Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

The Power of the Weekly Review: Why and How You Should Do Yours

I have been doing Weekly Reviews since May 2013. I have now done around 150 total in some form. This act has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve done to improve how I live. Each week I have a record where I check-in and gaze forward.

A “Weekly Review” is a set period each week where you take a look at the past week and scan towards the week to come. You examine your weekly accomplishments, record your analysis in writing, and visualize a plan for the week to come. It’s simple but powerful.

The core benefit of a Weekly Review is closure and thinking forward. First, you clear out your mental garbage and whatever else is lingering from the previous 7 days. You celebrate a few accomplishments. You recognize where things doing go well. You tell the story of your week. Second, now that you have some closure, you think about the future. You prepare for the week to come by visualizing what you want your next week to be.

Everyone will have different elements they want to include in their weekly review. My weekly review has evolved over the years. It went from focused on time analysis and goal track to a more holistic approach.

How you do yours will depend on you and your current needs. You need to make it a habit, and you should be flexible as you adapt your weekly review to your situation.

In this post, I’ll take a look at what is a Weekly Review, how to do yours, some of its benefits and provide my Weekly Review template.

What is a Weekly Review?

Quite simply it is a review of your last week. You can do this in any form you wish actually.

Typically you want to pick the same day and time each week to it. You should dedicate roughly the same amount of time to doing your weekly review each session. You should aim to make it a habit, but start by committing to doing it for a couple of weeks.

For some people the best time might be Friday late afternoon before heading home for the weekend. For others it might be first thing Monday morning.

In my case, I do my Weekly Review each Sunday morning. It allows me to close out my last week and start my Sunday with a strong sense of purpose.

How much time you dedicate to the process will depend on how much you want to review. Initially I’d recommend spending at least an hour. It takes time to hone the process. You’ll want to spend a bit of time considering how exactly you want your weekly review to work.

In my case, during my initial months, I spent over an hour on my weekly reviews since I tried to cover a lot of things. I’ve settled into doing my weekly reviews in around 20 to 25 minutes each week.

The actual elements of your weekly review are up to you.

I’d recommend you include some of the following pieces:

  • Thoughts for the last week: How was your last week?
  • Thoughts for the week to come: What are you thinking about for next week?
  • Memories of the Amazing, Interesting and Unique: Share a photo, quote, line, or something from the previous week.
  • Did you accomplish your goals? Which ones and how did it go? Share your goal tracking and record you progress
  • What are my biggest challenges (or “boulders”) for the week to come? Think about which tasks will have the highest value in me reaching my potential and being successful.

Additionally I take a bit of time during my weekly review to do some of the following:

  • Clean up my work space and computer desktop
  • Schedule on my calendar a couple of blocks for my key tasks, projects, habits, etc.
  • [If Time] Declutter your inbox systems, tasks and any unprocessed “stuff”

These are a few high-level areas of what I do in my Weekly Review. I’ll provide my template below to give you a concrete example.

Ultimately what your weekly review is depends on you. My only advice to include these two core parts that close out your past week and help you aim at the week to come.

Why do a Weekly Review?

I believe a good Weekly Review has about two keys: closing out the past week and opening up the next week.

The first part is about decluttering everything that built up during the past week. You simplify it into a few sentences. This is where you sort out the key parts of the past 7 days and “empty” your mental trash. You should feel like you have everything in its place.

For the second part, you are employing a form of “outcome thinking.” By visualizing and planning for the week to come, you will have a greater sense of purpose and a stronger ability to achieve it. You should feel clear about your priorities and have a confidence that you will get there.

There are a lot of benefits to doing a weekly review. Here are a few:

Know What You Accomplished: If you want to be successful in the big things, then each day and week you need to know what you did to get there.

Be Accountable: A Weekly Review is a great habit you can make to hold yourself accountable on a weekly basis

Closure: You should feel like you end each week with a sense of what it was, good or bad.

Positive Anticipation: You should feel like your next week will be awesome. You’ve privatized what’s important and set in place some steps to get there.

Build Momentum: Weekly Reviews help build momentum around small habits and bigger projects. By checking in with yourself and recording how things are going, you recognize your progress or realize where you fell off track.

My Weekly Review Template

Here is my weekly review, which you can download it as Word Doc or PDF:

As you can see from my template, my first part is a a written review of the last week. Personally I’m heavy into time tracking so part 1 of my weekly review is collecting key data points and pasting in exported weekly reports. I also use different tools for tracking my personal goals and habits. From reading and studying Chinese to exercise and meditation, I log my progress.

While my second question on the page is about the week to come, in reality this is the last question I generally answer. After looking at my previous week, I then think about the week to come and put my thoughts down. I mentally try to see where I should be going.

How you and where you record your weekly review is up to you. You might find a physical journal to be your best tool. You could use a Word Processor or Google Docs. For me, I use Evernote. Each week I clone my template, add my tags and begin my review process. From start to finish this process usually takes me about 20 to 25 minutes.

Conclusion: A Habit for Postive, Productive, Thoughtful Living

Weekly Reviews are about having the habit of working purposefully and productively and to to live thoughtfully and fully.

Like anything new, just give it a try for a couple weeks. Commit to 10 or 20 minutes each week where you answer two or three simple questions like How was your last week? What are your plans and anticipations for the week to come?

There are a infinite number of ways you might craft your weekly review. The core of it should focus on what you worked on, what you accomplished, what you plan to accomplish, what went well and what didn’t go well. At the end of a review you should have closed out the past week, so you can turn towards the week to come.

I have a lot of habits and goals. This is one of my most ingrained now. Each Sunday (time cue) I start my day by doing a Weekly Review. I feel I ended week and anticipate the week to come. I also now have a written record (habit stamp).

While my actual weekly review process has evolved considerabley, the habit itself remains strong and nearly unbroken over the last two and half years. It’s not something I think about; I just do it.

As a system, “Weekly Reviews” are a part of a whole system employ to work productive and sane in our information age. My system is heavily indebted to Paul Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” It has evolved to fit me and my work.

In some ways, the Weekly Review is the core part of how I work productively, consciously and most effectively. It is the synthesis of my previous week’s work and the mental image of how I imagine my next great week will be.

Rarely does my coming week turn out like I imagined it. But by pulling back the arrow and aiming at the target at least when I release, I’m always heading in the right direction.

Good luck with your weekly reviews. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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