SPARK Day 8: Start a Weekly Review

Spark Jan 2014

I’ve got a host of bad habits.  I stay up too late.  If I oversleep, I bag my workout because I just don’t have the minutes to spare (I tell myself).  I like Coca-Cola and sweets far too much.  The list of my bad habits goes on but why bore you with that when I can share with you my very best habit and encourage you to try it, too.  Presenting SPARK Day 6:  The Weekly Review.

I love the Weekly Review so much that I want confetti to be falling on you right now so that you know that this practice is really, really special and a game changer in terms of bringing balance to your life while diminishing overwhelm.  So close your eyes for a moment.  Imagine confetti.  Get excited.  Now, let’s go make planning magic.

What is a weekly review?   

A Weekly Review is a planning session that gets your organized and ready for the coming week.  It allows you to consider what you accomplished, plan for what needs to be done with what is going on in mind, and strategize for how to incorporate need to dos and want to dos into your life so that every week you are getting as close to possible to the life you want to lead.  Moreover, the weekly review keeps you cued into what is to come so you never feel caught off guard and it keeps the all mighty super girl quest relatively in check.

Why is the weekly review important?  

Because it forces you to look at how you can take the things on your master to do list from ideas to reality.  And since you added your wellness prescription to your master to do lists, the weekly review also makes sure that you are not all work and no play.  This is so important for sustaining yourself over time.

The weekly review makes you see and evaluate the time you really have available and prioritize responsibilities and desires so that you are able to create and do more of what moves you.  It gets you clear.  It keeps you on top of things.  It helps you look long term.  It allows you to trouble shoot before there’s trouble.

You know that old saying, “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.”  Well, the weekly review is the antidote to that.  It gives you a sense of security and clarity and reassures you that you are not likely to forget anything because there is a built in reminder-system which is a wonderful antidote to anxiety and/or overwhelm.

How does it work?   

Step one.  Regularly Schedule It.  The weekly review needs to happen on a day and at a time that works for you, and it is best if that day and time stay pretty consistent from week to week.  I do my review (for the next week) on Thursday nights, right before bed, typically. Friday afternoons would be my ideal time and that’s when I do during it the summer, but I teach on Friday mornings during the school year and am usually brain-dead/playing Uno or building marble runs with a certain five year old on Friday afternoons so it’s harder for me to get it in. I really LOVE getting my review done for the next week before the weekend even starts because that means that I go into the weekend well aware that the next week is planned for me and that I have scheduled it in a way that isn’t overwhelming and so I can relax over the weekend and not work.

I could see some people wanting to start their week with it (doing it first thing on Monday morning, for example, as a way to center and focus for the week) or even doing it on a Sunday night.  I even have a friend who does hers on Tuesdays and just runs her planning timetable from Wednesday to Tuesday in her mind.  Whatever works for you is great.  Just pick a time and stick to it to build the habit.

Step two.  Decide on your tools.  

A.  A MASTER TO DO LIST  On Thursday, you worked on creating a Master To Do List.  That is one of the tools you will need for your weekly review.  You’ve completed it at this point with both your general master to do list and your wellness prescription.  Moving forward, make sure that you always keep it near you and updated.    

Of note:  if you set annual business or personal goals, seasonal or family goals, write an annual birthday list, etc. make note of those items on your master to do list.  For example, you might have a page in your master to do list that is just for all of your birthday list goals.  You might have another page for your professional goals and another one for your family’s goals.  Doing this allows you to keep these goals closer to mind as you will see them each week during your weekly review and can incorporate them into your regular planning.

B.  CALENDAR  Are you working with some sort of calendar that tracks where you have to be/when?  You need to be.  Whether it is a paper calendar (that would be me; here is the one I use) or a computer or phone calendar, make sure that you are recording all of your appointments, commitments, meetings somewhere.  That’s how we’ll know how much time you actually have available to you so that you can plan realistically rather than make a daily wish list of to dos that actually just makes you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you ever get started.  So, take a few minutes and make sure that your calendar is completely updated with all of your stuff and any familial responsibilities you might have.


C.  DAILY TO DO LIST  Now, you need a spot where you can plan for what you are going to get done each day.  Some people’s calendars have a space next to each day for to do lists.  You can certainly use the notes feature on your phone or in Evernote.  You can buy a general journal or small notebook and have each page or half page be dedicated to a day.  I happen to use a designated notebook that was created exactly for to dos.  This At a Glance Planning Notebook is one of my favorite tools ever.  I’ve been using it for years- this may be my 4th year with it- and I love it.  I think being able to plan your to dos by day is really helpful for perspective.

If you are using something different than the At a Glance Planning Notebook or a to do list feature connected to your calendar, you will want to date your daily to do list system whether it is electronic or on paper.  This will come in handy in the long run as you will sometimes want to jump ahead for a daily to do list item. For example, you may call your child’s pediatrician’s office to make his annual well visit appointment and when you do, they tell you that they don’t have the appointment book ready yet for those dates and to call back on X day.  When that happens to me (as it does), I go ahead and flip forward to that date in my daily to do list and write “schedule Happy’s well visit.”  That way, I don’t have to worry about that later, it’s already there waiting for me.

