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The weekly review: What it is & how to do one

The weekly review: What it is & how to do one

Being intentional about what you’re working on is the best way to keep unimportant tasks from cluttering your to-do list and ensure that the work you’re tackling drives value. Sounds straightforward enough – but it’s only really straightforward if you set time aside to actually reflect on what your priorities should be.

That’s where the weekly review comes in.

In this blog post, we’ll look at what a weekly review is and how you can use it to boost your productivity and achieve your goals. We’ll also explore how this approach can help you tackle your workload more strategically, and show you how to get started.  

What is a weekly review?

A weekly review is exactly what it sounds like: a dedicated chunk of time you set aside to assess what you accomplished over the previous week, reflect on what went well and what you could have done differently and – most critically – plan for the week ahead. Weekly reviews are a core component of productivity expert David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method. (We’ve discussed the basic pillars of the method and how it can be implemented in our guide to Getting Things Done).

Scheduling time to reflect and assess on the work you’re doing enables you to step back and examine things that are going well or maybe even elements of your work that need improvement. It typically takes no longer than an hour, and helps you organize your workflow, ensure alignment with your longer term goals and ensure that the work you’re doing is on track.

There are a few fundamental principles that underpin the weekly review:

  • Get Clear. Tie up any loose ends and reflect on the past week.
  • Get Current. Set your priorities for the upcoming week.
  • Get Creative. Generate new ideas or solutions related to your work.

The idea is to pause and reflect on the following:

  • What went right last week that I can repeat in the future?
  • What went wrong during the week that I should avoid in the future?
  • What could I do differently next week?

Why completing a weekly review is so important

Weekly reviews foster better problem solving

Your weekly review is an ideal time to reflect on what went well, what could be better, and what you can do to make positive changes to your workflow for the following week. This gives you the opportunity to identify areas for improvement, predict similar obstacles and challenges that might arise for you the following week and find a better way to approach tasks next time.

Weekly reviews helps you control work – rather than letting work control you

Rather than just flying by the seat of your pants, your weekly review improves your time management and prioritization skills by helping you carve out the right amount of focus time for your tasks and proactively organize exactly how you want to spend the upcoming week at work.

That way, you can protect yourself from being spread too thin. With a more productive structure built into your workweek, you can then feel confident in saying no to unnecessary meetings and demands on your time, and stay focused on getting your most important tasks completed on schedule.

Weekly reviews result in stronger team communication

Having a better pulse on how your work is tracking against goals each week isn’t only helpful to you – it’s beneficial to the teams you work with as well. If you’re either managing or a contributor on several projects with multiple people involved, being able to communicate progress effectively is essential. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sit down with your team every week to present exactly what you’re prioritizing in the week ahead, you’ll be able to give them a sense of where your work is at.

Weekly reviews ensure you’re working towards the bigger picture

You probably already set goals on a yearly or quarterly basis. In theory, this allows a good chunk of time to achieve them. But in practice, three, six and even 12 months can fly by in the blink of an eye. And, of course, just because you set goals at the start of the quarter or year doesn’t always necessarily mean you’ll know from the outset how exactly you’re going to achieve them.

Your weekly review is your chance to sense-check that the things you’re working on on a weekly basis are well aligned to your long-term goals, and ensure that you’re continuing to prioritize important tasks over urgent ones.

Weekly reviews make your Mondays less stressful

A weekly review can help you tackle the week ahead more strategically. Since you’ve already planned ahead of time for each work day, you’ll know what to expect and should feel less caught off-guard by challenges or bottlenecks that happen out of nowhere.

Doing a weekly review also means not having to worry about remembering a million different things, or feeling like there’s work that might be falling off your radar. You’ll start each working day knowing precisely what you need to check off your to-do list, and wrap up the week feeling satisfied with the work you’ve accomplished.

4 steps to setting up your weekly review

Weekly reviews don't need to be complicated. Here are a few simple steps to get you started on your first weekly review:

1. Choose a set day, time and place to do your weekly review

Sticking to your weekly review doesn’t have to involve super-human discipline – simply developing the habit of doing yours at the same time each week, in the same environment, is enough for it to become an indispensable part of your routine.

