The Weekly Review is often regarded as the pinnacle of personal productivity. Introduced by David Allen in his ground-breaking productivity method – Getting Things Done, almost every other productivity guru has introduced a similar periodic review into their methodology.
This post will break down what I consider the key elements of an effective weekly review – the no frills approach to a weekly review, if you will. Before doing so, I’d like to “sell” you on the importance of doing a periodic review, especially you “newbies”.
Arguably the most important part of any productivity method to veterans. Newbies, 9 times out of 10, will forgo this critical step. Causing many to continuously hop from one productivity method to another, hopelessly looking for the holy grail of productivity. Never to find it because the Weekly Review is the key.
It’s all about trusting what you are doing. Simply put, the weekly review is what lets you sleep at night. The review will give you the peace of mind that the right things are getting done and that no balls are being dropped, i.e., no more missed deadlines, forgotten tasks that push back projects, etc.. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to evaluate how you can improve your daily ritual and tweak the tools helping you stay productive.
Ok, hopefully the “sale” has been made and we can focus on what you need to do…
A lot of day-to-day worry is due to the fact that we have so much on our mind. During the funneling phase (as I like to call it), get everything into a list. David Allen calls it the Inbox. Get rid of Post-it notes, voice messages, ideas & thoughts taking away brain space, etc. Everything should be written down in a list ready for processing. (BTW, I’d recommend to do this on a daily basis, but at the very least, on your weekly review)
It does not matter if you subscribe to Merlin Mann, David Allen, or Tony Robbins, you want to go through your lists and decide what to do with each item. It’s true that most processing will be focused on our email but don’t forget the list we generated in our funneling phase, aka the Inbox.
Remember, the goal is not to complete everything, but rather: delete, create a task, create a project, set a calendar event, delegate, throw it on your someday list, or file away as reference materials.
Keep your lists manageable
Use the review as an opportunity to question what’s on your lists. In particular your tasks and projects. I say question because that’s exactly what I mean.
You don’t want your task list to spiral out of control with 100’s and 1000’s of tasks. Remember, you’ll be looking at this task list on a daily basis to decide what to get done. I venture to guess that even David Allen doesn’t have 1000’s of tasks on his to-do list. More often than not, a deep review of your task list will uncover outdated tasks, tasks you may have completed but never checked off, tasks that should be relegated to your someday list, or simply tasks that you no longer see as priority or in line with your current goals and objectives & should be deleted.
Review your calendar
As soon as we read the title, automatically we assume that we want to take a look at our calendar to see what is coming up for the following week. This, of course, has its merits and is straightforward, so we will not spend time on this.
You will, however, get exponentially more benefit by taking a look at the week that has passed. Take a look at meetings that have taken place, review tasks that originated from those meetings. Are they on your task lists, with due dates, etc.? Often, due to the hectic nature of our day, we make commitments during meetings, and forget to document everything leading to missed obligations. You will find that doing this on a weekly basis will give you tremendous trust in what you are doing and how you are handling your affairs. And that’s what productivity methods are all about – getting to a point what you truly trust what you are doing.
Take a step back & improve
You are not going to have “eureka moments” every week or even every other week. Regardless, use your weekly review as an opportunity to identify problems in what you are doing. E.g., missed a deadline? When you are putting out the fire, you don’t have time to think. But during the weekly review, identify any preventative action that you could have taken to avoid the missed deadline.
Are you spending too much time getting your tools & applications to work the way you want? Find out if there are tools & apps that can do a better job. Are parts of the productivity method you follow not making any sense? Are they adding more work without the benefit? Consider eliminating them.
Personal productivity is an evolution, a personal journey, if you will. No guru or coach can truly tell you what will work for you. So use the weekly review to move you forward in your path to personal productivity.