The Importance of the Weekly Review

In the fast pace of the modern business world, it is easy to lose your way and become reactive rather than proactive. As a result, you may forget to process notes from your meetings, put assigned tasks on your task list, or, looking forward, anticipate upcoming meetings and events for which you need to prepare.

The Importance of the Weekly Review

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com//urbancow

When this happens, important items fall through the cracks. You end up embarrassed. Worse, you may frustrate your customers, colleagues, or even your boss.

Part of the solution to this problem is the “Weekly Review.” This is an opportunity to get your head above the daily blizzard of activities and see where you’ve been and where you’re going. In my view, this is the key to staying on top of your projects and assignments. The result is that you stay in control of your workload and keep your business associates happy.

No one has written more compellingly about the importance of the Weekly Review than David Allen. In his book, Getting Things Done he writes:

If you’re like me and most people, no matter how good your intentions may be, you’re going to have the world come at you faster than you can keep up. Many of us seem to have it in our natures consistently to entangle ourselves in more than we have the ability to handle. We book ourselves in back to back meetings all day, go to after-hours events and generate ideas and commitments we need to deal with, and get embroiled in engagements and projects that have the potential to spin our creative intelligence into cosmic orbits. The whirlwind of of activity is precisely what makes the Weekly Review so valuable. It builds in some capturing, reevaluation, and reprocessing time to keep you in balance. There is simply no way to do this necessary regrouping while you’re trying to get everyday work done (pp. 184–185).

I usually do my weekly review at home on Sunday night. By this time, I am usually refreshed and have some perspective. I also like doing it at home because I eliminate most of the distractions that keep me from truly getting my head above the fray at work.

I schedule two hours for my Weekly Review. It rarely takes this long, but I like to have the time blocked off in my schedule. I find if I don’t schedule it, it’s easy to avoid this activity or schedule something else in this slot.

What do I do during this time? Here’s the “agenda” for my meeting with myself. This is modified from David Allen’s list:

  1. Gather all loose papers and process. I empty everything out of my briefcase, my inbox, and my wallet. I then go through each piece of paper and make a decision what to do with it. Following David’s model, I first decide if it is something that requires me to take action. If not, I have three options. I can:
    • Trash it;
    • Add it to my Someday/Maybe list; or
    • File it for future reference.

    If the item requires me to take action, I can:

    • Do it if it takes less than two minutes or add it to my Entourage (or Outlook if you use Windows) task list to do later;
    • Defer it by actually scheduling a time on my calendar to deal with it; or
    • Delegate it to someone else for action and enter it into my Entourage (or Outlook) task list using the “@WaitingFor” category.
  2. Process my notes. I have written previously about the The Lost Art of Notetaking. It’s a critical productivity skill. I have opted for a low-tech solution use a Moleskine notebook. I quickly read back through my notes, looking for action items that I agreed to do (I mark these in the meeting with a star) or actions items I want to do based on my review.
  3. Review previous calendar data. I look over the previous week’s meetings in Entourage (using the Weekly view) and see if there is anything I missed. For example, I don’t usually take notes in lunch meetings, but I may want to follow-up with a thank you note or a gift.
  4. Review upcoming calendar. This is one of the most important parts of the Weekly Review. I note any upcoming meetings with an eye to the preparation I need to do. This keeps me ahead of the curve and my assignments on track. (I am amazed at how many business people show up at a meeting without reviewing their previous assignments. This makes them look sloppy and incompetent. Reality is that they don’t have a process in place for systematic review of previous meetings and assignments.)
  5. Review my action lists. I also try to do this daily, but during the Weekly Review I ask myself the question, “What do I really need to accomplish this week?” If it’s a really important task, I will drag it to my calendar and schedule it.
  6. Review my @WaitingFor list. This is a list of items I have delegated to others and are important enough to track. If something is overdue, or if I need a progress report, I send an e-mail and nudge the person responsible. I note in the task itself that I sent a reminder.
  7. Review project lists. When an action consists of many sub-actions, it qualifies as a project. Here I review my major projects and consider the next action required to keep the ball rolling.
  8. Review Someday/Maybe lists. These are items that don’t require immediate action but would be nice to do someday in the future. If I’m ready to move on one of these, I change the category and enter it into the appropriate action list.

David Allen has a few other items on his agenda (see pp. 185–187) but these are the ones that I find most helpful.

