Moving from task to task each day leaves little room to be strategic about the big picture of our lives. Jam-packed days turn into hectic weeks. Busy months become whirlwind years.
If you’re lucky, you happen to make incremental progress towards your goals. If you’re not, 365 days pass leaving you standing in the same spot you were the year before, despite the feeling you were moving forward. Making meaningful progress in work and life requires more intention than just checking off tasks on our daily to-do lists.
That’s where the weekly review comes in.
A weekly review is an opportunity to direct your life with intention. It’s dedicated time to think about the past week, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and plan for the week ahead. It’s a chance to get aligned with your goals and ensure that the work you’re doing on a daily basis is helping you reach them. It avoids you ever having to ask, “What was I doing all this time?”.
The weekly review is a core part of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology created by productivity consultant David Allen. He breaks down his weekly review method into three discrete sections:
Get Clear: Process all your loose-ends.
Get Current: Make sure all your items are up to date.
Get Creative: Come up with new ideas to improve how you live and work.
"The Weekly Review will sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week."
- David Allen, Getting Things Done
Try a weekly review if you...
Usually start the week without a plan and just "wing it"
Feel busy but haven't made any real progress toward your goals
Want to set aside regular time for reflection and self-improvement
Are a human being who wants to get more done (seriously, weekly reviews are so great, we think everyone should do them!)
With inspiration from Allen’s Weekly Review method, we'll walk you through how to complete a weekly review. It’s an impactful practice for those who practice GTD, but it's also a key component of other popular productivity methods like time blocking and OKRs. The truth is, everyone should do a weekly review regardless of your day-to-day workflow. There’s no one-size-fits all method, so customize your weekly review so that it works for you.
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Why everyone should do a weekly review
With everything you’re already doing, committing to a weekly review sounds like an added chore. If you already have a productivity method in place, why add more complexity to your week? On the contrary, a weekly review provides clarity and direction. It’s well worth the hour-long investment each week.
Gain an objective view of your week
A weekly review makes you take a step back from the daily grind and view your week as a whole. Instead of bouncing from week to week without a true idea of what you’re accomplishing, a weekly review forces you to pause and reflect:
What did I get done this week versus what I planned to get done?
What unexpectedly arose this week that blocked my productivity?
Why was I so efficient this week as compared to the last one?
A weekly review asks you to examine what went wrong and what went right. In taking time to reflect each week, you’ll inevitably see patterns emerge that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
“I was derailed in my writing this week by several unexpected meetings. I'll speak to my manager about minimizing these occurrences so I can focus.”
“I got more done than ever this week by offloading administrative work to my part-time virtual assistant. It may be time to hire him in a full-time capacity.”
A weekly review clarifies your thinking and drives better decision making. As a result, you'll end up getting a lot more done in the long-run.
Be proactive in planning
Having a central place where you can add tasks as they arise is important for emptying your mind and off-loading your ideas to a “second brain”. However, this ad-hoc approach isn’t a productive way to plan out your week.
A weekly review isn’t only a retrospective, but a prospective too. It lets you run through the upcoming Monday to Friday and get prepared in advance. You’ll start each day armed with the game plan that you created during your weekly review.
Proactively planning for the week ahead doesn’t mean scheduling every single thing you’ll need to do. Instead, it means laying out your top priorities so they have visibility in your calendar or task list. This approach helps you get out of reactive mode and get ahead of your to-dos in a way that aligns with your long-term goals.
Get better every week
As they say, “what gets measured gets managed”. If you have an eye towards improving your productivity, tracking it closely during your weekly review will help you get more done.
To get started, identify a relevant metric you want to track and improve based on your long-term goals. For instance, if you’re preparing for a professional exam like the MCAT or LSAT, your relevant metric might be “hours studied”. Your metric could even be the number of pomodoros you completed or hours spent doing deep work.
|Metric||Goal||Actual||Plan of action for next week|
Hours spent coding
Cancel 2 1-hour weekly meetings that no longer require my input and put that extra time toward development.
Download a browser extension to block social media and free up more time to focus and write 200 extra words/week day.
Keeping track of your metrics isn’t about endless improvement; at some point you’ll hit an upper limit. But when you're just starting out, setting aside time during your weekly review to reflect on your metrics will shine a light on how you actually spend your time and where you can improve.
