The Weekly Review: How to Rein in The Chaos in Your Life
Increase your productivity by 10x in less than one hour per week.
A weekly review is an essential productivity practice. It turns chaos into clarity by clearing work from the past week and planning for the upcoming week.
Dedicate time every week to review your work to direct your life with intention. It’s an opportunity to realign with your work and personal goals. And also reflect on your progress, celebrate your wins, and discover what you can do better.
In this post, I’ll lay out my weekly review system with step-by-step instructions.
Then, you can download my weekly review checklist to jumpstart your practice.
Finally, I’ll offer a simplified weekly review that you can do in under 10 minutes.
Here’s everything we are going to cover:
- What is a Weekly Review?
- Why is a Weekly Review Essential for Productivity?
- When Should You Do Your Weekly Review?
- The GTD Weekly Review
- How to Do a Weekly Review in Under 1 Hour (Step-by-Step)
- The Weekly Review Checklist Template
- The Simplified Weekly Review (10 Minutes Only)
Let’s get started.
What is a Weekly Review?
A weekly review is a time you dedicate every week to review your work and plan for the week ahead. It’s a one-on-one meeting with yourself. You’ll go through all your projects and obligations and prepare for course correction.
It allows you to take a step back and look at your work and personal life from distance with a critical eye. You take on the role of CEO of a company of one.
The goal of the weekly review is to provide an answer to three questions:
- What went well this week?
- What didn’t go well or I could have done better?
- Where should I focus on next week?
To 10x your productivity, you must set your highest-leveraging activities as priorities. And that’s what the weekly review will achieve for you. It helps you organize your tasks and schedule the most important work on your calendar.
Why is a Weekly Review Essential for Productivity?
You’re busy. Who isn’t? There’s never enough time.
You feel overwhelmed just by looking at your to-do lists and obligations. In this context, performing a weekly review can feel like adding more complexity to your week.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
A weekly review is exactly what brings the chaos down.
It’s how you stop feeling overwhelmed and start taking control of your life. You’re in the driver’s seat and get to decide what deserves your attention and what doesn’t.
Because weeks are ingrained in us as a scheduling unit, reviewing your work weekly works best. To do your best work, you need to schedule regular time for reflection. Stop living in responsive mode and proactively create the conditions of your life.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
A weekly review sharpens the ax. It forces you to examine what went right and what went wrong.
To optimize the future, you must first review the past.
Do it consistently and you will start to notice patterns that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. These are your insights. They help shape your work for the future and making you more efficient and effective.
A weekly review takes less than one hour and can 10x your productivity.
There are 168 hours in a week. Using 1 to optimize the other 167 is a phenomenal ROI for your time.
When Should You Do Your Weekly Review?
I do my weekly reviews every Friday at 5 PM. That’s the timing that works best for me. But what works for me might not work for you.
There are 3 common slots for the weekly review: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Friday is a great option as it’s most people’s end of the workweek. Projects and tasks are fresh on your mind. Your productivity levels tend to dip anyway as the weekend looms. So that makes Friday afternoon an ideal time to complete your weekly review. You close all loops on your head, leaving you rested for the weekend. And when you return on Monday you are ready to tackle the new week.
Saturday gives enough distance while still being easy to remember what happened. It also allows you to do your weekly review away from the office and its distractions. Calmness is a friend of clarity.
Sunday is the best choice if you mix your work and personal weekly reviews. As Monday is already on your mind, it’s easier to plan the week ahead.
Decide right now when you’ll be doing your weekly review. You’ll be completing it every week at the same time. Consistency will help you build the habit.
Now put it on your calendar as a recurring task. Call it “Weekly Review” and allow at least one hour.
Whatever happens, that’s when your weekly review is happening. Don’t let anyone schedule anything over it.
Remember: this is your most important meeting. A meeting with yourself.
The GTD Weekly Review
In Getting Things Done, David Allen breaks the GTD weekly review into three sections: get clear, get current, and get creative.
1. Get Clear
Collect and process all your loose ends. Clean up your workspace and empty all your inboxes. After clearing to neutral, it’s time to empty your head. Review your current projects and progress. Organize your work for the upcoming week by priority and urgency.
2. Get Current
Review your lists and calendar. First, see what still needs your attention by looking at all your obligations. Next, review your calendar. Finally, schedule your work for the upcoming week based on your priorities
3. Get Creative
Find ways to improve your work and life. Draw insights from things that didn’t go well to come up with ideas on how you can be more efficient and effective
The GTD weekly review has 11 steps. It feels a little overwhelming to me.
Drawing from Allen’s system, I use a simplified version as my weekly review checklist. This allows me to complete it in under 1 hour.
How to Do a Weekly Review in Under 1 Hour (Step-by-Step)
I break my weekly review ritual into 4 parts: clear, review, insights, and plan.
Each step takes only a couple of minutes to complete.
Clear is about organizing documents from your week. The Review is reflecting on your week. On Insights, you’ll discover how to improve your work. Finally, you’ll plan the following week.
Step 1: Clear
The first step is putting everything where it belongs by cleaning your inboxes.
There are two types of inboxes: physical and digital.
