The idea of a weekly review was first made popular by David Allen.

He suggests that you cut out a block of time each week to review the previous week, and an additional block of time to plan the upcoming week.

I’ve learned a lot from his methods and I incorporate much of his teachings in my processes.

But the fact is, you don’t want a weekly review that takes several hours to complete.  Because you won’t do it.

Here’s a quick weekly review that doesn’t take all day, and will save you countless hours throughout the week…

1. Clear

  • Clear your work area.  This includes your physical desk, and your computer desktop.  File all of the loose papers and close all of the unneeded windows on your computer.
  • Clear your inbox.  Inbox zero is a good goal, but don’t obsess over it.  When I clear out my inbox, I file it into “Action Required” if there is action to be taken on the email, “Reference” for non-action emails that I may need information from, and “Archives” for everything else.  If you need to find an email, do a quick search.  This will eliminate all the time spent filing, and searching has actually been shown to be quicker than looking for a filed email.
  • Clear your head.  You should have a way to collect ideas that come to you throughout the day, but if you’ve been thinking about something and you haven’t written it or typed it down yet, do that now.  I created a simple “Idea Capture” list in GoTasks to accomplish this.

2. Reflect

  • Review the previous week.  Figure out what went right and what went wrong.  The good and the bad, because you can learn from all of it.  Come up with a list of questions to ask yourself like “What did I do well?…and not so well?” and “Did I reach my goals?”, etc..
  • Review the specific hours you spent.  Did you spend more or less time reading than you wanted to?  What about working on your side project?  Journaling? Exercising? Writing?  This will really highlight when you’ve been putting something off for a long time.  It only takes a few weekly reviews to realize that you’re never going to get to some things unless you start putting them in your schedule now.
  • Review your “someday, maybe list”.  If you don’t have a “someday, maybe list”, you should start one.  It’s one of David Allen’s ideas that stuck with me.  You know all of those big dreams and ideas you have, like learning a new language, taking a self-defense class or going skydiving?  Things you’ve always wanted to do, but you can’t do them right now? You’re never going to actually do any of that if you don’t write it down somewhere to remind yourself that you want to do it. Just don’t forget to actually review this list each week.

3. Plan

  • Schedule your to-do list.  Make sure everything that’s done is checked off, and look at what isn’t done.  Once it’s down to only things you haven’t yet completed, you’re ready to schedule.  The only way you’re really going to clear your to-do list is to schedule what’s on it.
  • Schedule your upcoming week.  Yes, schedule everything.  I schedule time for work, writing and exercise, but I also schedule time for reading, journaling and doing whatever I want.  That’s right, it’s perfectly productive to have time set aside to do whatever you feel like doing at the time, but letting that happen all the time is morbidly unproductive.  I even schedule when I’m going to run errands based on where I’ll be throughout the week.
  • Learn to be flexible.  Sometimes you have to say “no” to people when you already have things on your schedule, even if it’s something that can be done later.  It’s important to stick to your schedule; however, you don’t want to become a time nazi.  It’s ok to break away from your schedule occasionally, just don’t make it a habit.

I do my weekly review on Sunday evenings.  It doesn’t matter when you do it, only that you do it.

Final Tip: One thing that’s helped me a lot with my to-do list is adding a “next action” beside each item.  This makes it super easy to schedule.  If you have a large project on your to-do list, simply ask “what’s the next action that needs to happen for this item?”  It may be as simple as doing some internet research.  If that’s the case, schedule that internet research.  This is a sure way to be productive and to clear your to-do list.

The most important thing is to not make this review process easy enough so you’ll actually do it. Mine takes about 30 minutes, and never more than one hour. That’s less than one hour for an entire week. That’s what people mean when they say a one hour weekly review can save tons of hours throughout the week.  It’s true.  One hour of planning can add up to 10 hours of productivity to your week.  Planning is powerful.