Get Your Crap Together (Part 2)
This is the second blog in a series about the only productivity practice you can't live without: the weekly review. In this post (and in part 3, coming next week), I’ll walk you through my own weekly review process, step-by-step.
What is a weekly review? I explain the concept in my previous post.
Set a Time and Place
Travis and I block off Sunday evenings for our weekly reviews. After dinner, I set my computer, notebook, inbox, phone, wallet, file box, and anything else that I will need on the kitchen table. As soon as the kids go to bed around 7:30 or 8:00, I can immediately sit down and get started before getting distracted with something else.
Since the weekly review is a time to get organized and plan ahead, I suggest Friday afternoon, Sunday evening, or Monday morning as the best times. This should be treated as a non-negotiable calendar item. Travis and I regularly turn down obligations that would conflict with this time.
What You Will Need
These are the basic tools you will need in order to do your weekly review.
(I would like to take this moment to confess that I am so technologically challenged that I don’t even know how to set the radio presets in my car. Lifetime credit goes to my dear husband for every digital tool that I use. If it were not for you, I would probably be using a chisel and stone.)
- Weekly Review checklist. Feel free to use mine as a starting point to developing your own.
- Inbox(es). Even with everything being digital these days, you still need a physical inbox, which is a designated place where all of your incoming “stuff” lives until you are ready to go through it. I have a physical inbox on our kitchen counter where I put mail, bills, paperwork from the kids's school, notes I have written to myself, and other physical papers that I need to process during my weekly review. If you work outside of your house, you will need to have a work inbox and a home inbox.
- Task management tool. You need to have some way to capture tasks and keep track of ongoing projects. You can use a program like Asana (what Travis uses) or Omnifocus (what I use), something simpler like Wunderlist, or an old-school notebook. But you must have some method for keeping track of the things you need to do.
- Calendar. I use Fantastical, but any digital or physical calendar is fine.
- Digital and/or physical filing system. You will need a method for storing things that you want to refer to later. We have a small file box for papers and Evernote for digital storage.
This part of the weekly review is about gathering and processing all of the “stuff" that has piled up over the course of the previous week (or many months, if you hypothetically find yourself in that situation) according to the following flowchart.
This is important: You will need to go through every inbox in your life to make sure that nothing has fallen through the cracks. These are all of the inboxes that I process every single week.
- Email. This is a big one. Every week during my weekly review I get to inbox zero. That means that I process every single email according to the flowchart above and am left with no emails in my inbox. Your email was not designed to serve as your to-do list, so don’t try to use it that way.
- Messages. I review all messaging platforms, including texts, Slack, Voxer, and Whattsapp. (I don’t delete the messages in this case, just review them to make sure I haven’t forgotten to respond to something, or worse, forgotten something I said I would do.)
- Physical inbox. Our home inbox mostly includes mail, bills, and papers sent home from school.
- Checking account and credit cards. I review all of the activity from our bank account and credit cards every week, making sure to categorize the transactions according to our budgeting program (Mint).
- Purse and wallet (or work bag, etc). I clear out receipts, coupons, and phantom pieces of paper that like to get stuck in the black hole that is my purse.
Real Life Examples
Here are some examples of the real, actual “stuff” I processed in my weekly review this week.
This is a parking ticket from our friends over at DC Parking Enforcement.
- Is action required? Heck yes. I’m contesting this sucker.
- Will it take less than 2 minutes? Unfortunately, no.
- Defer or delegate? I deferred this task and added it to my OmniFocus for this week, due on Friday. I moved the physical ticket out of my inbox and in to a working folder that I use for things I will need to reference during the week.
Here is another example:
This is a marketing email from Jeff Goins that includes a link to a video.
- Is action required? Yes, I’d like to watch that video.
- Will it take less than 2 minutes? No, it will take 39 minutes to be precise.
- Defer or delegate? I deferred this task to my Someday/Maybe list. It’s not important enough for me to put it on my to-do list yet, but I don’t want to forget about it.
One more example:
This little sticky note never made it into my inbox, but I did grab it off of my desk before doing my weekly review.
- Is action required? Yes, I need to make sure that I add this idea to my list of blog topics.
- Will it take less than 2 minutes? Yes, do it now!
See how easy it is!
Help! I have 32,000 Unread Emails
The first few times I did my weekly review, it took a really long time to get clear. I was backed up on email, had stacks of papers to file, and just had a lot of stuff to process. If this is you, don’t panic. After consistent practice, it only takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get clear; that’s because I only have one week’s worth of stuff to process.
Next week, I will post my final blog in this series, walking you through the more forward-looking aspects of the weekly review.