The Essential Weekly Review

Lately, the Focused podcast has been covering planning, goals, and roles. I think, overall, we don’t spend enough time checking in with ourselves. This is true on an emotional basis (which is why I think journaling and meditation are a great idea). It’s also true on a more strategic level, which I is why I do a weekly review every week.

As you go through your days, it is easy to get lost in the weeds with your task lists and calendars. You need to take a step back and make sure that the windmills you are tilting at actually relate to what gives your life meaning. It is so easy to get off track.

I like to think of weekly reviews as compass checks. If you’ve ever been hiking, you know how important it is to make sure you are actually going in the direction you intend. For that, you’ll need to check your compass. The more frequent you check that compass, the more likely you are not to stray.

So once a week I sit down and look at the roles in my life and how I’m doing. I write down a few words, but more importantly, I force myself to do that compass check and make sure I’m actually marching in the right direction.

I also do monthly and quarterly reviews, and maybe I’ll write about those another day. But one of the best ways to keep yourself on course is to adopt your own weekly review. Put simply, once a year (or twelve times a year) isn’t enough. Fifty-two times a year is much more helpful. Moreover, once, you get rolling with a weekly review process, you’ll find it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of time. My weekly review takes about an hour. Think about all the dumb things you do in a week that take an hour and give one of those up. I guarantee you a weekly review will be worth it.

So here are a few tips if you are interested in trying it out for yourself:

  1. Set an Appointment

    Schedule the time, and treat it as you would an appointment with someone else. The weekly review is way more valuable than most meetings. By putting it on the calendar, you are dramatically improving your chances of actually doing it.

  2. Have an Agenda

    My weekly review starts with an audit of my roles (as discussed in this week’s Focused episode). How am I doing as a dad, a brother, a MacSparky, a healthy human? I take each role and look at how I’m doing and how I could improve. I also ask myself if I’m generally making progress on that role.

After that, I have some weekly prompts that I ask myself generally. It’s a long list, and I don’t answer every question every week, but instead use the list as a jumping off point when something strikes me. A few of the questions, to give you an idea, are as follows:

  • What was the best use of my time this week?

  • What was the worst use of my time?

  • What’s my biggest challenge right now, and what should I do about it?

  • What can delegate this week?

  • What frogs will I eat in the next week? (This is a reference to the Mark Twain quote, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”)

  • What am I looking forward to?

These questions have changed over time, as has everything else about my weekly review. Once you start doing a weekly review, you’ll find ways to change and modify it to your needs. You just need to start and go from there.

Most importantly, when doing a weekly review, take on the role of a supportive friend and not overcritical parent. It is so easy to beat up on yourself in this process. A few weeks ago I fell into a news-cycle doom-scrolling hell and got almost nothing done. I acknowledged that in my review and made plans to turn things around the following week … and I did! Don’t be hard on yourself, be supportive.

I find it interesting that, for me, most weekly reviews are helpful in clearing out all those background processes in my brain and setting me up for a successful week. But once in a while, a weekly review becomes much more when a prompt question unlocks a problem or issue that was lurking just below the surface. You won’t get to those sorts of problems until you specifically look for them.

If you haven’t tried weekly reviews, I would ask you to commit to a ten-week experiment. Ten weeks isn’t a long time, but will be long enough for you to see the benefit of a weekly compass check.