What Makes A Weekly Review So Life Changing

Doing a weekly review with laptop over coffee

Executive Summary

  • There is no “right” way to do a Weekly Review; it’s really about finding a system or process that works for you and being consistent with it.
  • The main components of a Weekly Review generally include:
    • Clearing your inboxes
    • Review your tasks, calendar and notes
    • Check in on your progress on your goals
    • Plan the week ahead
  • You can make Weekly Reviews something you look forward to by spoiling yourself while you do them.

It’s Sunday evening and you’re winding down for bed and bracing yourself for the week ahead. How do you usually feel? Are you excited to keep chasing your goals and getting stuff done? Or (like the rest of us) do you dread all the work and emails that have piled up last week that you haven’t gotten around to, and another week of to-dos and obligations stacking up on your plate?

Now, what if there was a way to make Mondays suck less, so that you start the week feeling fresh and prepared, rather than feeling overwhelmed and dreading the week to come?

Meet the Weekly Review.

What is a Weekly Review?

Thee weekly review is a process made popular by the productivity consultant and author, David Allen, in his book (a.k.a. the productivity Bible) Getting Things Done. The idea is that we have a lot of inputs coming at us thickand fast every day of the week and we need to make sure that they get dealt with properly, otherwise we’ll miss important deadlines or appointments and just lose control over our lives./h2

The main point of the book is that our brain is for coming up with ideas, not for storing them. Do you find that if you try to remember important ideas, appointments or things to do that you forget them or feel mentally foggy or fatigued? That’s a symptom that you’re suffering from this problem.

So If you can empty all these things from your brain into a system that you know and trust, then you don’t need to keep them in your memory any more. You can use your brain for what it was meant for – to think, to create and to enjoy.

Even though David Allen shared a very specific and detailed process in his book, a lot of productivity gurus and communities such as the bullet journal (or Bu-jo for short) community have put their own spin on the process to meet their own needs. And that’s what makes it awesome – even though there are some core parts of a weekly review, it can be as detailed or as simple as you like, as long as it makes your life easier.

How Do You Perform a Weekly Review?

Since there’s so many different ways of doing a Weekly Review, I want to just share what I find to be the most important elements. There are so many different ways that people have shared out there that it can feel intimidating for a beginner to start applying the process. But believe me, once I started doing it, it’s helped me to feel more in control over my life and start doing more of the things that matter to me – and I hope it’ll be the same for you too.

The things you should always do in a weekly review are:

  1. Maintain your systems
  2. Review your goals
  3. Plan the week ahead

1) Maintain your systems

As professionals, we have a lot of different systems or processes that we need to manage. If we don’t take time to make sure that they’re in order, then we can get to a point where we can lose track of what’s going on or let things slip through the cracks. Left unchecked, this could lead to you falling behind, missing a deadline, upsetting a client or letting your colleagues down. Don’t let it be you!

Here are 4 systems you probably have in your life (and if you don’t, maybe it’s time to get them):

Email

Like it or not, email is an integral part of both your personal and professional life. If you don’t keep your inbox tidy and under control, you’re going to miss important information or tasks, or just feel like you’re opening the floodgates to a deluge of messages every time you open your email.

Even if you don’t have time to empty your inbox every day, it’s important to make sure that you do a deep-clean of your inbox at least once a week to make sure that there’s no hidden treasure (or bombs) in there. Here’s a few ideas of things you can do:

  • Clear your inbox – if you never get the chance to organise your inbox during the week, now’s a great time to process  any unread emails and make sure that you deal them the right way (Don’t just leave them in the inbox – delete  them, forward delegate them, mark them as requiring action for later – whatever it is, do something about them to make sure they don’t go back into your inbox).
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters – If you’re like me and you sign up to a ton of newsletters and  discount notifications (or some kind stranger subscribes to them for you), chances are that you will have a ton of emails hitting your inbox almost every hour. If you’re not reading these emails or getting much value from them, just unsubscribe from them, or better yet, block them. Less subscriptions means less emails entering your inbox each day, which means less time spent in your email and more time doing more important things.
  • Check for any follow-ups – how many times have you sent an important email to someone where you really need their response, only to forget about it and only remember once it’s too late. During a weekly review, it’s helpful to take some time to skim through the emails you sent over the past week to make sure that there’s nothing you need to chase someone up about.

