In Getting Things Done, David Allen popularized the phrase “The Weekly Review” — using that exact phrase more than 30 times in the book. In the newest update to the book, he outlines the Weekly Review as
…the time to:
Gather and process all your stuff.
Review your system.
Update your lists.
Get clean, clear, current, and complete.
He gives a little more “depth” to the steps of a review — outlining 11 specific steps — specifically for getting clear and current, although in that more “indepth” version he adds another C — creative and fails to address clean and complete is this “in-depth” version.
Over the years, I tried — and mostly failed — to keep up a regular process of weekly reviews. And, unfortunately, I’ve watched loads and loads of other people pile guilt and shame on themselves for failing at this ritual that Allen purports as oh so important.
That said, today, I almost always enjoy a state of being clean, clear, current, complete — AND creative. And, when I’m not in that state, I can pretty quickly and easily get back to it — because I rely on systems that I use daily — rather than saving these things all to a weekly review. You don’t have to use my system by any means — but I do want you to release yourself from the stress of weekly reviews if they just don’t work for you like they didn’t for me.
I have two fundamental problems with the Weekly Review — I’ll go over those and share how I overcome them with periodic planning. This helps keep my eyes wide open to opportunities while staying present and purposeful in the moment.
Problem 1: The Weekly Review is Planned Procrastination
I am prone to procrastination. It is simply a part of my nature.
The very way Allen describes the Weekly Review — and the way others talk about it online — feels like planned procrastination to me. Here are some of the things you hear about the Weekly Review from people who claim the label of productivity expert:
“You’ll catch it in your weekly review”
“Use your weekly review to clean up what you missed during the week”
Even Allen’s own description of using it as a time to “get current” feels procrastination oriented to me.
Information comes at us in enormous waves today — not in the mostly slow (at least comparatively so) dribbles that existed when Allen first wrote Getting Things Done. If you don’t stay current you’re going to get swept away in the waves of new information that wash over you every hour of every day.
Instead of a Weekly Review, I now do something akin to a Daily Meeze (ala Dan Charnas’s book Everything In Its Place — which has also gone by the title Work Clean) — and most importantly I try to keep my systems for email, tasks, and notes current every day. While that is a standard I don’t always hit, I come very, very close to it.
Problem 2: The Weekly Review is Past Focused
Nearly every step in Allen’s formal process for a weekly review is focused on looking at the past.
Unfortunately, what’s (in the) past is passed. You can’t change it and you can’t get that time back. So, while I’ve found a little value in looking at the items from my calendar for the week that just ended, I’ve found much more value in looking to the weeks ahead and focusing only on what remains to be done — not on what I’ve already done.
Try Planning Forward for Better Outcomes
Adjust Daily with a Meeze and an Agenda
Instead of a Weekly Review, I recommend a Daily Meeze (it’s about 30 minutes daily which will make an inordinately positive change in your life if you’ve never done it). While not written with the Daily Meeze in mind, my process article is a good overview of what my Daily Meeze looks like — at least for email — which is how most of my work does come in nowadays.
That Daily Meeze is what feeds my daily agenda — my plan for my work for that day. It’s a roughly hour by hour schedule of the things that I expect to accomplish that day. My daily agenda gets built and occasionally I follow it precisely but more often it gives me a checklist to know what changed in importance or urgency during the day and now needs to be rescheduled to another time or not done at all.
Instead of a backwards looking weekly review, I use forward looking planning time at a variety of intervals for different things:
Weekly — meals, errands, household chores and tasks. I do scan through my calendar for the coming week a couple of times during the previous week to give myself an idea of what’s coming — but it’s rarely past focused.
Monthly — I like to spend about an hour each month doing a brief reflection (these feed my monthly updates on my personal web site.) I have a wall calendar that is a gift from my best friend and I’ll write in a loose plan of big events that month — knowing it will change. The biggest thing I do at a month year is arrange any care of Kona — my dog — if I’m going to be traveling that month for work or pleasure.
Quarterly — I do a pretty thorough quarterly planning process — which is about to get even more formal (BIG ANNOUNCEMENT COMING AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE). I look at my annual plan and update any progress on that. I review my business goals for Monarch Strategies LLC. I do a more in-depth financial review and then I make some plans for the upcoming quarter. Some of that is just formalizing what was on my annual plan and some of is removing things from the annual plan that are no longer relevant and replacing it with new ideas and projects.
Annual — I’ve written in detail about the importance of my annual planning time. I’m interested to see how it takes shape this year since it’s the first time I’ll be doing formal planning for the business.
I’ve created and am continuing to refine checklists for each of these planning times and once I’ve fleshed them out to a point I feel like they might be useful to share I’ll do so.
The one framework I do feel ready to share is the one I do quarterly. I am going to start doing my Quarterly Reviews as an online virtual coworking retreat — a FREE coworking session that you can come as you are for as little or as much time as you like.
It’s a virtual coworking session running from 11 a.m. — 4 p.m. eastern on October 4, 2022. You can learn more about the event and register at https://lu.ma/Q4Retreat.
Everyone who registers will receive a copy of my quarterly retreat handbook at no cost. Come for 30 minutes or join me for the entire session — it’s completely up to you! I’d love to see you there.