I was doing the dishes the other day, and I washed few plates and put them on the drying rack. Then I was washing this big pot, and when I was putting it in the drying rack I had a problem. I found out that the drying rack was filled with plates and other utensils from the previous time, and there was no room for that pot.
To fix the problem I had to stop the washing action, and put all dried utensils in their places which took more time. After that I continued to wash the dishes till I had a hard stop to pick someone up and so, I wasn’t able to finish washing the dishes.
As a result, not only I took more time doing what I had to do, but also, I couldn’t finish that task because of that extra time.
The Weekly Review is a 2 hour meeting with yourself to update your system by reflecting back on your previous week and getting ready for the next one by going through 14 items checklist. This results in timely completed tasks, projects and goals, and it lowers your stress levels of being out of control and give you back your control over your life.
Today I will cover almost everything you need to know about the Weekly Review tool to increase your productivity, improve your wellbeing, and take better control over your life.
Bonus: There’s a free checklist you can download
Content Covered Today:
What is the weekly review
The weekly review is the habit of reviewing your overall productivity system that has all your actions, projects, goals, vision, and purpose. It’s when you become the CEO of your life, and come up with important decisions to make.
I first learned about this from David Allen in his GTD methodology that shifted my life 180 degrees.
“The Weekly Review is the crucial success factor for marrying your larger commitments to your day-to-day activities.”David Allen, Getting Things Done
It is a review as the name says, so when you’re doing the weekly review, you’re not doing any work. It’s like taking a time out from driving to look at your map to make sure you’re going in the right direction.
In the weekly review you:
- Go through your actions and make sure it’s up to date.
- Scrutinize each project you have and make sure all of them have at least one active next action so it’s moving forward
- Check other lists you have to keep them alive as well.
Importance of The Weekly Review
When you think about the dish washing case, I couldn’t perform the action I had to do and planned to do, as I didn’t have an empty drying rack because I failed to review my earlier washing activity.
So this resulted in:
- Not having all dishes cleaned
- Feeling of unsatisfaction that I wasn’t able to finish that task as planned
This is totally the same as most of us do on a weekly basis..
We finish the previous week, then enter the next week with planned actions to do, only to be surprised of previously “not finished” actions that interfere with current ones.
This leads to:
- Incomplete goals and projects
- Over due tasks and projects
- Poor assessment by the manager
- Loss of promotion opportunities
- Possible down payment or losing job
And the solution is only to sit down for an hour or 2, reviewing everything in the past week; what happened, what didn’t happen, what can be fixed before the end of the week, and what can’t and should be pushed to the next week.
This way you’re more prepared and updated with the actions you need to do.
So in my case, if I did a quick review on my earlier washing task, I could’ve have:
- Either have put everything away immediately during or after the review and therefor clearing space for the next washing task.
- Or I could have left them where they are and next time, instead of planning to do the dishes, I would have planned to do both.
As a result of that:
- I could’ve scheduled more time for that task and it would be finished in time
- I’ll be walking away knowing and planning that I will leave couple of dishes not washed and it would be part of the plan.
- Knowing that will make me prioritize what to wash now (important) and what can done later (not important).
“The Weekly Review will sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week.”David Allen, Getting Things Done
- When you do the weekly review, you can see that you did one action regarding one project when you should have done 4
- Or you have 2 upcoming actions for another project to be done the following week, but on your review you see a need of adding 3 more actions to make sure it’s due in time.
Bottom line, doing a weekly review on a regular basis is important because of the following:
1- You will increase your productivity and getting things done from your lists, and therefore you will be more likely to achieve the goals you want
2- You will decrease your stress levels by almost always meeting your deadlines and successfully finish your projects
3- You will take control over your life instead of it taking control over you.
Relation between the weekly review and your wellbeing
As we discussed above, doing the weekly review is good for lowering your stress levels and increasing your productivity and both are 2 key areas in your mental wellbeing, and therefore 2 important tools you need to harness.
