The Power of the Weekly Review

L ife in the fast lane is…fast, isn’t it?  We live 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.

And 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.  As a result, you may forget to process notes from a meeting, put promised tasks on your list, or not have the time to adequately prepare for a meeting in the coming week.

When this happens, important items fall through the cracks. Then you begin a cycle of beating yourself up, feeling shame and embarrassment, or feeling that you’re losing your edge.  And then comes the belief that you’ve frustrated or disappointed clients or colleagues.

Now, while I’m an advocate of slowing down and unplugging on a regular basis, I also have a solution that will add value no matter who you are or what you do for work:  creating time and space for a “weekly review”.

Personally, I’m a big fan of some of the “oldies but goodies” – Stephen Covey and David Allen.  Covey calls it “Sharpening the Saw” – and Allen talks about “The Power of the Weekly Review” in his book Getting Things Done:

If you’re like me and most people, no matter how good your intentions may be, you’re going to have the world come at you faster than you can keep up. Many of us seem to have it in our natures consistently to entangle ourselves in more than we have the ability to handle. We book ourselves in back to back meetings all day, go to after-hours events and generate ideas and commitments we need to deal with, and get embroiled in engagements and projects that have the potential to spin our creative intelligence into cosmic orbits. The whirlwind of activity is precisely what makes the Weekly Review so valuable. It builds in some capturing, reevaluation, and reprocessing time to keep you in balance. There is simply no way to do this necessary regrouping while you’re trying to get every day work done.

(pp. 184–185).

A weekly review allows you to get your head above the daily rainstorm of activities.  It lets you to see where you’ve been and where you’re heading. A weekly review is one of the keys to staying on top of projects and assignments and leaves feeling that you are in control of your workload and schedule, instead of them controlling you.

It also allows you to really sharpen your intuitive focus so that the things that really matter to you don’t fall away in the busy-ness.

For all of my clients – regardless of their work situation – I encourage them to regularly schedule some “desk time.”  To maintain some accountability, more than half of my clients send in a weekly re-cap of their week to me.

Personally, I do my weekly review on Monday mornings.  By this point, I’ve had time to relax and reconnect with JB as well as a good opportunity to process what’s going on in the week.

This is how I do my weekly review:

Schedule Time

I schedule a two-hour block of time.  Rarely does it take this long, but on occasion it will.  I find if it’s not on my calendar, it slips from my mind – or I schedule something else during this time.

Spring Clean My Brain

I spend five minutes doing a “brain dump.”  I gather a stack of notecards and a pen, turn off all electronics, and set my timer.  Empting your head by putting your thoughts on paper allows you to sharpen your focus.

Gather all loose notes and papers

I empty out my purse, my briefcase, my wallet, and the top of my desk.  Everything goes in my inbox and gets processed.  Items are added to the calendar or my task list, receipts are recorded and shredded, papers are filed, and then all remaining loose papers are recycled (or shredded).

Process my Notes

I’m a big fan of pen and paper and take tons of notes no matter the situation – client meeting, meeting with my coach, a staff meeting for ATG, etc.  To keep my thoughts organized, I take notes in two ways: in one spiral notebook – or on a stack of 3×5 cards.  I quickly read back through my notes, looking for action items that I agreed to do or actions items I want to do based on my review.

Review the Calendar

I look over the previous week’s meetings in Outlook  (using the Weekly view) and see if there is anything I missed. For example, I don’t usually take notes in lunch meetings, but I may want to follow-up with a thank you note.  After looking back, I look forward.  I glance at the Outlook calendar (again using weekly view) 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.

Review and Update Project List

I keep an Excel spreadsheet with all my writing projects.  There are separate tabs for this blog, my newsletter, All Things Girl, 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.

Plan for the Week

I create a rough menu (and grocery list).  I block off time for exercise. I schedule some time with girlfriends for a chat or lunch.  I make sure that all my important things are on my schedule.

Ask Important Questions

This is the key part to moving forward. I celebrate my successes of the previous week. I ask myself about the previous week’s challenges, and brainstorm solutions.  I pick a #1 priority for the coming week.  I ask myself how I want to feel in the coming week.  I look at my words for the year and see if I’m taking steps to keep them in the forefront.

The Weekly Review is a gift of clarity.  It serves to “complete” the prior week. To celebrate little victories, to recognize the incompletes, and to get clear about priorities for the coming week.

What about you?  Do you do a weekly review?  What would adding a weekly review do for your personal and world worlds?

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Life coach Debra Smouse helps women feeling overwhelmed by life and/or their schedule recreate their life into one worth falling in love with. A self admitted tarnished southern belle, she now resides in Dayton, OH with the man of her dreams.
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