How to Do a Weekly Review to Increase Your Productivity
Evaluate what is working well and what isn’t
My weekly review used to go like this. Bring up my task management software and switch to a weekly view. Yep, got stuff to do in all seven days. Check. Done.
Like many things on my to-do list, the weekly review had become something to do by rote, simply to have something to check off the list. I almost deleted it as it had become useless, but then rethought the process.
Weekly reviews represent an essential step in productivity. Rather than delete it, why don’t I improve it and do it right?
So that is what I did, and it’s made a massive difference in my weekly productivity.
What a Weekly Review Is and What It Is Not
The first thing you have to do with any project or task is to define it. After all, how can you check something off as complete if you don’t know what complete looks like?
First, I thought back to when I started my system and did my first review. You remember that one. It’s when you set down your short and long term goals and objectives and mapped out this comprehensive plan for your life. Whew, that was a chore, wasn’t it?
It’s not that.
You don’t need to evaluate each plan and goal on your project management list. That’s a different job. This is a ‘weekly’ review. Sure, you need to glance through your project list and make sure nothing has fallen through the cracks, but you are only looking at the next seven days, not your entire life. No wonder you fluffed it off.
A weekly review should just consist of the following steps:
- Review Last Week
- Scan Projects and Goals
- Check Inputs
- Plan Week
Review Last Week
The first thing you need to do on a weekly review, and this is the step most people skip, is to review the previous week. This isn’t just to see what didn’t get done, although that’s part of it, but how did it go in general. Were you overwhelmed? Did a lot of stuff not get done, simply because you had too much to do? Did things get bumped or missed because there were too many unplanned interruptions?
Before you can plan the next week, review the previous week. Otherwise, you’ll just be making the same mistakes over again. If you had twenty things on last Monday’s list, you’d put twenty things on this Monday’s list, even though you only got to half of them.
Don’t do that.
The flip side of that is if last week went fine; if you met your goals and objectives and checked everything off your list, leave well enough alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s working for you, keep doing the same thing.
After reviewing the previous week and determining what, if anything, needs to be changed, it’s time to tackle next week. You aren’t starting from scratch each week. Most of what follows may already be on your next week’s list, but you need to get into the habit of going through the process each week to make sure.
Scan Projects and Goals
This is the part many people get bogged down in and why the weekly review falls apart. If your system isn’t set up so that you can quickly scan your projects and goals and see what you have done and what you need to do next, then that system needs work. Maybe redesigning your project management system needs to be a new project.
If your system is working correctly, you will be able to quickly identify what items need to be done next, including any dependencies that have to be cleared first. Check your task list for the coming week and make sure each item is on there in the right order. Add any that are not and rearrange those that are in the wrong order. Make sure as you shift unfinished tasks from last week, that you don’t overload next week. That will just compound the problem.
This is a vital part of the weekly review, but if done right and regularly will just become a habit that takes no more than five minutes. Scan all of your inputs for random things that popped up and need addressing and adding to your weekly schedule. Inputs include:
Email — There should be a folder devoted to these things; don’t just leave them in your inbox.
Note Taking App(s) — You should have dedicated apps to grab notes, screenshots, etc. for later reference. Limit how many of these you have to go through. There may be one more comprehensive like Evernote, and one that is more on-the-fly, like a memo pad in your task management software.
Calendar — Notice this isn’t plural. You should only have one. If you need separation, i.e., business and personal, use colors or other differentiators. You don’t want your time-based tasks scattered all over the place. Do a quick review — an appointment you added six months ago is easy to forget about.
If you have more places than these for your day to day inputs, you need to consolidate. It’s fine to jot notes on a sticky or notepad, but transfer them to your note-taking app daily. Stick to inbox zero, so your email is efficiently organized, and you are only looking in one place for future to-dos. Consolidate your calendars, but don’t overcomplicate them. Anything that isn’t tied to a particular day and time shouldn’t be on the schedule.
Plan the Week
Now you’ve done all the hard work. You have a week that is probably at least partially planned and a list of things that need to be on it. Now it’s just a matter of putting everything on your task list, making sure of two crucial points. Make sure everything is in the proper order. Double-check dependencies and things that are waiting on someone else.
And more importantly, ensure that you aren’t overloaded. You know how much you can do. There is no point in adding too many things to each day just because you think they all have to get done. There is great satisfaction in checking the last item off the list before the day is done. Ending each day with unfinished tasks leads to frustration.
Also, include breaks, fun, and exercise. All work and no play makes you tired and ineffective. Take tiny breaks often. Take longer breaks as needed. Take one break of an hour or two in the middle of the day. This can be when you schedule your exercise, which is also essential. You may think padding your schedule with all of this not working stuff will slow you down, but in the long run, your productivity will improve.
Plan a weekly review at the same time each week and stick to it. With practice, it won’t take more than thirty minutes. If it takes longer, you need to revisit your whole process. If it gets done in five minutes, you’re not doing it right.
Now, I can check writing this article off my list.