Completing your weekly review
Let’s dive into how to actually complete your weekly review. It’s not enough to take a quick glance at your task list, smile with satisfaction or resolve to do better next week. Taking full inventory of your performance requires more tailored effort.
Choose your weekly review day, time, and place
Consistency will keep you on track when motivation won’t. Do your weekly review at the same time on the same day every week. You may even want to try doing it in the same place too – your favorite reading nook in your house or even your neighbourhood coffee shop. This way, you’ll build up a consistent habit each week and will feel “off” if you skip it.
Here are a few options for your weekly review day:
Friday afternoon: Friday is a natural end of the work week. It's also when our productivity levels dip as we look forward to the weekend. Instead of browsing the web at your desk or counting the minutes until happy hour starts, take this time to complete your weekly review. You'll head into the weekend confident that everything is organized and accounted for.
Sunday evening: Sunday is when the work week ahead looms large, and we already have Monday on our minds. Channel any anxiety about what's coming up into a weekly review. Use this time to reflect on the preceding week and get out ahead for the next one. Then take the rest of the night to disconnect and do something relaxing, knowing that you're ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning.
Monday morning: Monday is the natural start to the work week, but it can be hard to get going after the weekend. A weekly review is the perfect way to ease into the week. You have enough distance from the past week to do an objective review and are mentally refreshed to lay out a plan of attack for the week to come.
Use Todoist’s recurring tasks to schedule your weekly review on the same day at the same time each week. That way, you’ll never miss a day.
Have your weekly review on a Wednesday if that's what makes sense for you! The day doesn’t matter: consistency does. Make sure you set aside adequate time to run through your weekly review in full. We recommend a full hour at least. Given that there are 168 hours in the week, devoting just one to optimizing the other 167 is a bargain.
Create your weekly review checklist
Before you jump in, have a checklist handy that details exactly what you’ll go through during your weekly review. For instance, here’s the checklist that David Allen’s Getting Things Done Methodology recommends using:
Collect loose papers and materials – Capture and sort items like receipts and business cards you’ve collected over the week.
Get “in” to empty – Process all your notes, emails, texts, and any other “incoming” items.
Empty your head – Write down anything that’s taken up mind space recently but hasn’t been captured in your system.
Review “Next Actions” lists – Take inventory of the tasks and reminders you have coming up.
Review previous calendar data – Flip through the last 2-3 weeks of calendar items to look for any outstanding items of things that may require follow-up.
Review upcoming calendar – Zoom in on the future by looking ahead at your calendar items. Ensure that anything you need to prepare for is captured on your task list.
Review “Waiting For” list – Reflect on outstanding items you need from others and make a note of what requires follow-up or impacts your own work.
Review “Projects” (and “Larger Outcome”) Lists – Look through any and all project lists to assess their progress and make additional action items to drive initiatives forward.
Review any relevant checklists – Assess any other lists that are relevant to work and life that may need your attention.
Review “Someday/Maybe” list – Check any lists such as “business ideas”, “vacation plans”, or “books to read” to check is “someday” might be “today”.
Be creative and courageous – This is an opportunity to make your dreams actionable - think of bold projects you can plan or interesting ideas you want to pursue.
Of course, a weekly review checklist should be completely individualized for you. While you may want to borrow certain aspects of David Allen’s Getting Things Done weekly review checklist, also include checklist items specific to your particular workflow and goals. Get inspired from the checklist above or build your own from scratch. You can leave your checklist broad and inclusive or be specific and narrow.
As a starting point, download the GTD Weekly Review template. Then customize your checklist to fit your needs.
Here are a few important questions to consider when putting together your weekly checklist:
Does my weekly review...
...include space to declutter physically, digitally, and mentally?
...provide an accurate assessment of the past week?
...let me evaluate progress and get current on my major goals and projects?
... help me plan for the week ahead?
... leave room to cultivate inspiration and spontaneity?
These questions will guide you to creating your own weekly review checklist that’s unique to your life, job, and goals. Here’s an example of a checklist you could create centered around the considerations above:
|Weekly Review Section||Checklist|
Check goals and projects
Map my future
Here are some added tips to keep in mind while going through your weekly review:
Be objective – Imagine you’re a consultant who’s been hired to assess a week in your life. Try your best to take an unbiased look at your week and lean on objective measures of your performance for the week (i.e. “tasks completed”, “hours slept”, and “words written”). Taking an honest look at your successes and shortcomings will help you plan better for the future and optimize each week.
