A Weekly Review Will Make Your Days Run Remarkably Smoother

Think of it as a regular check-in with yourself

Woman going through papers and writing things down.
Woman going through papers and writing things down.

Last year, I spent a lot of time feeling distracted. I never seemed to have enough time to do everything I needed to do, and I didn’t have a strong grasp on the big picture of my life.

As I wondered how I could feel a greater sense of control over my days, I remembered a practice I’d heard about years back: The Weekly Review, popularized by David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity method. Basically, it’s the ritual of checking in with yourself every week and figuring out how to be more deliberate with your time.

Many ultra-productive people have written about their own versions of the weekly review: Michael Karnjanaprakorn, the founder of Skillshare, does one that ties into his New Year’s resolutions. Cal Newport’s weekly review is super flexible and matches the challenges of the specific week ahead (he writes that “the return on investment is phenomenal”). Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani’s review includes lots of concrete steps, and the productivity expert Tiago Forte keeps a weekly review checklist on a sticky note on his computer’s desktop.

I started doing my own weekly review, and it has since become my most foundational productivity tool. For me, each review is a reset, providing me with a new chance to figure out how to make changes for the better. Imagine 52 new week’s resolutions instead of just one New Year’s resolution.

Here’s how to do an effective, flexible weekly review, based on what I’ve learned:

  • Make time and show up. I schedule an hour every Monday morning. Life happens, and some weeks I do it Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, but I do my best not to let it get past Wednesday.
  • Write down what’s going on. Take as much time as you need. If I’m feeling unclear about what I should be focusing on for the week, I’ll write that in my journal. I’ll also write about my previous week — what went well and what didn’t. Sometimes I remind myself of my monthly goals and annual goals. The goal is simply to release your thoughts and check-in with yourself. If you’d rather talk than write, you can use a voice dictation tool.
  • Review the previous weeks. Skim your notes from the past week, and maybe even some before. I’ll look at all the problems I encountered, and make notes of the solutions.
  • Create an ideal plan for any new projects. Before I wrote my book, I set project milestones to hit every week.
  • Plan each day of the week. I used to create a new to-do list every day, but I eventually encountered a problem: I would overestimate what I could accomplish. Now I do what Newport calls “time blocking,” and plan out every minute of every day on my Google Calendar. I generally leave Friday afternoon as a buffer to catch up on unplanned work.

The best weekly review is the one that feels right to you. As you do these reviews consistently, you’ll start to get clear on what you’re doing every day and, more importantly, why you’re doing it.

I write about personal and collective growth. Author ‘There Is No Right Way to Do This’ herbertlui.net/reps/

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