Carpe Septimana

Last week we discussed building a daily planning ritual to make the most of every day. The other planning ritual I love is the weekly review. 

Why

The strength of the daily planning ritual is that it becomes a reliable way to build habits. Knowing it will occur, you can count on certain things happening daily as part of that ritual and stop worrying about them for the rest of the day. This same concept applies to your weekly review. By planning once a week, you can stop worrying about many of the tasks on next week’s docket, knowing you will prepare for them when the time comes.

This is your time to back away from the tactical and get up into the balcony so that you can see the forest from the trees. It enables you to view your work from a more strategic perspective. It’s a great compliment to the more tactical daily planning ritual.

When

For the weekly review to be effective, you need a large block of uninterrupted time. I recommend allocating two hours to this process each week. That may feel like a lot of time. You will quickly gain it back in improved productivity. You’ll also feel less stressed because you are better organized.

My weekly planning window is Friday afternoon. I highly recommend you consider that time as well. Better yet, get all your colleagues to do the same. That way, no one is distracting each other during this critical time.

It has become such a crucial step that I will take as much time as I need on a Friday to complete it. In my prior role as a corporate executive, it was common for me to work until eight at night on a Friday, completing my planning when the rest of the office had gone quiet. You may think this demonstrates a lack of balance between work and family, but it was the opposite for me. When I did not do this, I spent my weekend worrying about what I needed to get done before Monday. I would routinely stress knowing I had work to do, but I needed to figure out how much or what was necessary. As a result, I was not present with my family throughout the weekend, and I undoubtedly resumed working by Sunday.

With the weekly planning ritual in place, I entered the weekend knowing precisely what the next week held for me. If work needed to happen over the weekend, I knew how much, and I would set aside time to finish it. And often, I could knock that out quickly before closing on Friday and enter the weekend with a clean slate. Working late on Friday allowed me to unplug and be fully present with my family on Saturday and Sunday. It was and still is, absolutely worth it.

To keep this time sacred, I eventually moved to a construct I call Fake Vacation Friday. I blocked my calendar from 2-6 PM as Out of the Office instead of Busy. Unfortunately, the culture where I worked was such that Busy time was frequently ignored. People scheduled overtop of the Busy time, and I could have done better at saying no. Vacation time, on the other hand, was typically honored, helping me preserve the time (and making it easier for me to say no if someone attempted to schedule over it).

How

You will notice I said two hours for this instead of the 10–15-minute block for daily planning. I use this time to assess my progress for the past week, consolidate any tasks that are not on my master task list, review projects for the next action required, reassess priorities, check progress against goals, and plan the week.

Here’s my weekly review. See last week’s post for tips on using a checklist app to support the process.

My Weekly Review Checklist

  • Remove all distractions (phone in focus mode, close all unnecessary programs on my computer)
  • Process loose papers in my backpack
  • Clear off my desk
  • Process any notes on my physical notepad
  • Process any notes on my whiteboards
  • Consolidate any out-of-place Evernote notes
  • Consolidate any tasks in Evernote
  • Review the calendar for next week and identify any prep tasks
  • Review my consolidated task list and adjust priorities
  • Review my future task list to see if anything needs to move to the main task list
  • Plan my runs on my calendar
  • Add breaks to my calendar where needed
  • Review my work projects and identify actions
  • Review my work email and identify actions
  • Review my personal projects and identify actions
  • Review my personal email and identify actions
  • Update my weekly metrics and identify actions
  • Update my quarterly goal plan and identify actions

Yes, it is an extensive list! That is why I block two hours. 

Putting It Into Practice

  • Block the planning time out in your calendar. Consider marking it as Out of the Office.
  • Build a weekly review checklist
  • Start simple. Consider a shorter ritual where you review the week ahead and deeply dive into your tasklist to reprioritize.
  • Gradually expand the process as you build the habit.

My weekly planning ritual originates from David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. If these techniques resonate and you want to go deeper in a self-directed way, his book is a great resource.

Schedule time with Josh.

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