Recommended Ritual: The Weekly Review

Stack of papers for review

Last week I posted about productivity rituals, the sorts of efficiency-enhancing choices you make regularly until you don’t have to waste the brain power making the choice: it just happens. That first post recommended a few rituals to try, and today’s post highlights another, though not a daily one. Today’s recommended ritual is the weekly review from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. He describes the weekly review as a time to

  • “Gather and process all your ‘stuff.’
  • Reivew your system.
  • Update your lists.
  • Get clean, clear, current, and complete” (p. 47).

Essentially, a weekly review is a time when you go through all your projects, tasks, and resources to see if you have any loose ends flying around. It also gives you a chance to see what’s changed. Maybe last Monday you decided you didn’t need to think about a particular project, but this Monday you figure out some details, because you need to start working on it today to get it done by the deadline. Your circumstances have changed, so you change your focus. A weekly review is the time to do that.

Whatever system you’re using to keep yourself productive will benefit from a weekly review. Seven days is long enough that you can get a lot done in between, but no so long that things will be so out of control that you can’t figure things out in an hour or two. After you’ve reviewed everything that’s under your responsibility, you can set your priorities and goals for the week. These priorities can govern your choices on which tasks to tackle first and where to focus your thoughts.

Implement It

With the point of a weekly review in mind, here’s how to implement it. First, choose a time you can regularly dedicate to the review. Make it a hard-and-fast appointment on your calendar. A weekly review is only helpful if it’s regular enough that you can trust it. Maybe things start getting a little hairy during the week—but you’ll catch it all in the weekly review, and that can give you peace of mind during the week. If you don’t actually dedicate yourself to the review, though, it can’t serve its purpose of keeping your mind at ease.

When your dedicated weekly review time comes around, get started reviewing right away.

Collect loose-leaf stuff. Allen says, “Pull out all the miscellaneous scraps of paper, business cards, receipts, and so on” that have accumulated over the week (p. 185). Gather everything and decide for each item whether you need to do something about it, file it as a resource, or throw it away. Those are the only three options.

Look over your notes. During the week you’ve probably made a lot of notes to self. They may be “journal entries, meeting notes, … miscellaneous notes scribbled on notebook paper,” or any other types of notes to self you may have (Allen, p. 185). This will probably include some emails, online notes, or other electronic material as well, so don’t forget them. Do the same things with your notes that you do with loose-leaf stuff. Figure out what you need to do, file it, or throw it away.

Update the calendar. Look over your calendar for the past week, get any information from it that you still need, and then look at upcoming events. Allen recommends looking at short- and long-term events. Is there anything you need to do to prepare for them? Do you need to do those things this week? If so, make any adjustments to your task lists that you need to accommodate the calendar.

Record what you’ll forget. Some people’s memories are better than others, but most memories run better when there’s a backup. During your weekly review, record everything you’ve got floating around in your mind that isn’t already in your system and process it. This gives you a backup for the frequently flawed human mind and gives you a chance to think about the things you need to accomplish.

Review any and all of your lists. You may have project lists, to-do lists, lists of things other people are doing for you, lists of things you’re interested in but aren’t sure you have time for, or other lists. Review each one weekly so you can amend them if anything has changed or get rid of them if they’re no longer necessary.

After you’ve gone through all your stuff, you’ll have a clearer perspective of the week ahead of you. If you’re reviewing everything weekly, you’ll never have more than 7 days of craziness bearing down on your mind and stealing your focus. If you make a weekly review a ritual you no longer have to plan or think about, you’ll be one step closer to a clear mind, better focus, and higher productivity.

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