Question: Do you have a weekly review process? If so, what do you do the same or differently? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://blogs.zdnet.com/Orchant Marc Orchant

    Great post Michael! I have found that any week in which my Weekly Review is missed or compromised by rushing through it tends to be a week where I struggle. I used to try to catch up in the midst of the week’s activities but found that to be unsatisfying (I schedule my review for 90 minutes on Friday mid-afternoon).

    These days, I look for any indication my review is at risk and move it forward, not back, in my schedule to make sure it gets done.

  • http://biz.blox.pl TesTeq

    David Allen suggests reviewing “Any Relevant Checklists” and I think it is important for recurring and repetitive actions.

  • http://www.jenniferrothschild.com Philip Rothschild

    Excellent treatment of weekly review Mike. Thanks so much.

    I’d like to add to my “Ask Mike” list:
    Can you address the importance of an administrative assistant? What skill set is critical for them to have? What are things you delegate and which have you found better you do yourself? How has this relationship changed over time (due to technology, client expectations, personal strengths, etc.)? What do you recommend in terms of the “proper care (regard, respect)and feeding” (training, professional development) of your admin. assistant?

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Philip,

    I have added this to my list of blogging ideas. Thanks for the input!

    Mike

  • Anna

    Thanks, Michael, a very useful post. I struggle with the “empty your head” part, and avoid it, unfortunately. I’d love to read what’s your procedure regarding the “empty your head” – if it’s not part of your weekly review – do you empty your head each day? or only when you feel a need to? or don’t you find it useful? Anna

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Anna,

    I tend to do it in real-time. If I am at my computer, I can create a new Entourage task with a single keystroke. If I am away from my computer, I enter it into my Moleskine notebook and transfer it when I get back to my computer.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.thesecretlifeofkat.com The Secret Life of Kat

    Great post, Michael. I’ve gone through and read your life plan and notetaking posts as well. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/janetober janetober

    Great ideas!
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Delphina.Audina

    thanks for another great post
    i try to do similar what i also have added is a task i call
    *Do Before (as others we tend to put things aside which are not on the highest priorties e.g. visit a museum, take a vacation to xy, read a book) so i try to put such tasks into my calendar as like its the last week of an museum exhibition
    *Be-Thankful for (recap but nice things had happened past week )
    *Mind-Bubble (taking some times for playing with ideas,visions etc) keep some space time for creativity

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  • monstroryuike

    111111111111111111111111111111111

  • http://www.briefcasesdirect.com/rolling-briefcase.html Rolling briefcase

    Thank you, i agree with most of the points you have shared. You are bookmarked in my Mozilla now!

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  • http://www.benjermcveigh.com/ Benjer McVeigh

    So true. 15 minutes of reviewing my week constitute some of the most valuable time spent during my day.

    I once knew a youth pastor who was told by his senior pastor to “spend more time in the office.” Why? Presumably because the senior pastor believed he would be more productive there. The problem was that we did less of what a youth pastor was supposed to do, and he eventually felt ineffective at that church and moved on.

    My best work is done in a public library. Free wifi, and the rules state that no one is allowed to distract or interrupt me. Love it!

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    Great advice, Mike. It takes great discipline and effort to stay organized, focused, and diligent. But not as much effort as trying to constantly keep our heads above water!

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    Great advice, Mike. It takes great discipline and effort to stay organized, focused, and diligent. But not as much effort as trying to constantly keep our heads above water!

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

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  • http://about.me/JoshuaSandefur Joshua Sandefur

    This is such a great post!  The weekly review is something I’ve needed to have in place for a long time.  After watching your speech on “How To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week” (http://vimeo.com/26813468), I have been challenged to be a better steward with my time, my health, my marraige and my life.  Most importantly, I am hoping to grow in my relationship with Christ deeply.  I believe the keys I have recieved from your speech and your post here will help me begin to walk in a good and healthy direction.  Thank you for sharing.

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  • http://twitter.com/jerburroughs Jeremy Burroughs

    Great post! Thank you for sharing the steps of your weekly review. I am going to incorporate a similar list into my weekly review. 

  • Rob Sorbo

    I see this as crucial for an executive-level leader like yourself, Mike. However, I’m still a few promotions away from even being a peon. If I followed this model of a weekly review, I’d basically only need to clean out the receipts from my wallet (and the big IF is if I actually had enough money in my wallet to buy something that week!)