But that is not it…
Story isn’t over yet…
When you are more productive and meeting your deadlines, this means more work, or more opportunities, or more jobs/income sources, right!. This is financial wellbeing
Since I incorporated the productivity habit in my life 4 years ago, and I’m accomplishing more work in my primary job as an occupational physician, and also found more opportunities to do other things that I enjoy and still can earn more money from like coaching, blogging, and youtube.
So, what about the other 3 dimensions?
This is totally dependent on the actions, projects, and goals you have in your system.
What I mean by that is, doing the weekly review will make sure you are on top of your physical wellbeing by having health related actions like:
- Visiting your physician, or doing the checkup in time, or doing the scan requested by your doctor.
The same goes for your social wellbeing, and the examples of relevant actions could be:
- Calling your friend(s), email your friend checking on him, email your recommendation letter to your colleague who requested it from you
Spiritual wellbeing follows the same dependency that you are using your productivity system to upgrade your entire life, not just the professional part of it.
When you do that, you’ll find yourself adding a purpose like empowering individuals to achieve what they want in life (My purpose), and goals like Starting a blog, or a youtube channel, or writing a book to teach others, which will create several related projects and subsequently next actions.
The Weekly Review Checklist: How to do a thorough Weekly Review
My weekly review checklist is composed of my modification to the David Allen’s 11 items checklist which covers 3 key areas, with adding my personal 4 questions to that review that cover 1 key area. In total, the weekly review I’m doing is covering 4 major areas with total of 14 items checklist, and it goes like this:
1- Clearing Backlog
This step is about making sure you’re all caught up with your emails, notes, and wondering ideas in your mind before entering your weekly review.
This includes clearing emails, the physical notes you have in your physical collector, dumping everything you might be having on your brain, and your calendar.
In his GTD methodology, David Allen makes the calendar in the 2nd step but I’m doing it here in this step as I found it more logical in this order.
The 5 items included in this section are:
1.1 Clear your digital and physical inboxes
Completely process all outstanding material in your digital inbox that could be non processed emails, or voicemails, or important app notifications, and in your physical inbox that could include paper materials, and journal and meeting notes
1.2 Empty your head:
Get out any idea, thought, and forgotten actions and process them. Do this without worrying if the thing you’re writing is in your system already or not. Just get it out and then find out when you process it.
Tip: If you found yourself getting something out of your mind and after processing it, you found it in your system already in a form of a task or a project, this could mean priority and you should focus on it in your review.
1.3: Travel back in time
Take a look at your previous 2-4 weeks in your calendar and check if you missed any action or project or something you need to be mindful of.
1.4: Travel to the future
Take a look at your upcoming 8-10 weeks in your calendar and check if there’s any action or project or something to be mindful of.
2- Getting up to date:
This is about making sure that your system is alive with actionable items.
In this part, you do some cleaning and make sure all completed actions are checked and removed from your system, and you make sure that your projects are still on going with active next actions.
The way to do so is by following the 4 items below:
2.1 Review next actions lists
Check every list you have there and mark off completed actions, and update current actions if needs be
2.2 Review waiting for list
Record appropriate actions for any needed follow-up. Check off received ones.
2.3 Review projects and goals lists
Evaluate status of projects, goals, and outcomes, one by one, ensuring at least one current next action item on each. Browse through project plans, support material, and any other work-in-progress material to trigger new actions, completions, waiting for items, etc.
2.4 Review checklists
Check your checklists if there’s any actions needed and you can update them if needed.
3- Getting Real
This is about evaluating YOURSELF this week against your goals.
It’s about evaluating what went well, what went wrong, and what could be done towards it.
This is the section I added to the weekly review and I find it very critical to the success of myself towards the goals I’m achieving.
I found out that it’s one thing to know what wasn’t achieved, and it’s a totally different thing knowing “why” it wasn’t achieved.
After deploying this section of “Getting Real”, more than often, I was able to find a pattern in the things I wasn’t able to accomplish and correct it which means more similar actions get to be accomplished FASTER in the future.
The opposite was true too. I was able to identify a pattern in the actions I accomplished which led me to highlighting it, and utilizing that strength or skill in other projects and goals.
