Keep Calm and Review On
If you have attended one of our Time Management Workshops or have read the best-selling book ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’, you will already know how life-changing a Weekly Review can be. For those of us that use it regularly, it’s probably the best 1-2 hours of our working week, and something a Productivity Ninja will look forward to each week. However, we know from some of our conversations in our time management training, the main question for newbies is always: “how do you find the time, motivation and discipline to regularly review?”
Before we dive into how and why you should motivate yourself to do your weekly review, let’s have an initial look at what a weekly review entails and how you can start introducing the review habit to your life.
What is a Weekly Review?
Lists are a crucial part of a Productivity Ninja’s second brain, but all you get from a list is a memory aid.
Productivity Ninja Tip: Write things down on a list and the list becomes the place you remember it, rather than your own brain.
But if your second brain is going to really replace your own mind and leave your own mind less stressed, your second brain needs intuition and intelligence as well. Checklists are a brilliant tool to guide your thinking. It’ll make you look back at the past week to ensure you’ve captured all of your actions, the meetings you’ve been to, the conversations you’ve had, etc. and record all of these in your second brain. It’ll also make you look at the weeks ahead and help you plan those out as smoothly as possible. Your Weekly Review will also give you a dedicated time to do any quick tasks and go through your calendar and emails.
Why spend the time on a weekly review?
The regular, intelligent and intuitive rhythm of a good weekly checklist ensures that when you need to take a step back and review your progress, you focus your attention and thinking on all the right things and ask yourself all the right questions. Obviously, plans change, and things go wrong, but putting a plan in place will help you focus on what you’re doing and get your priorities in place.
“Taking time to do this thinking and planning means that I am less distracted throughout the week. I know that stuff is under control, that I am working on the things that I have selected as being the most important.” – Productivity Ninja, Hayley Watts
What’s on a Productivity Ninja’s Weekly Checklist?
To make sure you’re spending your time reviewing as efficiently as possible, you’ll want to follow a weekly checklist. As an example, you can have a look at Graham’s checklist below.
Keep in mind, that weekly checklists are never perfect, as your priorities and working style change and evolve over time. So, use Graham’s checklist as a guide and rework and tweak it as much as you need to make it work for your own commitments and preferences. As much as we want you to adjust the checklist for your own use, ensure that you include sections about looking backwards and recording actions you have gathered in one place, as well as a section that will make you look forward and includes some very practical stuff, such as looking at travel routes, preparing for meetings, etc. We also recommend including evaluation questions, such as: Are you on track with specific projects? What is going well and what’s not? What actions do you need to take to get back on track?
Here are some top tips for building your own weekly checklist from our Productivity Ninja, Hayley:
“One of the things that I like delegates in my time management workshops to think about, is questions that they can ask themselves each week to check they are on track with their goals, their lives and indeed their health and wellbeing. For instance, I plan in some reading time for my personal development because I’d never get around to it otherwise. I also try to plan in some exercise – often the bit I don’t get quite right!”
If you want to go beyond the weekly checklist, a brief daily checklist can also be a great way to start the day and remain focused.
How to do your Weekly Review & use your Checklist
First things first, make sure you put the weekly review in your diary. For those of you lucky enough to not be working around a shift pattern, make this the same day and time each week. Grab your weekly checklist (it might be easier to use it printed off on a A4 piece of paper), your laptop/tablet/phone and any paper notes and calendars you might be using.
Productivity Ninja Tip: Switch your phone on airplane mode, your email inbox to ‘working offline’ and close all other distractions on your laptop or tablet.
Basically, you need to have your emails, calendar, notes and second brain to hand – in whatever online or offline form you might be using it. As you’re making your way through your checklist, put a line through each answered item.
At the beginning, your weekly review might take a bit longer, as you’re finding your feet and rhythm, but once you get really good at it, you might only need up to an hour at a time. Similarly, some weeks you’ll need to use your checklist methodically and intensely, and other weeks, when everything feels quite in control, you can use your checklist more casually. Doing your weekly review is a process and depending on the weeks you’ve had and the state of your projects, there will be days when it’ll take you longer and days when it’ll be a short and sweet process. Just remember, however long it may take, it will get everything in your work and life under control, so it should never feel like there’s a wasted moment. It will always pay off.
Make sure you do your weekly review in a reasonably distraction-free area. Whether that’s a meeting room in your office, a coffee shop down the road or whether you work from home on your review day – ensure people won’t have the opportunity to interrupt you offline and online.
If it feels quite challenging to keep the momentum going with your weekly review, introduce a reward at the end of it. If you’re in a coffee shop, why not reward yourself with a slice of cake? Or maybe a walk around the park after? Find something that works for you. Another way to ensure you’ll stick to your weekly review is buddying up with another colleague. Have you noticed how we’re often less keen to let others down than ourselves? Buddy up with someone and you’ll be able to nag each other about doing your review. Another easy way to remind yourself, other than your calendar reminder of course, is putting up posters near your desk. Here’s a sample poster:
Our Productivity Ninja, Hayley, takes her Weekly review a step further:
“My partner and I have recently started a joint review. My partner works shifts, and we have a small child, so each week isn’t the same. Looking ahead at arrangements and who is doing what helps us both keep on track and share the household stuff between us. We have a (shorter) checklist for this too. It gives us an opportunity to talk about what’s working well, and what isn’t etc. Again, we can do this anytime, but batching it together makes it easier and makes sure that we get the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. Life feels calmer and more under control.”
Over to You
This worksheet is a neat tool for you to be able to create your own version of Graham’s weekly checklist. Simply follow the sections and put your own spin on your checklist. If you want to get a more detailed overview of how to use a weekly checklist to make sure that things in your work never fall between the cracks again, there’s plenty more in the ‘review’ chapter of the ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ book.
We know, the weekly review, can be one of the things that can be tempting to skip because you’re busy or because it seems like too much effort, or you think you’re better off getting work done rather than reviewing. However, you’ll always regret it when you leave it for more than a week. When you have too much to do, taking time out to stop doing it can seem like an odd idea, but it certainly keeps you on track. And remember – it’s called a weekly review for a reason. Do it every week and watch your productivity levels soar.
What are you including in your Checklist? How do you ensure you review on a weekly basis? Let us know in the comment section below!
By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive UK’s Head of Marketing and the voice behind much of our global social media and editorial content. If you are reading this in Canada or the United States you can connect with Think Productive North America directly here or connect with Barbara Green, our President on LinkedIn.
This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and relevance.