While the day you choose to do your review review will ultimately come down to what works best for you, they all have their own benefits:

  • End of the week: It’s late Friday afternoon, and you’re spent. Using this time to complete your weekly review is a great way to get something productive out of a time where your energy levels might already be waning and while the week is still fresh in your mind – it’s amazing how much we can forget over those 60+ hours between Friday evening and Monday morning. Plus, on Monday mornings, our energy levels naturally tend to run a little lower. By completing your weekly review before heading into the weekend, there’s nothing for you to think about – you’ll know exactly what awaits you each day and what you need to roll up your sleeves and tackle first.
  • Over the weekend: Regardless of how relaxing our Friday evening and Saturday were, the Sunday scaries have a tendency to creep up and take over while we’re attempting to enjoy the last hours of the weekend. If you’re someone who starts to fixate on the week ahead on Sunday evening like clockwork, a more productive way to channel any anticipatory anxiety around work the next day could be by doing your weekly review.  
  • Start of the week: On the flipside, if you’re someone who struggles to hit the ground running on Monday morning, scheduling your weekly review for this time can be a great way to ease the transition between the weekend and the beginning of your work week.

We recommend setting a recurring reminder or block off time in your calendar for your weekly review – that way, you’re unlikely to miss a week.

2. Create your weekly review checklist

The magic ingredient for getting your weekly review done quickly and efficiently is having a checklist or default template that you go through every week.

Get Clear:

The most important part of this step is to get everything you need in one system so that it becomes your source of truth for the week ahead.

  • Gather all the physical documents you’ve collected over the previous week.
  • Process all of your emails, instant messages and notes you’ve made.
  • Our brains aren’t designed to store information – Allen’s Getting Things Done method is all about storing your tasks in an external system. Instead of trying to mentally juggle them, offload anything else that comes to mind that you need to do.

Get Current:

This step should take up the bulk of your time during your weekly review.

  • Review the next action items on your to-do list. Digital to-do lists work best here because they make it easy to sort and prioritize what you need to accomplish in the near future.
  • Make a note of any tasks left over that you need to roll into the next week.
  • Look back at the last couple of weeks in your calendar for anything you might need to follow up on and any potential roadblocks.
  • Check your Waiting On list for anything you’ve delegated to another team member.
  • Review your calendar and any deadlines set for the upcoming week and confirm that anything outstanding related to these items are captured on your task list.
  • Do a quick big-picture check in on how your projects are progressing. Make a note of any additional actions you need to take to move these forward.

Get Creative:

  • Give your Someday/Maybe list a quick once over to see whether there’s anything you can pick up next week.
  • Here’s your chance to stimulate your creativity – think of any innovative projects or ideas that you’ve been sitting on that you’d to set aside time to work on over the next while.

3. Formulate questions for your weekly review

The hallmark of a productive weekly review is being able to ask the right questions to provoke meaningful responses and trigger learnings.

  • What went well for me this week?
  • What were some of the challenges I faced this week?
  • Did I get stuck on anything this week?
  • How would I deal with [x challenge] in hindsight?
  • What actions did I take this week that moved me closer to meeting my long-term goals?
  • How can I build on what went well last week?
  • What can I improve on over the next week?
  • What things can I do next week to bring me closer to reaching my long-term goals?
  • What should I be planning for over the next month, quarter or year?
  • Has something new appeared on the horizon that needs to be moved to the top of my priority list?

Reflecting on any challenges that acted as barriers is a great opportunity to peel back the layers and uncover better ways to use your time the next week.

4. Plan for the week ahead

Here’s where you set down and plan out the most important tasks you need to complete over the next week to move you closer to your goals. If you’re looking for tips on how to prioritize your weekly tasks, check out our earlier articles on the 80/20 rule and the Eisenhower matrix.

The bottom line

How you spend your time and energy each week at work should be a representation of what’s truly important to you. A weekly review helps ensure you’re always choosing your priorities with intention.

That way, you’ll start each work week with 100% clarity on what you plan to get done and significantly increase your chances of achieving your goals – rather than simply checking random to-dos off your list or getting pulled in a thousand different directions.

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