Be efficient – Move from one checklist item to the next without lingering too long in any one area. Spending an excessive amount of time on your review could take it from 1 hour to 2 or 3. This is a sure-fire way to start putting them off because they’re too time consuming. Be comprehensive but efficient in your approach.
Be kind – Often a review can turn up some damning results: we completed half the tasks we said we would, didn’t get a workout in, and made next to no progress on a key project. Instead of beating yourself up about a bad week, gently reflect on what went wrong and plan for a more productive week ahead. Resolve to do better next week - whether that’s eliminating distractions to enter deep work mode or prioritizing sleep so you’re at your most effective.
Make your weekly review more objective with a time-tracking tool like RescueTime. It will automatically give you a breakdown of exactly where your time online went each week.
Most importantly, there’s no “wrong way” to complete a weekly review. The best method for this productivity practice is the one that’s helpful and sustainable. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with your weekly review. It should be just as adaptable and changeable as your life.
Develop a set of questions
Aside from running through a checklist of to-dos for your weekly review, have a list of questions you can ask yourself too. Coupling a weekly review checklist with targeted reflection gives you a full assessment of your week.
Here are a few questions that can be helpful to ask yourself during your weekly review:
How do I feel I did this week overall?
What enabled me to reach my goals this week?
Has anything stopped me from reaching my goals this week?
Which actions did I take this week that will propel me towards my long-term goals?
How can I improve for next week?
What can I do next week that will set me up for my long-term goals?
What should I plan for in the next month? Year? 5 Years?
Jot down your answers in a space dedicated to your weekly reflections. That may be a journal, a note-taking app, or a running list of comments on your Todoist weekly review task. Try limiting yourself to 1-3 sentences each. Again, the longer and more arduous your review is, the less likely you’ll be to maintain the habit.
Forcing yourself to really think about the answers to these questions pushes you to be mindful of how you’ve spent your time over the last week and often inspires improvement.
Setting up your weekly review with Todoist
We recommend digitizing your weekly review so your checklist and reflection questions live in one easy-to-access place you can come back to each week –– even when you’re on the go.
Here's how we recommend running your weekly review with Todoist:
1. Create a new project. Start a new Todoist project and name it “Weekly Review”. Add it to your “favorites” so it’s easy to find and stays top of mind.
2. Use sections to organize your weekly review. There are an infinite number of ways to organize your weekly review. If you follow the GTD Methodology, use the "Get Clear"/"Get Current"/"Get Creative" approach for structuring your reflection session.
Or you might want to organize your weekly review so that it reflects the areas in your life you've decided to prioritize: “Work”, “Family”, “Health”, “Savings”, and “Home”. Regardless of how you choose to structure your weekly review, sections are a flexible way to organize and divide your hour-long session into distinct segments that help you cover it all.
3. Add your checklist items as recurring tasks. Once you have your sections in place, add tasks under each one. Pull directly from your checklist. Add each item as a recurring task so you can mark them as “complete” one Sunday and have the task automatically reset for the following week.
With Todoist Premium you can add comments and attachments to your weekly review tasks. Note any specifics or add reflection questions directly to each of your checklist items.
4. Set up a weekly review reminder. Once you’ve set up your project, generated your sections, created your checklist items, and added any relevant details, you’re set for your weekly review in Todoist. There’s just one last thing: add a recurring task to remind yourself to complete your weekly review so it becomes a habit.
“[T]he Weekly Review is the critical success factor for marrying your larger commitments to your day-to-day activities.”
- David Allen, Getting Things Done
A weekly review will save you time by sharpening your focus on what helps you get things done and what steals your attention. By taking a close and regular look at our performance, we’re empowered to improve it.
Instead of wondering why we haven’t accomplished our goals only when January 1 rolls around, a weekly review gives you 52 opportunities to start fresh. 52 chances to improve on the previous week. 52 moments in time to learn more about ourselves and how we work.
In resolving to regularly reflect on how we’re doing, we’re better equipped to clear our minds, tackle our goals, and live not just more productive lives but also more fulfilling ones.
Fadeke is a writer and marketer at Doist. She's passionate about telling stories of better ways to live and work.