book led to a revolution in the productivity space commonly referred to as “GTD”. The Weekly review is a period of time that you set aside every week to take a retrospective look at the previous week. It’s also a good time to look at the upcoming week and double check that you’re on top of your deadlines for projects and tasks. It’s like looking at the GPS when you’re on a long road trip, just to double check that you haven’t missed your turn.

Who should do the weekly review?

Any one can do a weekly review, if you feel any of the below conditions apply to you then you should consider doing a weekly review. In the following the section we’ll explore why you should do a weekly review.
A weekly review is something you should consider if:

  • You’re feeling overwhelmed with how much work you need to do
  • You’re missing project and task deadlines
  • You’re not hitting your goals or your want to hit more short term goals
  • You never know what to work on when you have spare time
  • You feel demotivated.

Why should you do it?

A weekly review allows you to get a 10 000ft overview of your commitments, projects and tasks. It’s a great opportunity to have a look at your short to medium term goals, tasks that you’ve completed and tasks that are still outstanding.

We naturally fill our weeks with lots of ‘busyness’ but have you ever stopped to ask yourself if it’s the right ‘busyness’? Often people will come to us with requests and favors and we’re often deceived by our own planning short comings. This results with us over committing so we feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Benjamin Franklin once said that failing to plan is like planning to fail. Now that we know why a weekly review is important, we’ll explore how you can do one.

Doesn’t a weekly review take a lot of time?

Yes, it can take a lot of time. But, it doesn’t have to. A weekly review is the thing that I regret skipping the most. The ROI (Return on Investment) for a weekly review is high. A weekly review allows you to make sure that:

  • You’re always working on the most important things
  • That you’re always getting what you need to get done
  • You’ve got the right priorities
  • Your mental inbox is clear

When you consider the benefits, the return on the time you invest in a weekly review is ten-fold.

How to do a weekly review

Choose a day, time and place.

The first thing we need to do is choose a time and place. Waiting for a good time is never a good idea, because a good time will never come along. I’ve felt that doing a weekly review was inconvenient. It can be inconvenient, but it’s also one of the most helpful things you can do in a week. Don’t procrastinate, just make a time to do it. Find a good location where you won’t be disturbed, and do it. Ideally you’ll want to do your weekly review at the same time in the same place every week. Keeping your weekly review consistent is an important part of creating a habit of doing your weekly review each week without fail.

Understand your weekly review objectives

Next you’re going to want define your weekly review objectives. What you want to get out of the review needs to be clear to you so that it’s actually a productive use of your time. There is no point in you doing a weekly review where you review your emotional well being if that’s not a priority to you. It’s also pointless to spend precious time doing a weekly review if you’re not solving a problem with that time. For example here are some objectives from my weekly review:

  • Clear my digital workspaces
  • Update my tasks
  • Decide priorities for the week
  • Make sure that I am on track with my habits

Create a Checklist

Now that we know what our objectives are, what are the direct actions that will allow us to achieve those objectives? For example with my objectives listed above here are the actions that I take to achieve those objectives:

  • Clear my digital workspaces
    • Clean up my desktop and Downloads folder
    • Get to inbox 0 in all email accounts
  • Update my tasks
    • Add new tasks
    • Review complete tasks for possible follow up actions
    • Review calendar for upcoming events
  • Decide priorities for the week
    • Allocate time to tasks that are important
    • Cancel events that might not be important anymore
  • Make sure that I am on track with my habits
    • Check habit tracking system to double check that I am sufficiently on track with habits. If not, explore why.
      You can use each one of these actions to create yourself a checklist for your weekly review. As time goes by your weekly review evolve to work for you and not against you.

Thinking Vs Doing

When you’re creating your weekly review there are going to be two types of questions that you ask yourself. The first type is the thinking type. These are questions where the answer doesn’t always directly correlate to a metric. For example: “How am I feeling about XYZ?”. These are introspective questions. Some more examples of “Thinking” Questions are:

  1. What made me really happy this past week? How can I replicate that feeling?
  2. What went really well this past week?
  3. What made me really stressed this past week? How can I stop that feeling from happening again?

“Doing” questions are things like “Am I completing all the task that I plan to achieve each week? If not, why not?”. A question like the aforementioned can be quantitavely measured (n=tasks completed).

Both these types questions are equally as important, but serve slightly different purposes. Thinking type questions help you to maintain a healthy emotional wellbeing. While, doing questions allow you to be at your most productive.