Task Manager

Everyone has their own way of keeping track of their to-dos – some people like pen and paper, others use a bullet journal or paper planner and others still use digital solutions. No matter what system you use, you need to check in every once in a while to make sure that it’s organised and up-to-date so that you know that you can rely on the information there. There’s no point having a pretty paper planner if all the tasks in it are outdated or no longer relevant.

Here’s some ideas of things you can do as part of a weekly review to make sure that your task management system keeps working for you:

  • Do a brain dump – at the end of a busy week, the last thing you want to do is to carry all the thoughts and feelings about what you need to do next or people you need to follow-up with next week. Instead, put everything into your to-do list so that you won’t need to constantly think about them or worry about forgetting them.
  • Check that everything’s up to date – It’s also a good opportunity to skim through your task list to make sure that there aren’t any outstanding tasks that you’ve already completed or that nothing’s changed about the remaining tasks. This helps make sure that you can trust what you have on your list of things to do and that you can rely on it as you plan your days and weeks ahead. You also might want to get rid of any action items that aren’t relevant or important any more.

Note-taking System

If you work in an environment where you attend a lot of meetings or take a lot of calls, you probably have a lot of physical notes, sticky notes or digital documents all over the place. If these are left unchecked, they can quickly get out of hand and you might lose important details or miss key action points that you’re responsible for. It’s a good idea to deal with these notes as part of a Weekly Review process.

Here’s some things you can do to keep any notes you’ve taken during the week under control and well-organised:

  • Add action items to your task list – Tasks and action items that you’ve written down in meeting notes or scrap pieces of paper are just accidents waiting to happen. You don’t want to feel that sense of dread when you realise you had to send everyone  the minutes from the last meeting just moments before the the next one’s about to begin. Save yourself the stress and humiliation by going through any notes you’ve taken during the week and transferring any tasks to your task lists.
  • Archive or get rid of your notes – As you read over the notes you took during the week, it’s a good idea to file them away so you can refer to them again in the future if you need to. If you don’t need the notes any more, just get rid of them so they don’t clutter your system. If you just leave them there without doing anything, more and more unorganised notes will pile up over time and it’ll become a nightmare trying to find anything you’re looking for.

2) Review Your Goals

It’s normal for people to have goals, but what isn’t normal is for people to actually achieve them. A big reason why we often fail to reach our goals is because we simply forget what they were or how important they are to us. Once you’ve finished tidying up your various systems, you should take some time to remind yourself of your goals for the week, month, quarter or year and see how you’re doing. You might need to make some adjustments to your plans or you might need to change your goal, but you’ll only be able to do this if you’re regularly checking in on your progress.

When reviewing your goals, you might want to ask yourself what you’ve done to work on your goals over the last week and whether it worked out or not. Even if you didn’t accomplish anything, checking in on your goals every week makes sure that they stay on your radar and that you won’t just forget about them like a new year’s resolution. If you’re finding that you’re not working on your goals each week, it might be time to re-commit, simplify or just ditch that goal altogether.

3) Plan the Week Ahead

Once you’ve reflected on the past week , it’s time to set yourself up for a great week ahead. Again, there are many ways you can go about this, but here’s some things you might want to do before wrappingup your Weekly Review:

Check Your Calendar

The first thing you should do is to check your calendar for the next week or two so you can get an idea of your upcoming commitments and deadlines. This will make sure that you can plan out what you want to focus on next week. For example, if you have a lot of big meetings next week, you’ll know that you need to set aside some time to get ready for them and you might not be able to have as many blocks of  uninterrupted work available.

Or you might see that you have a major project deadline coming up in a couple of weeks. This means that you’ll know that you need to shift things around to make time and space soyou to get everything done on time.

 Set Goals For Next Week

A helpful practice you might want to try is to set two goals for the week ahead – one work-related and one personal-related. Ideally, these should line up with your larger goals so that by the end of the next week, you should have made some more progress on those bigger rocks that matter to you. It gives you something to focus on during the week, so that no matter whether you have a bad week where nothing goes to plan, you have that guiding star to keep you  on track.

