Get Your Crap Together (Part 3)
This is my third post in a series about my weekly review. Part 1 explains what a weekly review is and why (I think) it should be non-negotiable for creatives (and everyone). In part 2, I walk through the first part of the weekly review process, Getting Clear. You can download my weekly review checklist here.
In my work with creatives, one of the big complaints that I hear is that your important, creative work gets drowned out by accounting, e-mail, contracts, marketing, social media, technology upgrades, and all of the other million things that are involved with running a business. Your most important work is pushed to the side for things that feel urgent, and you are left drowning in lists and unresolvable angst, unable to make progress on the work that that matters most to you, and wondering why you started the business in the first place.
The Weekly review is a simple and powerful tool that strikes at the heart of this problem: how can you effectively manage all of your not-that-important-but-still-needs-to-happen stuff, while still having the time and energy to focus on your most important work?
The first part of the weekly review, Getting Clear, gives you the mental freedom to stop fretting about missing a credit card payment or making the cupcakes for the preschool party. You have a system that will make sure you won’t forget that stuff, so you don’t have to think about it anymore.
The rest of the weekly review, Getting Current and Getting Focused, will help you define how to move forward on your most important goals and projects and give maximum energy and focus to your creative work.
Here’s how to do it.
Define Your Next Actions
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into work or sit down at your computer on Monday morning know exactly what you need to do? In this part of the weekly review you will update your goals, projects, and task lists to make sure your next actions are up-to-date and well-defined.
Let’s talk about next actions. Have you ever put together a to-do list that looks like this?
This, my friends, isn’t a task list. This is a stress-inducing guilt trip, a list that will send you into panic mode (“I have so much to do!”) while at the same time not giving you anything actionable to help you make progress. When you are updating your projects, goals, and task lists, the most important principle to keep in mind is to make your next-actions real actions that are clear and well-defined.
Take the above list as an example. How can we take this list from vague and stressful to specific and actionable?
When you are defining your next actions, you don’t need to worry about the next 10 things that you need to do for a particular project or goal. According to these guys, long lists don't get done anyway. You just need to identify the very next thing that you need to do and make sure that it is clear, specific, and actionable.
Here are the categories that I review each week, making sure that the next actions are well-defined. This seems like a lot, but it really isn’t very time consuming once you have the systems in place and have a bit of practice under your belt.
- Goals. At the end of 2016, Travis and I went through Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever goal-setting curriculum (which I definitely recommend if you are setting personal goals for the first time). Each week, I review all of my goals for the year, note any progress that I made, and update my next actions so that I can keep moving forward.
- Projects. I review my work-related projects (client work and internal projects) and my personal projects (like planning vacations, home decorating, etc.) and define my next actions. It might be something simple, like, “research AirBNB prices in New York,” or “go to hardware store to buy paint.” Most likely, you won’t be taking action on every single outstanding project every single week. But it is still helpful to look over everything that is on your plate when you are making decisions about how to spend your time.
- Calendar. I take a look at my calendar for the upcoming week and make note of any items that require actions, such as creating meeting agendas, making food for a party, or buying a birthday present.
- Task lists. I review all of my tasks in OmniFocus and mark any that I have completed and make sure all of the due dates are realistic, which they almost never are.
- Someday/maybe lists. Honestly, with everything that I have going on with work and family, I almost never get to anything on my “Maybe” list. But, those tasks are still captured, organized, and there when I am ready to take them on.
- Social stuff. Since I work for myself, and from home, I try to make sure I have the chance to see other humans during the week. On Sunday nights I’ll reach out to a friend to see if they want to grab lunch or invite another family over for dinner.
- Real life stuff. I take some time each week to make sure my “real life” stuff is planned out. I create a meal plan and shopping list, decide what errands I need to run and when I am going to do them, and schedule when I am going to go to the gym.
After Getting Clear and Getting Current, you are riding high. You are patting yourself on the back for being so amazing and organized, and you may even be excited to start tackling all of your to-dos for the week. But, we all know that the best laid plans don’t always work out. Your kids are going to get sick, certain tasks will take much longer than you anticipate, you will have fires that you have to put out. Your plans are going to be disrupted by something or someone.
Because this is real life, I find it helpful to set some priorities. Choose one to three things that you really need to get done, even if everything else goes down the toilet.
One Brave Thing
This year I have been pursuing goals for the first time, so I am doing a lot of things that are new for me. Because of this, Travis encouraged me to add “One Brave Thing” to my weekly review. In this section, I call out something that I want to do for the week that is going to require some guts.
A Few Tips
As you start practicing this habit, keep the following things in mind.
- Avoid doing work. This is the one time you actually should procrastinate. This is not a time to work, this is a time to plan your work. If you get sucked into work you won’t ever make it through to the end and get the real benefit of the weekly review — a clear and focused mind.
- Reward yourself. This is a simple habit, but it is definitely not easy. It requires some discipline to sit down week after week and do this. When you get through your weekly review, reward yourself! Eat a piece of chocolate or watch your favorite show.
- Get creative. Don’t feel limited by what I have laid out here, but get creative and customize this process to fit your life. You can add reflection questions, a meditation for the week, an inspirational quote or Bible verse. Whatever will help you stay focused on what is important for your life and work.
- In a crunch? At least get clear. We all have times where we are in survival mode and it is flat-out impossible to sit down for a two hour planning session. You aren't making progress on goals, rather, you are just trying to make it through the day. When you are in seasons like this, I recommend you still try to Get Clear to give you the peace of mind that things aren’t falling through the cracks.
And, finally, remember that all good habits take time to develop. Don’t worry if this seems hard, if it feels like too much, or if you think you will never be disciplined enough to do anything like this. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will be happy with the results.
Download my checklist here.