You know how we repeatedly update our phone and laptop operating systems? In general, systems need to be continually updated and refined to better serve the user.
In a similar manner, with any time management system we use, we need to habitually refine it to have it better serve us.
A crapton of college students I’ve talked to feel overwhelmed, are extremely busy, and never feel like 24 hours is enough time in a day (I’m no exception to this).
So amidst our busy schedules that we’re already trying to get a handle of, how do we make time to review our systems?
Introducing: The Weekly Review
If you don’t already know, the Weekly Review is a widely-used technique (for good reason, I believe) in the productivity blogosphere. Many entrepreneurs, academics, and bloggers utilize the Weekly Review.
David Allen was one of the first to develop a widely-used productivity system: GTD.
In his book, Getting Things Done, Allen argues that the Weekly Review is the most important technique in GTD.
I argue that this is the most important technique in any time management system.
But I’d like to show you the how of it before we get into the why.
How I Do My Weekly Review
1. Schedule a specific day and time you will do your Weekly Review.
I block off around 1.5 hours on Friday afternoons. It’s on my calendar and I treat it like we all treat a doctor’s appointment, a final exam review session, or an interview: something we don’t miss.
When you do your review, I suggest you treat it the same.
I used to utilize Cal Newport’s Sunday Ritual (his version of the Weekly Review on Sundays) from my third year until the middle of my fourth year.
Now, I switched my review over to Fridays. Why Fridays? I’ll go over that in a bit.
I’ve also heard of others who do theirs on Mondays.
Really, just do it when it works best for you.
2. Blaze through your administrative to-do’s.
Though most of these tasks don’t take longer than two minutes to do, throughout the week, I put off doing certain non-urgent tasks. Like these:
I take care of them before my Review. I also take care of any email that needs to be looked at, marked as “Done”, or replied to.
I like taking care of these to-do’s and email before the actual review to clear my head of anything I think needs to be taken care of.
3. Do a post-mortem of your week.
I look at my calendar of that week and ask these two questions:
- What are some things I did right last week?
- What are some things I could improve on for next week?
I like doing this on Evernote. For instance:
Now, back to why I do my Weekly Review on a Friday instead of Sunday (I credit this shift to a post by Sam Spurlin):
- The week is fresher in my head on Friday, than on Sunday. Especially after the weekend. Having the week fresh in my head makes reviewing it a lot more easy.
- I don’t have as much motivation to do huge-ass projects on Friday, which is a great reason for me to do small, administrative tasks.
- This frees up weekend to relax, do whatever I want, and not do anything school-related. I can stay relaxed knowing that my next week is already planned.
It’s also nice to know that Mr. Allen, Sam, James Clear, and probably many more awesome people do their Weekly Reviews on Fridays.
4. Check to see if any deadlines are coming up.
Remember in one of my previous posts, the first step was to capture all of your deadlines and put them on your calendar? If you’ve done this, you’re already ahead.
I use this time to see if I have any upcoming project deadlines or exams coming up in the next couple of weeks, so these important dates don’t escape my brain.
5. Check up on your goals.
After looking at my upcoming deadlines, I use this time to check up on how I’m doing with my goals.
Whether they are our short- or long-term goals, it’s important to systematically see how on track we are with them. This is a good time to make any adjustments to make any goals more realistic, or to cut any goals that we don’t think should be one anymore.
6. Make a rough plan for every weekday next week.
Outside of my regular classes/meetings and autopilot schedule, I think of what I want to get done that week. On my Google Calendar, I make time blocks of when I’ll get these things done.
I keep these blocks between 10am and 7pm on Mondays through Fridays, as I like to keep a fixed work schedule.
I’m cool with keeping the plan rough, because I know I’ll make more serious adjustments when I plan my day, and I move things around when necessary (which is like, almost everyday. I actually have a hard time of getting my ass up in the morning to get to work by 10am).
You don’t have to time block your week; if you’re into writing, Cal has a technique on writing your week’s plan. This type of planning is like less of like being a robot and more like writing a short narrative of your week.
Other Weekly Reviewers set daily themes.
James Clear sets Anchor Tasks—the one task that you must get done that day—for each weekday. Setting Anchor Tasks is something I’m starting to do and am really liking.
Plan your week however is most effective for you.
If you’re unsure of which method to start with, try just one method (time blocking, narrative planning, daily themes, Anchor Tasks). In your next Weekly Review, reflect on how it worked for you.
- Schedule a specific day and time you will do your Weekly Review.
- Blaze through your administrative to-do’s.
- Do a post-mortem of your week.
- Check to see if any deadlines are coming up.
- Check up on your goals.
- Make a rough plan for each day of your next week.
From Pseudo to Actual
I used to do “Pseudo Weekly Reviews”: I checked my calendar periodically and just threw things onto it. I think a lot of us do this.
But after finding out about the Weekly Review and making it a habit, I’ve realized: Having a specific day and time during the week to evaluate, refresh, and calibrate is hugely invaluable.
By no means do you have to follow this verbatim; consider my way of doing the Weekly Review and think about any aspects of it that would work for you.
Don’t work for the system, let the system work for you.
Happy Reviewing! What are some other ways you’ve tried (or heard of) when planning your week?
Photo credits go to Geoffrey Arduini.