Why do I suggest setting a personal goal? We often give ourselves so completely to worklives that we can neglect the things that matter to us personally, such as our friendships, health or hobbies. Setting a personal goal in these areas helps remind us to prioritise these areas and that our personal lives are equally as, if not more, important as our career. For example, your goal could be to finish reading another chapter of a book, catching up with a friend or going for a run. Make it something that matters to you and something you’ll look forward to.

And why only one work goal and one personal goal? If we have too many goals, it  makes it difficult to prioritise because everything will seem like it’s important. After all, if everything is important, then nothing is important. Our goals need to represent the most meaningful, high-impact achievements and we need to keep them that way.

So pick 1 thing at work and 1 personal thing that you’re going to get done, no matter how off-the-rails crazy your week ends up becoming. If you can do this for 4 weeks in a row, then that’s a great month. If you can do that for 12 months in a row, then that’s a great year.

Block In Time For Work & Time For You

Once you have a clearer idea of what your week ahead looks like and what you want to do, you might want to think about blocking in time in your calendar. Even though you might know what you plan to do next week right now, putting time in your calendar can help you make sure yu have the time and space to get it done because:

  • It helps you stay on track – when the week gets crazy and hectic, or you’re having a bad day, it can be easy to lose sight of the biggerpicture and what’s important. Having specific times where you’ll work on your important tasks for the week makes sure that you’re making progress on your priorities, even if it’s just a few small steps in the right direction.
  • It stops other people from taking your time – If you work in a team, chances are you have a lot of people sending you calendar invites multiple times a week. If you don’t block out time to get things done, you could end p having your whole week blocked out for you. Before you know it, you might not have enough clear, uninterrupted block to get much done.
  • It helps you work out if you have enough time for everything – putting time in your calendar  to work on your weekly goals helps you get a good sense of whether you can fit everything in. If you’re struggling to squeeze in enough time to work on your important tasks, you might want to adjust your goal for the week so that you can comfortably get them done. Or, it might be a sign that you’ve over-committed yourself and it could be time to do something about it by speaking to your boss or your colleagues.
  • You can accept or decline unexpected appointments with confidence – If you’ve set aside time for your weekly goals and important tasks, you’ll know whether you can say yes to a surprise coffee catch-up or joining a meeting at the last minute. There’s no need to worry about whether or not you’ll have enough time to get everything done, because you can take a look at your calendar and have a good idea about your commitments.

Give The Weekly Review A Try

In case you haven’t already guessed, I’m a big fan of the Weekly Review. It helps you wrap up the week that was, and helps you set up for the coming week. At first, itmight seem like you’re adding an extra layer of admin into your life, but believe me it frees up your mental energy and brain space for doing things that matter – being and engaged in every moment, whether at work or at play.

If you’re interested in giving it a try, pick a time at the end of the week when you’ll have an uninterrupted hour to yourself. Some people like to do it on Friday before getting off work, while others like to do it on Sundays. I like to do mine on Sunday night, since my type A neurotic planner brain will  naturally think about all the things I need to do on its own.

Otherwise, enjoy the process. It shouldn’t feel like another work project, nor should it be. Make it something you look forward to each week by spoiling yourself a little. Put on your favourite music playlist. Make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee. Go to your favourite café or spot (subject to public health restrictions). You should enjoy it, because you’re getting your life in order and making sure you have the time and energy to do what matters most to you.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Whether you’re new to Weekly Reviews, or have done dozens, if not hundreds of them already, hopefully I’ve been able to give you a few thoughts on why they’re important and how can do them.

Stay tuned, as I will be sharing  the process I go through when I do a Weekly Review each Sunday night.

Over to you – if you’re a Weekly Review veteran, what’s your favourite part of the Weekly Review? Or if you’re new to doing Weekly Reviews, which part of the process do you think will be the most helpful to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time – stay passionate!

2 thoughts on “What Makes A Weekly Review So Life Changing”

  1. Hi Jeremy, thank you for your inspirational essays. Your theories and tips will definitely help to save me from a life full of unchecked emails and missed deadlines. Many thanks from Japan.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top