I know that one of the things that keeps me focused and on top of my stuff is doing a weekly review. I also know that it’s one of the things that can be tempting to skip because I’m busy, because it seems like too much effort, or I figure I am better off getting the work done. I always regret it when I 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 me on track.
So, what do I mean by a weekly review? I’ve done a weekly review for my work and some of my personal stuff for a number of years now. This involves me looking back at the past week to see that I have captured all of my actions. The meetings I’ve been to, conversations I’ve had etc and recorded these all in the same place (my second brain). I then check I have captured anything from my email that needs doing, and stuff from other places. I then look at the weeks ahead. What can I do to plan for these? What will make them go smoothly? I record these actions and if they are quickies I usually do them straight away. If not, I add them to the second brain (a sophisticated to do list).
Obviously plans change, and things go wrong, but putting a plan in place helps me to focus on what I am doing because these nags and ideas don’t come to me at the wrong time. I can hear you perhaps thinking that this sounds like a lot of effort, but you do all this stuff sooner or later, so it makes sense to pile it all together at the same time. I then use my review to check that I am on top of my action list. I select priorities for the coming week.
One of the things that I like delegates in my 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 well-being. 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!
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.
So, how do you get started? Make a checklist. It should include things about looking backwards and recording actions you have gathered in one place. Looking forwards will generally include some very practical stuff such as looking at train times, as well as planning and thinking in more detail about meetings you are attending and what you want to get from them. Think about the more evaluative questions you might want to ask yourself, 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?
Put the review in your diary (for those of you lucky enough to not be working around a shift pattern make this the same time each week).
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.
For me, doing the review and doing it often is one of the hardest things to implement and to do well. It’s also the thing that if I’m feeling stressed and anxious about work load, or the volume of stuff I have to get done outside of work, it is usually the times where I haven’t done my review yet, or I’ve had to skip a week. This is a great motivator for me to make this a part of my weekly routine.
Try it! And let us know how you get on @thinkproductive
By Hayley Watts