The Weekly Review is one of the most powerful self-management tools that I have learned. In this post, I will explain why the Weekly Review is a powerful productivity tool. In addition, you will also learn what goes into my Weekly Review. I often find it helpful to learn how an individual uses an ideas, so I hope this post will inspire you to start a Weekly Review (or improve your existing practice).
A few years ago, I discovered the principle from reading David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done.” In brief, the Weekly Review is a recurring activity that reviews the past, reminders and more. In the new 2015 edition of Getting Things Done, Allen summarizes the concept as follows:
From a practical standpoint, here is the three-part drill that [makes up the Weekly Review]: get clear, get current, and get creative. Getting clear will ensure all your collected stuff is processed. Getting current will ensure that all your orienting “maps” or lists are reviewed and up-to-date. The creative part happens to some degree automatically, as you get clear and current.” (pg 195)
The above comment reminds me of one of the most surprising aspects of the Getting Things Done approach: the bottom up approach. If you find mental clarity valuable, the Getting Things Done approach makes a big difference. I have not achieved 100% success with the methodology yet. I do find that each time I implement these ideas and practices, there are clear benefits to increased creativity.
The Benefits of The Weekly Review
Before adding another standing appointment to your calendar, you may have some questions about the value of this practice. That’s understandable. I will share a few ways that this practice has helped me. I hope that my experience and results inspires me to try the Weekly Review.
- Review The Past: how often do you look at your calendar from last week? This step of the Weekly Review prompts me to review recent meetings and activities. For example, I will sometimes be reminded to send a follow up email or review meeting notes for action items.
- Review Plans For The Future: remember that appointment or meeting you agreed to attend weeks ago? Reviewing my upcoming week is a great way to prevent negative surprises. Often, reviewing the upcoming calendar reminds me to prepare documents. In addition, this step prompts me to through logistics (e.g. how long will it take to get from A to B on Thursday evening?)
- Good Mindset To Start the Week: I prefer to conduct my Weekly Review on Monday mornings (though I also see the merits of Fridays). I like Monday mornings because the week is not yet reached full speed. Regarding mindset, the practice also prompts me to “be proactive” as Stephen Covey recommended.
Above and beyond the benefits explained above, there is much to be gained from implementing the Weekly Review. Once it becomes a habit, I look forward to it. It gives a sense of increased satisfaction and control. The Weekly Review also provides risk management benefits: the risk of missing deadlines or needed follow up efforts will decline.
Inside My Weekly Review Template: An Evolving Productivity Tool
When I work through my Weekly Review, I use a blank template Microsoft Excel file. I first created the file in 2013 and have refined it (adding and deleting various parts) since then. Generally speaking, my plan is to complete the Weekly Review on Monday mornings before lunch. I find that the process generally takes 30-60 minutes (more time is needed when there is more input).
Note: The Weekly Review Is An Evolving Practice
The components of my Weekly Review have evolved over time. I have experimented in adding new activities at certain times and not every idea works out. Based on that experience, don’t be concerned if you struggle to “get it right.”
GET CURRENT: Collection
This phase focuses on the information gathering activities defined by Getting Things Done. In particular, I aim to move items from the email inbox into tasks. This is not simply a matter of copy and paste. Rather, it involves defining the next action.
- Collect loose papers and materials (Wallet, Briefcase, Office Desk, Home Office Desk)
- Achieve Personal Inbox to zero
- Achieve Corporate Email to zero
- Write out any tasks in Task Manager (currently using Remember The Milk; I may switch to Nozbe in the future)
- Write out any appointments in Google Calendar (also use Outlook Calendar at the Office)
GET CURRENT: Calendar & Relationships
This phases looks at calendars and a few key relationships. My practice is to combine personal and professional review in this phase, as I do above. You may also notice that I have a line item for spouse and family. As I like to work through processes, these items simply serve to remind me. Those steps, like the rest of my Weekly Review practice, is a work in progress.
- Review Manager Emails – are there any tasks or activities that are needed? If so, schedule them or use 2 minute rule
- Review today’s tasks in Task Manager (any 2 minute actions?)
- Review past personal calendar data: previous 7 days
- Review upcoming personal calendar: next 7 days
- Review past corporate calendar data: previous 7 days
- Review upcoming corporate calendar: next 7 days
- Review Spouse Status: any outstanding tasks, emails or calls from her?
- Review Family Communication Status: Has it been more than 5 days since last call? If so, create task to do a call later today
This phase is the fun part of my Weekly Review. In fact, I added this section to the Weekly Review a few weeks ago. I thought it would be an enjoyable gift to myself. I have a passion for reading books and I like to give myself some time for this activity. Michael Hyatt’s recent article 5 Ways Reading Makes You a Better Leader has only enhanced my resolve to keep on reading.
Read current book for 5 minutes
Title of today’s book: The Martian by Andy Weir (the majority of my reading is non-fiction. However, my decades long interest in science fiction and numerous recommendations for Weir’s novel led me to pick up this title. So far, it is an excellent read. Last week, I read The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande).