Hello and welcome to episode 2 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
Let’s get straight in to it, with this week’s question. And that question was…
This question was sent in by, Nicolas. Thank you Nicolas.
How do you ensure a good weekly review and be ready for next week.
Ah the wonderful weekly review, the glue that brings together your whole productivity system. If you're not doing a weekly review, you likely find a lot of stuff falls through the cracks and you forget things, miss deadlines and wonder why there’s all this passion around productivity systems.
Let’s start at the beginning. Why do a weekly review? The weekly review is your chance to step back from the daily hustle and bustle and take stock of what is going on around you. It allows you to see what’s going on in your world, what you have done and what is on your list of things to do. It also allows you to check you are doing the right things and not allowing yourself to drift off into areas that have no value to you or your objectives in life.
Basically, if you’re not doing a weekly review, you’re drifting. Drifting through life with no direction and solid plan to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.
So how do you do a good weekly review?
To answer this question, I thought it would be a good idea to run you through how I do mine. So here goes…
The first step here is to make sure you pick a day and time each week where you can sit down for around an undisturbed hour and go through your tasks and projects. When I began doing my weekly reviews I realised the best day for me was a Sunday. On Sundays I always do my admin and class preparation in the morning—if you don’t know, I teach business professionals here in Korea English communication skills—After I finish my admin and prep, I make a nice cup of Yorkshire Tea (the best in my opinion) sit down with my todo list manager and calendar open and begin my weekly review. I put on some soothing trance or deep house music or listen to BBC Radio 1’s Pete Tong and settle down and begin reviewing.
Now, as the name implies, this is essentially a “review”, not a “preview”. What this means is you begin with what you have accomplished since your last review. As it is a “weekly” review that means what you have accomplished over the last week. Ask yourself questions like how much did I do on my goals? What projects did I move forward? What projects did I not do anything on?
Other questions you could ask yourself are questions like where can I improve? What have I been neglecting? And rather more importantly why? If you find you’ve been neglecting something because your interest in it has fallen away somewhat, then think about moving that project into your someday|maybe list. You can always come back to it later.
Once I have completed that part, I will begin going through my projects one by one, beginning from the top and working my way down.
For those of you who follow my Todoist YouTube Channel, you will know I have a Routines folder that contains all my daily, weekly and monthly routines. This project folder is something I don’t usually review weekly because it rarely changes. But I do review it probably every two or three months just to make sure the tasks in there are still relevant.
When I check a project, I check all the tasks are in the right project, some do get misallocated when I am processing in a rush, I also check to make sure that the labels (contexts) are correct and that the task is still relevant. Another good tip is to make sure each task has a good, strong action verb. Something like “write”, “call” “contact” “research” etc. These help me to make sure it is very clear what needs doing and that when I am looking for something to do, I know exactly what needs doing.
As I go through my projects I am thinking about what needs doing next to keep this project moving forward and keeping it on track. For those of you familiar with GTD (Getting Things Done) the question is: what is the very next action? These tasks are the ones I would give a date to, based on what my calendar looks like for that particular day. I know this isn’t strictly GTD methodology, but it works for me. I am only adding a date to one task in each project, and this means throughout the week I am not going to forget about a project once the week begins and everything starts being thrown at me.
Once I have gone through all my projects, made sure all is up to date and there at least one next action in place for each project, I would go through my calendar to make sure everything is relevant and confirmed. If something is not confirmed I would add a task to confirm it first thing Monday morning.
There are a few other things I do with my weekly review. Some weeks for me are busier than others. For those busy weeks, I would reduce some of my tasks for the very busy days. I try to make sure there is enough room for me to deal with the unexpected. You know, all those unexpected tasks our colleagues, partners, friends and bosses will throw at us once the week begins.
If i have a quiet week ahead, I will look for a day where I can cancel the less important things and record an online course. I have found that there is usually one week each month where I can clear a day to spend in my recording studio recording an online course. I am always in the process of planning out a course or updating an existing course, so finding a day to spend in the studio is one of my objectives when I do my weekly review.
The final part of my weekly review is to look through my goals and make sure there is at least one task allocated each day that takes me closer towards achieving my goals. I try to have two of these tasks each day, but on days where I am teaching all day, or spending time in meetings, I will reduce it to just one.
And that’s about it. The whole process takes me about an hour to do. But it does set me up for a wonderfully productive week, it allows for disruptions because I do not overpopulate days with too many project tasks and the feeling I am in control of what I am doing is one of the reasons I love being organised and productive.
The thing is, you need to make your weekly review yours. It needs to fit in with your lifestyle and you need to make it a priority. No matter what, you should not be skipping it. If you have no choice to but skip it because of things outside your control, make it a priority to do it the next day, or do a quick review of your projects. That is not ideal, but it is much better than not doing anything.
If you are starting out on the road to being better organised and more productive, then create a checklist of things to do in your weekly review. I’ve been doing a weekly review for over ten years now and don’t really need a checklist anymore. The funny thing is if I find I cannot do my weekly review I feel awful. I feel lost and disorganised and I hate that feeling. This is the reason the weekly review has become a central pillar of my life and when you start doing a regular weekly review you too will find yourself in the same position.
The trick is to not think of your weekly review as a chore, but something to look forward to each week. Use the time to consume your favourite chocolate muffin or have a scone with jam and fresh cream to complement your cup of Yorkshire Tea hmmm. It is a time to destress and to discover that you are in control of your life and time, and that is a very nice feeling.
So, to sum up.
Make sure you do your weekly review regularly and at a time that suits your lifestyle. Try to do it at the same time each week and make it a priority.
When doing your weekly review, always have your calendar open and begin by reviewing what you have done and learned from the previous week. Then move on to your tasks and commitments for the following week.
A great tip David Allen suggests is to look a month ahead to see what you have coming up. The whole purpose of your weekly review is to avoid any nasty surprises and to make sure you know what is coming up and what needs doing to prepare for it. It only takes a few seconds to look ahead at your calendar and the surprises it avoids is well worth those few seconds.
Always allow some flexibility each day. People are going to throw all sorts of issues at you and you need the space to be able to absorb them. Don’t fill every day up with tasks and appointments, that’s just going to be a huge waste of time. You will only end up having to spend more time rescheduling tasks and appointments.
Finally, once my weekly review is complete, I head out for my Sunday afternoon long run. The feeling you have when you’ve completed a review and you head out into nature—well sort of nature, I live in a large city— is amazing. You feel relaxed, stress-free and in complete control of your life. If you’re not into physical exercise, then may I suggest a little walk around the block. It just seals the end to a wonderful week.
Okay, that’s it for this week. I hope you found all these little titbits useful and please don’t forget, if you do have a question about productivity, GTD, Self-development or goal planning, you can ask on me via Twitter, Facebook, my website or even smoke signals… Well maybe not. I will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Thank you very much for listening to this show and I hope to see you in the next episode.
It now remains for me to just wish you all a very productive week and I will see you in the next episode.