The power of the weekly review

Do you want to live a powerful fulfilling life? If the answer is YES, just keep reading, it will take 5 minutes of your day, and may completely change the way you approach your work, and life in general.
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I was introduced to the weekly review process as part of a methodology for keeping organized called “Getting Things Done”, which was created by David Allen (http://gettingthingsdone.com/), but this is not a blog about GTD. This blog is simply about getting into the habit of reviewing your life on a weekly basis. I found that if I consistently take about an hour a week to reflect on the past week, and take a peek at the next two weeks, something magical happens.
The review process is the equivalent of a retrospective from the scrum process (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(software_development)), the difference is that I go through it with only myself. It is like treating  life as a bunch of one week sprint cycles.
I use a very simple structure that keeps the review short, and lets me get back to be with my family knowing that the coming week is handled.

I created a template that you can follow with the following headings:

Looking back at last week (high level)
In this section you write (in bullet form) the highlights of the week, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is everything from things that you accomplished, to things that you wanted to accomplish but did not, relationships built or broken, things that you liked and things that made you feel bad. As human beings, we tend to remember things based on how they make us feel. This high-level summary will allow you to get complete with the past week, That week is now in the past, whatever happened is already done. By looking back, it makes it easier to look forward.

Things I completed last week
Another bullet list. For this section copy and paste the action items from last week into this week, and go through it. Keep everything that you completed with a “√” next to it, and remove anything that you did not accomplish. Add anything else that you accomplished (action items). This will give you a sense of accomplishment, some weeks will have more items than others, it is not about the number of items, it is simply about what you accomplished and celebrating that.

Outstanding items from last week:
This is a bullet list of all of the items that you wanted to accomplish last week, but did not. There is an opportunity here – reflect on why those things did not happen.

  • Is it because of time? (remember – time is priority, anything you did not do because of time was simply not high enough on your priority list) does it make sense to keep the item? is it REALLY that important?
  • Is it because of a roadblock? what can you do to remove that roadblock? sometimes it is as simple as asking for help, or simply change your mindset or scope.
  • Is it because it is too overwhelming? if that’s the case, break it down further into smaller action items, turn it into a project (more about that further down this blog)
  • Is the item not clear? Redefine your “why”, write the purpose of the action item, is it part of a bigger item? rewrite it to make sense.

Things that you keep in this list usually become higher priority for this week

Ongoing Projects list:
Anything that takes more than one step is considered a project. If you need to replace the lightbulb in the kitchen, and you don’t have a spare lightbulb at home, that’s a project (drive to the store, buy a lightbulb, replace lightbulb).

Keep a running list of all of the projects you have on the go (anything in your life, work related or personal). For each project write the following:
  • Purpose & principles – why do I have this project on my plate? why is it important to me?
  • Work I’ve done so far (this is updated every week if you do something with the project)
  • Work still left to do (a list of upcoming action items), note that it is OK to just list the very next item to do – you do not need an exhaustive list of everything that needs to get done, just the next step. You will review it every week and come up with next steps anyways.
Go over the list of projects, and do the following:
  • Mark any project completed as such.
  • Delete any projects that you already marked as complete the previous week (this makes sure that going through the weeks provide you a nice story of what happened, things don’t just disappear, they get a checkmark next to them in one week, and get the removed on the next week).
  • Add new projects based on things that you remember that you would like to do (write the purpose, and the very next step).
  • Update what was done to existing projects.
  • Add the next action item for projects that do not have a next action item (or declare them as complete if that’s the case)
  • Mark projects that are no longer relevant.
  • Delete projects you marked as irrelevant last week.

New items for this week:
This list will hold everything new that you would like to accomplish in the next week (other than the items you did not accomplish last week):

  • Start by typing things that “pop” to your mind.
  • Re-read your summary for last week, does it jog any new action items?
  • Re-read your accomplishments, is there anything else to do ?
  • Re-read your project list, what do you want to move forward this week?
  • Go over last week’s calendar items, look for meetings you had, and read the meeting minutes, are there any action items for you to record? some may turn into projects.
  • Go over the next two weeks of calendar items, anything that need preparation? any action items in the Agenda for meetings for you to take care of? some my turn into projects

Upcoming projects:
This is a list of future projects that you have not started yet, and may never start, that’s ok, it’s here as a reminder.

Longer term projects:
These are true “sometimes maybe”, it is your bucket list. It can include things like “visit all of the wonders on the planet” or “Learn how to fly a helicopter”. This is inspirational stuff. One day you may decide “I am brining this into my active projects”.

Upcoming professional development:
This list is the things that you would like to read, or conferences you may be attending, or would like to attend.

— End of the review process —

Once you’ve done the review, make sure that you have the “outstanding items from last week”, and “new items for this week” available for you to look at every day. This should results in completing all or most of the things on the list. If you find out that you did not accomplish anything from the list, that’s ok too, just repeat the process … there is always another week !