Questions to ask about your review

It’s important that your weekly review is actually contributing to those objectives that we spoke about at the beginning of this article. Here are some questions you can ask to help you make sure that your review is productive:

  1. Is my weekly review helping me progress towards my goals?
  2. Is my weekly review so bloated that I don’t feel like doing it?
  3. What problems do I consistently face that could be fixed during the weekly review?
  4. What is an area of my life that needs more management? Should I add this to my weekly review?

Questions you can ask during your review (Thinking)

  1. Was this previous week a good one?
  2. What enabled me to reach my goals this week?
  3. What external forces stopped me from reaching my goals this week?
  4. What could I have done better?
  5. Which actions did I take this week that were most effective in helping me achieve my goals?
  6. What can I do next week that will set me up for my long-term goals?
  7. What should I plan for in the next month? Year? 5 Years?

Gathering metrics to help you understand if you hit your goals. (OKR’s) (Doing)

Google has a system called OKRs. This stands for “Objectives and Key Results”. It’s a simple system: Ask yourself “What are we trying to achieve here?” then you’ll need to find a way to measure whether you’re making progress.
A silly example could be a runner running a marathon. The objective is to finish the race of 26.2 miles (42.2km). He’ll know he’s close when he has run 20miles (key result). If you’re a fan of data like me, you’ll find this to be a really effective way to keep yourself motivated.
Reviewing these metrics is a great way to make sure you’re constantly progressing towards your goals. The weekly review is a good time to do this.

So how do you actually do a weekly review?

I am going to share my weekly review template with you. Please keep the following in mind:

  1. This review process is carefully tailored to fulfill a specific personal function.
  2. This review process is likely to change as my needs change.
  3. You shouldn’t just copy this review process, but you are welcome to copy it and then tailor it for your needs.

My Review Process

Objectives:

  1. Clear Digital Work Spaces
  2. Update your Tasks
  3. Decide one your priorities for the week.
  4. Make sure you’re on track with habits.

Prelude

Step 1: Review what I achieved last week.

  • Review what tasks you accomplished since the previous week. This is important because we often forget how much we have achieved which can lead to us feeling demotivated because we feel like we’re not getting any where. This is linked closely to something called the [[Final Draft_Zeigarnik Effect]].

Clear Digital Work Spaces

Goal: Clear up each category to determine where to invest your time in the following week.

  • Calendar (Calls and meetings at specific times)
  • Desktop/Downloads folder cleared and sorted
  • Notes inbox cleared
  • Tasks inbox cleared. Tasks planned and/or scheduled.

Email

Goal: Get to Inbox 0

  • Move quickly, touch lightly
  • With each email decide what the next action is and add a task to your todo list.
  • Once added, archive the email. Save important information to notes inbox.
  • Don’t action any emails, just record.

**Actions: **
[] Go through emails and schedule, store important info to notes inbox.
[] Archive all unnecessary email once you’ve sorted through it.

Calendar

Goal: Become aware of upcoming events

  • Scan your calendar two weeks into the past to look for anything that needs follow up. I.e meetings etc.
  • Look ahead four weeks and see what needs to be planned for.
  • If an action is discovered add it to your task manager. Schedule it.

Actions:
[] Check Calendar for tasks that need follow up actions
[] Check Calendar for things that I need to plan for. Create tasks and schedule them if need be.

Desktop/Downloads folders

**Goal: **Clear Desktop and Downloads folders.

  • Create a folder structure in your documents folder
  • Delete all useless files on desktop/downloads.
  • Organize files that you want to keep into the aforementioned organized file structure.
  • Empty trash/recycle bin

**Actions: **
[] Organise Files and Folders on Desktop
[] Organise Files and Folders in Downloads folder
[] Delete Unecessary Files
[] Empty Trash/Recycle Bin

Tasks

Goals:

  • Make sure each task is actionable. If not, break it down
  • Prioritize tasks.
  • Empty the task inbox, plan tasks for set days during the week.

Actions:
[] Make sure each task is actionable, if not break it down with direct actions
[] Plan Un-scheduled tasks
[] Schedule next weekly review

Free Templates

You can download a free version of my Notion template here:

You can download a free .pdf version of this weekly review below:

Summary

My intention for this guide/article is to show you possible ways of constructing your own weekly review process. You’re welcome to copy my weekly review process, but you’ll very quickly realise that you and I are different people. A weekly review is personal and that’s why I recommend that you try build your own process.

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