Also, in addition to getting your daily to do list organized by dates, also look at how you want to organize it based on to do items.  You will see that the to do item lines in my at a glance workbook are pretty wide.  I am pretty succinct with how I write my to do list items so I make two columns out of that big wide line.  On the left hand side are professional/Circle de Luz tasks. On the right hand side, I write personal to do items (for example, WO is workout, 1 chapter is read one chapter in a book– both of these are off my wellness prescription).

Step 3.  Get started.

A.  REVIEW.  Start by taking a look at what you did last week.  Take moment to relish in what you got done before moving on.   Now, consider if everything got wrapped up in the way you wanted it to be.  Do you have anything that needs to move forward in time for further completion?  If so, jot those things down on your master to do list if they are not already there.

B.  SURVEY THE SCENE.  Now, look at what you have coming up during the week for which you are planning.  For example, do you have a presentation on Thursday and you need to finish the powerpoint and handouts for it?  When can you do that?  I would go ahead and write Finish PP for Thursday on my Monday to do list and Finish Handouts for Thursday on my Tuesday to do list, for example.  Before you look at your master to do list, make sure that everything that you need to do to be ready for this week’s responsibilities are accounted for on your daily to do list.

A caveat:  make sure that you are paying attention to how much open time you have in that day to do items that take a lot of time.  If your day is mostly open, you can add more things to your to do list.  If it is pretty packed, you only want a couple items on your to do list.  The idea with your daily to do list is that you are planning for what you can really get done and NOT a wish list.  Wish lists exhaust and defeat us.  Realistic lists are far more empowering.

C.  PREVIEW.  Now, that you have identified all the to dos necessary for what is on the books this week,  look two weeks out.  In order to be prepared for the Monday that is a week out, what has to get done this week?  Apply all of that to your to do list, spreading it out and keeping in mind how much time you really have available this week. For example, I do things that take the most time on the days where I have the most time.  I put things that I can do pretty quickly on the days where I have more things scheduled.

D.  ADD (if you can).  Now, that you have handled everything that is time sensitive, you can look at your master to do list.  But first, look at each day of this week’s calendar and to do list and see how much time you might still have available to you (knowing in your head how long things take you).  If it feels like everything you have already planned will take all the time you have, then don’t worry about your master to do list this week.  It’ll be waiting for you next week.  But, if it feels like you have some time to tackle some master to do list items, go through the master to do list and add appropriately (keeping time in perspective– both when it needs to get done and how long it takes to get done).

E.  ENHANCE  Now that you have your general to dos covered, go look at the good for you stuff and your goals.  How is your wellness prescription going to show up on your daily to do lists.  Maybe you see massage and think oh, I am going to call and get one scheduled on Tuesday and so you write Schedule Massage on Tuesday.  Make sure that self-care shows up in some way on each day’s to do list, that’s a powerful way to make sure that you don’t look up a month down the road and realize that you have completely been neglecting yourself.

F.  BEGIN  When you are done, eyeball the next day’s to do list and feel free to go ahead and prep anything you might need.  In the morning, .always do the thing that absolutely has to be done that day first or- if nothing is that time sensitive- do the thing that you least want to do first.  Flexible, easier things come later as your energy might wane or new things pop up via email or phone calls and you have to put some things that were originally on your list off.

G.  LET GO.  At the end of day, you will likely find that 100% of your list didn’t get done.  That’s okay.  You are learning how much to plan for, how long certain things take you, and living life.  It’s not a big deal if something doesn’t get done (I bet that 60% of the time I do not finish 100% of my list because I am terribly optimistic but I do always get what needs to get done done).  Your last task of each day is to look at what didn’t get done and determine if you are going to add it to the next day’s list or just let it revert to the master to do list and reincorporate during some future weekly review.  Either is fine.  The only rule is no judgment.

F.  TWEAK AND TRUST.  You’ve got a plan in place that as you practice it will give you great calm that you aren’t forgetting anything and that you aren’t over promising (even if it is just too yourself).  I love the feeling that most of my days are really accomplishable because I’ve planned with my reality in mind and that if I don’t get something done, it’s not urgent because of how I prioritize when I start my day.  That gives me both a sense of calm and clarity in a world that sometimes has neither.

How do you organize yourself?  How do you plan your weeks?  What advice do you have for others?  Can you see The Weekly Review working for you?  What challenges could you use help in figuring out?

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2 responses to “SPARK Day 8: Start a Weekly Review”

  1. Jan Morrison

    Hey, just working through this and it is very helpful. Thought I’d add a tweak that I did yesterday. I took my master to do list and asteriked anything I call ‘despicable’ tasks. They aren’t, of themselves, despicable it is more that they are things I HAVE to do and put off over and over. What I put on my yesterday’s to do list was ‘do 2 or 3 items starred despicable.’ Now you may ask why I don’t just put three actual items down? Because I know my rebel child’s heart – giving me some wiggle room in both which ones I choose and how many (2 or 3) makes me feel like I’m not being hectored by my critical parent self. If anyone else gets what I’m saying – give it a try. I did three of my most despicable tasks yesterday so I’d say it works!

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