It’s easy to fall into the fast lane way of living. Our days are full from the moment our feet hit the floor until we fall into bed. We overschedule ourselves, short ourselves on sleep, and buy into the belief that if we slow down, we’ll lose our momentum.
Add that to the fact that we are living in a society where the expectations all revolve around immediacy: reply to email within the hour, return texts within seconds, and process all your social media feeds in a single bound.
Don’t get me wrong: I get it. We all feel the pressure to be more efficient and timely. We pride ourselves on being speedy responders. Beyond the distractions of immediacy, though, I find it’s easy to lose your way and become more reactive than proactive.
The secret to being more focused and productive?
Stepping out of the fast lane, putting your life in park and giving yourself the gift of a weekly review.
I mentioned recently that in addition to a gratitude practice, the second most important tool for a conscious way of living is a weekly review.
Seriously, if you can only devote five minutes a day and an additional twenty minutes a week to taking a proactive and loving stance in your life, your life will begin to shift.
When I really began to understand this value of this process was in the months after my mom died. I had spent weeks traveling – running away from the grief. Then, during the month of August, I helped JB move into our home and suddenly was still for more than a day. I began to get my world in order – I began processing my grief, writing more, and getting in shape.
It was during this period that I realized one of the keys in my soul transformation: I was taking the time to do a weekly review, something I had done on and off for twenty years. I was learning to hone my focus. I was planning my week, not reacting to things. I was stopping to decide how I wanted to feel and planning those types of activities in my daily life.
Anytime I find myself not meeting deadlines, feeling overwhelmed, or over-reacting to life, it’s because I’ve fallen out of this important habit: stepping out of the fast lane of my life and plotting my course.
Look at some of your big picture goals, for example: writing a book, creating a platform, clearing clutter, getting in shape…all of those are about DOING. Right? But in all truth, not slowing down long enough to stay clear and hone your focus will lead you along the path of exhaustion, increased stress, and that underlying sense of not getting anything accomplished.
A weekly review practice sets an intention for the week and serves to complete the prior week. To celebrate little victories, to recognize what isn’t working, and to get clear about priorities for the coming week.
No matter what you do for a living, the “Weekly Review” process, if you choose to embrace it, will be the real difference from desired vision to achieving.
Want to shift your life? Then pull out of the fast lane once a week and park yourself down at your desk (or kitchen table) and have a sacred meeting with yourself.
Over the years, I’ve practiced a form of a weekly review that has evolved based on my needs of the time period. Here is my process. Take the pieces that work for your and add your own flair.
- Make it a Celebration – prepare a favorite beverage and a little snack. Light a candle. Connect to the sacred parts of yourself with a little prayer or meditation.
- Schedule Time – If I don’t block out the time on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.
- Spring Clean My Brain – I spend five minutes doing a “brain dump.” I gather a stack of note cards and a pen, turn off all electronics, and set my timer. Emptying your head by putting your thoughts on paper allows you to sharpen your focus.
- Ask Myself Important Questions – this is a key part of staying on track. I celebrate the previous week’s successes. I ask myself about the previous week’s challenges and brainstorm solutions. I review my focus for the quarter and ask myself “what did I do this week that best propelled me towards my vision”. I pick a #1 priority for the coming week. I ask myself how I want to feel and what I want to be. Ask if my goals are still my goals.
- Review the Calendar – I look over the previous week’s meetings in Outlook and see if there is anything I missed. After looking back, I look forward. I glance at my calendar and review the coming week to review upcoming meetings or promised due dates. Then I glance through the activities for the next month of time to see what deadlines I have on the horizon.
- Review and Update Project List – I keep an Excel spreadsheet with all my writing projects. There are separate tabs for this blog, my newsletter, each class, guest blogs, etc. I review my lists for upcoming due dates and subjects I’ve planned to write about. If my list is growing “short,” I use this time to brainstorm future blog topics and schedule them.
- Create My Week – I create a 3X5 index card for each day of the coming week. Then, I put all the “in stone” items on the card for each day (client appointments, meetings, lunch dates, etc). Then, I process those items from my vision that can get lost in the shuffle. I also create a rough menu for the week, block off time for writing and exercise. I pull client files for all the upcoming calls for the week ahead.
Taking time each week to step out of the fast lane is a gift of clarity. While my gratitude practice serves to keep my spirit on track, the weekly review keeps my mind on track, so that my time is spent towards what’s really important to me. It also keeps me in the proactive lane rather than sending me out of whack into reaction.