The way I complete this section is by following the below 4 items:
3.1 What went well
Look for reasons you were able to achieve completed tasks and add them to this list
3.2 What didn’t go well
Look for reasons you weren’t able to achieve non completed tasks and add them to this list
3.3 Common pattern
Identify what you see is common in the “went well” and “didn’t go well”
3.4 What to be done
Identify if there’s any next action you can do to maintain what went well or correct what didn’t go well.
4- Dreaming away
This is about creating and or updating your bucket list and coming up with bold ideas for your work or personal life.
This is where you come up with “travel to Paris” or “buy new house” or “start a business” or “write a book”, etc
I don’t include this section on the weekly review each week, rather I do it only 2 times a month, and sometimes I do it only 1 time in the whole month, and I spare that time for the other parts or even have it back and finish the review faster.
The way to mark this section complete in your review is by following the below 2 items:
4.1 Review someday/maybe list
Review for any projects or actions which may now have become active, and transfer to the appropriate list. Delete items no longer of interest.
This is one of the powerful lists I learnt from David Allen in the GTD methodology and it changed my life.
4.2 Be creative & courageous
Any new, wonderful, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas to add into your system?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions in the productivity world.
1- Choose your day
Refer to the “Best Day And Time To Do Your Weekly Review” and choose the day you feel comfortable doing your weekly review in. don’t over think it. Choose a day now and you can always change it as you go.
2- Choose your time
Decide on the time you’ll do your weekly review in. Is it going to be morning, afternoon, or evening?
3- Choose your space
Where will you do your weekly review in? Home or office or cafe or park,…
4- Book your calendar
Schedule a 2-hours slot in your calendar for the upcoming 6 weeks to do the weekly review
5- Have the checklist
Print the weekly review checklist or attach it to your calendar invitation so it’s ready when you do your weekly review for faster outcomes.
Couple of resources for you to utilize for better outcomes
1- Productivity Training
It’s been over 4 years since I learnt the GTD methodology and applied it to my life. I came across so many obstacles and managed to get pass them and now not only I have a functioning and customized system, but also I’m training others to create their system as well.
If you’re interested, then you can check the Productivity Training service I offer.
2- GTD Audio Seminar and Book
As I mentioned many times in this article and everywhere else, that I owe so much to David Allen and his GTD methodology for what I am and where I am now.
His GTD is a methodology, the basic one actually anyone can have, and you’ll find yourself customizing it to your specific needs. But it will always be routed in GTD.
So you can learn the same by having the Getting Things Done book or you can have the GTD Live Audio seminar like I did. It’s an 8-hours audio file from a 2 days seminar David gave at google I think or some other company.
It’s interactive, and the files are very organized into 8 chapters and each chapter is even broken down to multiple smaller files for each single point.
3- GTD free episodes
So may be you can’t afford any of the above resources, then you still can learn about the weekly review from David Allen himself still by listening to the below 2 podcasts from the GTD website.
The Weekly Review FAQs
What is the weekly review?
It’s a 2-hour meeting with yourself when you become the CEO of your life, checking how the past week went and what the next one should look like
Why do I need to do a weekly review?
Doing a weekly review each week guarantees that you are always caught up with your actions, projects, and goals. A week isn’t long if there are still pending actions from previous week. So, you’ll be more productive and your stress levels will be very lowered with the increased sense of control
How long does it take to do a weekly review?
The average weekly review takes around 1-2 hours plus or minus 30 minutes, and in some situations it can vary from 30 minutes up to 4 hours
What is included in the weekly review?
I have 14 items checklist that I go through in my weekly reviews covering 4 key areas: 1- Clearing backlog, 2- Getting up to date, 3- Getting real, and 4- Dreaming Away
When is the best day to do a weekly review?
Any day can work, and my best practices is that you want to choose a day that is less busy, with access to your review space, and better options are beginning of the week or 1-2 days before it ends. This can also be affected by number of reviews you’ll do per week and their duration.
What is the best time of doing a weekly review?
Generally speaking, any time can work. What’s most important is that you pick a time that has 2 factors: 1- You have high mental energy and focus levels, and 2- You have less distractions levels. For most people it’s either early morning or early afternoon.