Start with your physical inboxes. Collect all your loose papers and materials and process them. Decide what to file, digitize, or throw away.
I write down thoughts on a notebook as they pop up on my mind during the week. This could mean small to-dos, article ideas or quotes I like. I review these notes first.
Then, move on to your digital inboxes. Nowadays, storage is almost unlimited. It’s easy to accumulate clutter on our devices without even realizing it.
Start by getting your email inbox to zero (here’s my GTD Gmail system). Then, clean out the typical purgatory folders. These are your Downloads, Documents, and your cloud folders. Again, move stuff to where it should be or delete it.
Do you use a lot of apps? Then there might be more digital inboxes that need cleaning. Examples: your to-do app, bookmarks, Pocket or Instapaper, and Evernote or Notion.
Oftentimes, clearing is a great set up for the second step: review.
Estimated Time needed: 10–15 minutes
Step 2: Review
Now it’s time to review your week. The goal is to write down your wins and what you could have done better. I call them highlights and improvements (based on my yearly goal setting system).
I write my weekly reviews on Roam. But any note-taking app works. You could use Notion, Evernote, or even Google Docs. And, obviously, you can never go wrong with a pen and paper.
Here are a few prompts to help you discover your Highlights:
- What did I achieve this week?
- What gave me the most meaning?
- Where did I spend my time?
- How does what actually happened compared to what I had planned?
- Was progress made on my projects and goals?
Write down everything that comes to mind. Once you’ve listed all your highlights, it’s time to move on to improvements.
Ask yourself these questions to uncover your Improvements:
- What went wrong last week?
- Has anything stopped me from reaching my goals this week?
- Where did I hold myself back?
- How did I waste time?
- What areas did I neglect?
Once again, write down your answers.
Well done, you’re halfway through your weekly review. Let’s move on to a very important step: insights.
Estimated Time needed: 10–15 minutes
Step 3: Insights
Insights are all about connecting your previous two lists. They help you find ways to improve your work and performance.
Basically, you’re setting a better playing field for yourself by maximizing your chances of achieving wins while also trying to minimize mistakes in the future.
Ask yourself the following questions to unveil your Insights:
- What’s the biggest constraint on my output right now? (from the book “The Goal”)
- What went well last week and what could I do to build on that?
- Can I learn something from what went wrong?
- What can I remove in order to simplify my work?
- What would I like to change in the way I work?
Sometimes one insight can change the way you work forever. Furthermore, they help you in the next step: plan the upcoming week.
Estimated Time needed: 8–10 minutes
Step 4: Plan
Finally, the last step of the weekly review is planning the following week.
To find your highest-leverage tasks, ask yourself:
- What can I do next week that will set me up for my long-term goals?
- Can I find/hire help for some of those goals?
- What is the biggest challenge in the week ahead?
- What deadlines do I have coming up?
- Are there new projects I can start working on?
Once you have answers, rank your tasks. Schedule your highest-leveraging tasks on your calendar in order of importance.
If possible, aim to schedule your biggest task for Monday morning.
What about tasks of lower importance but have a deadline? Either delete them or schedule them on your calendar before the due date.
I make a point of only scheduling 3 or fewer tasks per day (most days it’s only 1). I find it easier to focus on just a few things and complete Deep Work on those truly important tasks. Most of the time I’ll complete a few other small tasks anyway.
And that’s it. You’ve completed your weekly review. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Estimated Time needed: 8–10 minutes
The Weekly Review Checklist Template
Step 1: Clear (10–15 minutes)
- Clean your physical inboxes: Collect and process loose paper and materials. File, digitize, or throw away
- Clear your digital inboxes: email, folders, and other inboxes from apps you use
Step 2: Review (10–15 minutes)
- Write your highlights. What did you achieve this week?
- List your improvements. What went wrong last week?
Step 3: Insights (8–10 minutes)
- Write down your insights. How can you improve your work?
Step 4: Plan (8–10 minutes)
- What do you need to do next week? Write it down and rank by importance
- Schedule your highest-leveraging tasks on your calendar in order of importance
You can download the weekly review checklist template here.
The Simplified Weekly Review (10 Minutes Only)
Sometimes you won’t have a full hour to do a weekly review. That’s when this simplified weekly review comes handy. It takes less than 10 minutes.
It’s a very basic format but hits all the major points in a few minutes.
Here’s the step-by-step:
- Clear your email (3 minutes)
- Write your 3 biggest highlights improvements (3 minutes)
- Write down 1 insight (2 minutes)
- Schedule on your calendar the 3 most important tasks for next week (2 minutes)
A weekly review is a one-on-one meeting with yourself.
The goal is to discover what went well and what didn’t as well as plan the week ahead. 10x your productivity in less than one hour per week.
Choose a time and put it on your calendar as a recurring task.
The Weekly Review Checklist (download here):
- Clear: clean your physical and digital inboxes
- Review: list your highlights and improvements
- Insights: write down your insights
- Plan: schedule work for the week ahead on your calendar
Simplified Weekly Review Checklist:
- Clear your email
- Write your 3 biggest highlights improvements
- Write down 1 insight
- Schedule on your calendar the 3 most important tasks for next week
Originally published at https://www.dansilvestre.com on January 21, 2020.