In the quest of being productive and achieve goals, one thing that is easily discovered is that consistency is key: this is actually not a big discovery, as it applies to pretty much every area of life that one may try to improve.
How to be consistent, on the other hand, is a different challenge altogether, because life gets in the way and we need a way to work around it.
Consistency needs to be helped.
There are few tools or practices that I have found to be as helpful as a Weekly Review and I want to dig deeper into the what and how of it.
The Weekly Review is a very simple concept and as the name implies, it is a weekly meeting (usually with yourself, but could be with your team or your family, depending on the goals you are trying to achieve) that has the goal of reviewing the work done on the previous week and preparing the work to be done on the following week.
It has the power of getting you to zoom out from the day to day grind of completing tasks, to look at the big picture and make sure that you know why you are doing what you are doing and how that aligns to your goals and values.
Let’s have a look at how it can be structured, as there are some interesting concepts.
My Weekly Review is scheduled on Sunday evening and it lasts around one hour. For me this makes sense as it is just before the start of a new week.
This is how the session is structured:
The first part of the Weekly Review is the brain dump: take pen and paper or a notes app and jot down everything you have on your mind. Anything you want to do or have to do, ideas, plans, lists, worries anything at all. Don’t leave out the small things and don’t limit yourself, take the time to really “empty” your brain.
This is a powerful exercise, possibly the most important of the session, as it transfers the load from your brain to a more permanent medium. You will immediately feel better as your brain won’t have to hold on to those ideas any longer and will be free to do more interesting work. When the brain has to hold on to ideas in fear of forgetting them, lots of energy is spent on that instead of leaving the brain free to complete other tasks: by doing this exercise you will notice that all of the sudden you become more creative and you “generate” more ideas.
Writing down your thoughts makes them more real, helping you become more focused.
Our inbox is often full by unwanted email, and less often it is the recipient of important communications and items that need to be actioned upon. Effective email management allows me to keep my inbox clean and to always give the right attention to the items that need it. I use the STAR method as a quick way to keep my inbox under control.
The concept is easy, in short:
- S stands for SCAN - Scan your Inbox for senders and subjects. This step gives you a higher perspective of what’s in your Inbox
- T stands for TRASH – as in “trash everything that’s not relevant, useful, or something you want or need.”
- A stands for ARCHIVE, as in “archive relevant reference information.”
- R stands for RESPOND, as in “respond to what’s left.”
When there are emails that need a follow up, add them to the brain dump list.
Schedule sessions in your calendar to work on the tasks created in the previous sections. Prefer sessions based on the project or area (so group tasks together) rather than on the task itself and use Pomodoros as units of work. Review previously scheduled tasks and make sure they were all completed or reschedule/delegate/drop.
Take some time to review your wider goals and values, make sure tasks and activities created during the session are aligned and progress is being made towards your objectives.
There are some additional practices that can make the weekly review even more impactful.
If you are using Trello to manage your tasks, then you can turn the Weekly Dump and the list of emails that need more attention into tasks and put them into your board to be tackled next. You can directly forward the emails to your Trello board and they will be automatically turned into tasks.
I keep a note titled “Weekly dump” where I put all my thoughts and ideas during the week. This way I don’t have to hold on to those idea until the end of the week.
Sometimes it can be difficult to sit down and pull ideas out of your brain. To help me with this I have a list of categories to help me focus and get the best out of the session:
- Finance and investments
- Career growth
- Personal growth
The weekly review has proved to be invaluable to me to increase my focus and the amount of “things” that I get done. Have a look at the resources to read from people that know about it more than I do!