Working without a weekly review is a recipe for overwhelm, procrastination and focusing on other people's priorities rather than your own. It's a key part of any good time management or productivity system.
After all, how can you know where you're going if you don't stop and look up from time-to-time?
The weekly review is useful for all types of professionals, including entrepreneurs, creatives, and even writers.
Author David Allen first proposed the concept of a weekly review in his popular productivity book: Getting Things Done (aka GTD). It basically involves reviewing what you did, how your week went, and what you're going to work on next. And it only takes about 30-minutes to complete.
In this article, I'll explain what GTD is, how to hold a weekly review, and if this practice can help you.
What Is Getting Things Done?
Getting Things Done is a popular productivity and time-management system by David Allen. At the core of GTD is one tenet:
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”
GTD was originally aimed at business people, but more recently, it’s gained a cult following online because it enables anyone to become more creative and productive.
- Getting Things Done The Art of Stress Free Productivity
- Allen, David (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 352 Pages - 03/17/2015 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)
If you want to get things done or GTD:
- Break projects down into smaller tasks
- Record these tasks in a list or a trusted system
- Act on tasks in your lists daily
- Review your progress and your wider areas of focus weekly (what we'll cover)
What Is a Weekly Review?
The weekly review is a key GTD concept. It's also a way of checking in with yourself.
Think of it as zooming out from your working week, daily tasks, and other projects to look at the big picture. It's a chance to assess if you're working towards those ideal larger outcomes.
During a weekly review, get current on all the open items on your to-do lists, calendar, notes, and other areas of your business. With this information to hand, you can gauge how effective you were and set targets or goals for the week ahead.
GTD-ers also use specific terminology to describe other areas of their personal or professional lives that they review. For example:
- “Waiting for” refers to items whereby you're waiting on information or a decision from someone else. During a weekly review, consider if you should follow-up.
- “Next actions” or “Action items” refers to tasks in your to-do list. During a weekly review, identify the next step and plan for what you'll need during the week ahead.
- “Workspaces” refers to where you work on particular projects. For example, if you're writing a report, do you need to gather any materials for your workspace in advance?
- “Tickler file” refers to where you store loose papers, resources, and other open-ended information that you will review at some point.
- “Agendas” refers to a list of items to discuss with key people on your team or in your business the next time you see them. Update these regularly.
Step 1. Prepare for Your Weekly Review
Basically, once a week, spend 30-minutes reviewing what you worked on and for how long. To prepare, book this review time in your calendar as a recurring appointment and commit to keeping your appointment.
Friday afternoon or Sunday evening are both ideal as these are quieter parts of the working week for those who work Monday to Friday.
You'll need to work or focus in a quiet place for at least 30-minutes without interruption. Finish whatever you're working on in advance or close it off for the week.
Ideally, you'll have your goals, notes, and other documents to hand. You should also have access to your task manager, calendar, and other inboxes or buckets.
If it helps, turn on do not disturb mode and disable notifications for email and social media. Also, decline any meeting invites that occur during this period. You can combine a personal and business weekly review too.
Step 2: Review Your Inboxes and Commitments
Now you're ready to review your week. Go through each of your inboxes or buckets. Example include:
- To-do or task lists from the past week
- Your calendar data and events (both past and future)
- Loose papers
- Unsorted or untagged web clippings in tools like Evernote
- Emails with new actions
- Meeting notes and other note-taking inboxes
- Action items
- Metrics related to your goals
- Other agenda items
You're basically looking to capture and consolidate as many open loops as possible and put them into your task manager. During your review, you may want to file or sort through items the above as well. In Getting Things Done, David Allen explains:
“Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it's not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.”
Step 3: Evaluate Your Progress
While reviewing items from your work or personal life, don't actually work on them. If you find a weekly review is taking more than 30-minutes, it's probably because you're working on a task or project rather than review it.
For example, sorting through hundreds of Evernote web clippings is a project. Reviewing one or two as part of a note-taking system is a task. Assess your progress, blockers, and what you need to do next.
For example, if you're a writer or creative professional, this review is not the time to write or edit your work. You want to evaluate a word-count or progress with a client. During your review, be honest with yourself. Ask and answer questions like:
- What did I accomplish or work on this week?
- What went well/didn’t go well?
- What are my most important task(s) for next week?
- How many hours did I spend working on my priorities?
- How did I market or promote my work?
- What events are in my calendar for the previous/next seven days I need to act on?
- What have I been putting off?
- What should I stop doing or say no to?
- Am I moving towards or away from my long-term goals?
Ask and answer these questions in a journal if you like. If you have a document that you use to keep track of relevant metrics, update it. Clean out your to-do list. And re-assess your commitments.
When you get clear about what to do next, you can switch off for the weekend while feeling confident about starting the following week fresh. Sometimes, you've got to check in to check out!
Step 4: Plan for the Upcoming Week
Use your weekly review to clarify your priorities and plan for the following week.
This may mean adding missing activities or upcoming deadlines to your upcoming calendar or deciding if you need to renegotiate commitments with your editor or clients.
If you use a to-do list or task manager, this is the time to update it with new items and remove old items you have no intention of completing. Similarly, if you're starting a new project, you could gather what you need now or record an action for next week.
I also recommend writing down 1-3 ideal outcomes for the week ahead. Much like a writing goal, these will focus on the mind.
During the weekly review, I file my research, organize my notes, and quickly read through the ideas I came up with during the week. This helps me evaluate if there’s anything I’ve overlooked or if there’s an idea I can use over the coming days in my work.
I also write down or mark minor accomplishments during the week, such as hitting a target word count or completing a book chapter.
Step 5: Ask 3 Simple Questions
In his popular book, David Allen says a successful weekly review results in 3 outcomes:
- Get clear, i.e., Do you know what you need to do next with clear actions?
- Get current, i.e., Is your task manager, calendar, and project files up to date?
- Get complete, i.e., did you review all of your inboxes?
If you didn't quite get all of this right, don't worry. It can take a few rounds of holding a weekly review to embrace the process fully.
Get Creative With Your Weekly Review
A weekly review should adapt to how you work. The weekly review is a key part of my productivity system for running Become a Writer Today. As a writer, I’ve found a weekly review ideal for balancing writing and other business areas.
It gives me confidence that I’m writing the right things at the right time, and it helps me shine a light on neglected parts of the craft.
Typically, I review my writing and other goals on a Friday or Sunday evening, and it takes just 30 minutes. I read through my notes, evaluate my word-count for the week, and total up how long I spent writing.
I also decide what I will spend time writing in the coming week.
The Final Word On Your Weekly Review
A weekly review only takes about half an hour, but it should save you hours during the week ahead. After all, snipers spend more time figuring out where to aim than actually taking a shot.
It's a powerful productivity strategy, which, if used correctly, will help you succeed in your business, secure in the knowledge you have the resources and time to finish what you started.
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