One of the best feelings after an intense workout are those pumpin’ post-workout endorphins.
Haggard and drenched in sweat, that first sip of water tastes like heaven.
And then your day just glides by, effortlessly.
But the best part of the day… is actually not the day, but the night.
As your head hits the pillow, you drop into that deep REM. Your dreams are a bit weirder. And after this restorative rest, you awake refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Meet the Weekly Review
There’s a similar sensation hiding in your workflow. It’s called the weekly review.
One of my productivity heroes, David Allen calls the weekly review “the master key” to personal productivity.
It’s during these weekly review that you:
- Close the open loops that are stressing you out
- Organize your digital workspaces to clarify your thinking
- Set clear intentions and priorities for the upcoming week
- Check-in on the important, not urgent parts of your life
If done correctly, the review – just like that deep REM sleep – is restorative. It interconnects your life’s various and competing priorities.
Yet even the most dedicated productivity experts fail to do it regularly.
Why is that?
1. It’s not sexy
Reviews do not release dopamine. They do not trigger the “woosh” sound of a deleted email. In fact, they’re more like eating your greens.
You know it’s good for you, but in the moment you wonder why the heck you’re even doing it.
2. It requires behavior change
It’s not enough to set a weekly recurring task to do a review. A weekly review is a new habit – it’s not just a box to check. So you need to give it the attention that goes into forming new habits:
- How can I make it obvious?
- How can I make it attractive?
- How can I make it easy?
- How can I make it satisfying?
3. It requires asking the right questions
One of my favorite quotes is:
The quality of your life, is measured by the quality of your questions.
The Weekly review is a restorative practice that’s rich with embedded leverage. Yet very few people can commit to the process. Why is that?
It’s turned into a hot mess of journaling, planning, accountability, and philosophizing. Here is the ritual distilled into a nifty 2×2 Matrix:
Now if you combine all of these activities into one sitting, you’ll easily get overwhelmed and give up.
So let’s look at each quadrant individually.
Approach 1: Planning and Prioritization
This is the territory of David Allen; where the grand-daddy of the Weekly Review planted his stake in the ground. It’s also the most common approach.
In Getting Things Done, Allen recommends:
- Get your capture inbox to zero
- Empty your head
- Review projects and their next actions
- Review things you’re Waiting On
- Review your upcoming calendar
- Review your Someday/Maybe (i.e. Bucket) list
- Review your aged tasks
RadReader Tiago Forte builds off of this approach with his own process that takes < 15 minutes.
Approach 2: Time and Task Audit
Still in the top half of the 2×2 (top left), we honor our Time Trackers and Quantified Selfers. In this quadrant, weekly reviewers are checking to see that their actions and activities map to their overarching priorities.
At a basic level, this consists of reviewing what you completed in the prior week and comparing it to what you said you’d do.
This could include a Time Audit to see if your time allocation to $10/hour tasks (responding to email) and $10,000 tasks (hiring a CTO).
It might include a Calendar Audit to determine:
Some popular tools time auditing here are Toggl and Timeular.
Approach 3: Journaling
Now y’all know it wouldn’t be RadReads if we didn’t reflect on the WHY. Sure, execution is important. But execution without reflection is also dangerous and can lead to lives constantly driven by “react mode.”
The journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. In Experiment Without Limits, productivity coach Chris Sparks uses 3 simple questions:
- What worked well?
- Where did I get stuck?
- What did I learn?
Other good journaling prompts include:
- Am I showing up for the key people in my life (spouse, kids, boss, direct reports)? *
- Did I make any meaningful connections?
- Did I impact in anyone’s day or thinking?
- What’s on my To Not-Do list?
- When did I feel most energized?
* My personal favorite
Approach 4: Vision
In Getting Things Done, David Allen squeezes in one last review prompt:
Be creative and courageous. Add any new, wonderful, hare-brained, creative, thought provoking, or risk-taking ideas into your system.
Mind you, this is the last bullet after 15 consecutive questions about actions, tasks, check-lists, and inboxes.
But what if you committed to reviewing your business vision – your life’s mission – on a regular basis.
Now ask yourself, should this be the footnote to the Weekly Review? Or its anchor?
In the post 17 questions that changed my life, Tim Ferris lays out some business-driven review questions:
- If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?
- What if I let others make decisions up to $100? $500? $1,000?
- What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
- Am I hunting antelope or field mice?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- How can I throw money at this problem? How can I “waste” money to improve the quality of my life?
Here are some personal vision questions:
- Am I making progress on my BHAGs? (i.e. Big Hairy Audacious Goals)
- How would I spend my time if I didn’t have to work for money? (And what’s one tiny action I can take today?)
And finally, another matrix – this time from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
This is quite intense, but crafting one’s life vision shouldn’t be easy – n’est-ce pas?
So, what’s the right approach?
The truth is you probably should mix and match from each quadrant with varying frequency. Execution-based reviews should be more frequent and shorter in duration; Reflection-based reviews, the opposite, longer and less frequent.
Here’s a Notion template that aggregates all of these questions.
In this Notion page, you’ll see four toggles, one for each quadrant, which you can open up and mix and match to create your perfect review.
Now you tell me — which quadrant do you hang out in?