    I do recognize this as a great practice, but how would suggest for us lower-level workers implement this?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the process is exactly the same. In order to get tho the next level in your career, you have to start acting like you are already there.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I actually clean the receipts out of my wallet on a weekly basis… :)

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  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    I started the weekly review, both on Monday mornings, to prepare for the week ahead, and Friday afternoons to see what was accomplished, what surprises arose, and what needs to happen next week.

    I find this type of review is good for your team, as well as improves the ability to keep moving the rock forward.

  • http://www.rookie-manager.com/ Kellie

    I’ve not been intentional about this in the past, and as a result things have fallen by the wayside one too many times. Coming Sunday afternoon I will set weekly goals. 

    Thanks for this!

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  • bradblackman

    I’d be interested to see how you approach your Weekly Reviews now that your life is a bit different from when you wrote this. Also, do you and Gail do the review together?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Nope, I still do it on my own. I consult with her on the items where we overlap. Thanks.

      • bradblackman

        The reason I ask: my wife and I have tried doing the weekly review together, but it stresses her out. Now we spend about 15 minutes each week reviewing our calendars with each other, which may be exactly what we need.

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  • Bobby Shaw

    Michael, you’re probably surprised to get a comment on a post that is 7 years old! I have always loved this post and it has been extremely helpful to me. I would suggest you update and re-release it with some of the current routines and tools you use to achieve high levels of productivity. One of the big ones missing here is Evernote! I know you love Evernote and so do I. I am long time member of Evernote and consider myself a Power User. A lot of the filing/organizational tips you talk about can be achieved through Evernote. Just a suggestion. Would love to see this updated and reposted!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestion, Bobby. Actually, I am hiring someone to help me update some of these classic posts. We meet tomorrow afternoon!

      • Bobby Shaw

        Awesome Michael! Can’t wait to see the refresh!

        • http://www.artillerymarketing.com/ Douglas Burdett

          Michael, you’ll probably include Nozbe on your update. While reading this I had to Google Entourage.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Indeed! The technology has changed but the process is the same. I actually review Google Calendar rather than Entourage. I also keep my meeting notes in Evernote now. Thanks.

  • Lois Powell

    This is great information. I have been trying to get a weekly schedule that really works for me and seeing yours has helped me immensely. Thanks.

  • http://myitcareercoach.com/ Tom Henricksen

    Thanks for sharing this Michael. I know I have tried various means to review my upcoming week and making sure I have everything ready. It definitely is helpful to have a system and to use it to happen to the week instead of it happening to you. Just like Covey wanted us to work out of Quadrant 2. Thanks!

  • Owen Hemsath

    Im actually prepping for my team meeting tomorrow and came across this post. Perfect timing! As a avid note taker, im actually excited to review my notes from the last week but reviewing the calendar is one that I didnt think of. Looking forward to trying it out.

  • David Parra

    The Weekly Review is awesome, Getting Things Done is one of the most valueble books out there, Monday Morning is whan I Schedule my review, but after Reading your post I think I will change it for sunday or friday afternoon, I´ll figure out wich time is better for me, Thanks for you post

  • philippe99

    Great article. For me, it is important to find the right time (energy+priority) to do the weekly review. After following my second GTD course, I’m considering to switch my weekly review from Friday pm to Sunday morning.

  • Kat Van Dusen

    I call it my brain dump – purging everything that needs to be accomplished in the coming week and putting it in 3 categories….people, paper, delegate it…..and then choosing by priority whether I do it, delegate it or dump it. I have a tendanacy to look forward rather than back, so I will be incorproating your systems into mine! Grateful for the revisiting of your system….easy how we forget :-)

  • Jesse Phillips

    It’s so funny that you’re posting this today on Facebook! We just launched our Week Dominator product today on Kickstarter, which has a section for week review: http://kck.st/1sLwAH7

    It’s not exactly the same format, but still helpful. I like your format! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to incorporate this into my weekly routine.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Your Week Dominator product looks terrific! Thanks.

      • Jesse Phillips

        :) Thanks, Michael! We’re over 1/5th the way to our goal in 6 hours! Would you mind mentioning it to your followers? I bet they would benefit a ton from it when doing their week review.

  • http://GTDNext.com GTDNext.com

    I love seeing what others do for their weekly review. I am adding this as an idea on something to blog on soon. Thanks!