Why Review? In Defence of Weekly Reviews

The other day I wrote about my routine Weekly  And in October I ran a whole series on crucial, but unsexy tools and routines.

There are tons of articles out there about hacks and tips for staying on top of things. I think that’s mostly an oversight – productivity experts take it as a given that you have some way of checking to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks, the way that fitness experts seem to take it as a given that you’re warming up and cooling off properly before working out.

This is patently ridiculous.

Why Would You Want To Do A Weekly Review Anyway?

The reason it’s assumed that everyone does a weekly review is because there are so many good reasons to do so. People who’ve done weekly reviews for a long time feel nervous and out of control if they don’t use them – and assume everyone else feels the same. Lets call them Group A.

In reality there are lots of people who don’t use weekly reviews.

A not-insubstantial portion of people don’t find their duties and responsibilities so onerous that it needs a formal review process. These are people who don’t get busy enough to need weekly reviews because they refuse to take on more than they can handle in an unhurried and deliberate manner. These people have probably chuckled comlacently under their breath at the people who, in their view, overextend themselves to the point where they can’t enjoy life. Let’s call them Group B. Most of them have likely stopped reading by now.

This article is actually for Group C, the people unlike Group B, take on more than they can reasonably keep in their heads, and unlike Group A, haven’t been indoctrinated into the wonderful world of Weekly Reviews.

Group C has almost certainly heard about weekly reviews, and thinks they’re a good idea, but has never managed to successfully bolt the routine onto their busy lives.

Of course they haven’t! They’re busy, and it’s pretty damn hard to make time for all the things you should be doing. Then they meet up with Group Aers, who smugly declare “I don’t know how you get along without it! Dahling, I would give up my weekly manicure before I’d drop my Weekly Review. I would never be able to sleep, thinking of all the things that might slip through the cracks.”

Then, of course, the Cs retort, “I’ve been doing fine, thankyouverymuch. I don’t let things slip through the cracks either.” But it must be stated (and I hope you don’t take this too hard) that if Group C is not letting things fall through the cracks, they are micromanaging relentlessly in order to do so. It’s very tiring, and of course, once you get tired, the process starts breaking down.

The only difference between the As and the Cs is the weekly review, and I’ll tell you the main reason no one bothers to explain it: It’s too simple. Cs think As are being smug and self-righteous, but As are actually a little bit ashamed to admit that a simple tool like a Weekly Review makes them an order of magnitude more productive.

Ready for this?

A weekly review is a very simple system that, once set up, allows you to simply check once a week, to make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks. The difference between As and Cs is that Cs spend a lot of effort and brain power to make absolutely sure nothing slips through the cracks, and As have confidence that if anything slipped though the cracks, they’ll catch it at the Weekly Review. Otherwise, they don’t pay any attention to anything other than what they’re doing.

The sucky part, and the reason why the weekly review is a tough sell, is that setting up a system – any system – is a huge amount of work. It’s a “block off two full days to set this up” sort of job. When David Allen consults, he makes his clients take a long weekend to set it up- -he says it’s the only way people can get out of the day-to-day operational mode in order to free up the necessary mental resources.

So if you were trying to bolt it on in half an hour once a week, give it up. I’ve been doing Weekly Reviews for years, and it still takes me two or three hours. Its just that I make up that two hours several times over between the lack of dithering about where I should be spending my time and the lack of anxiety that I’m forgetting something.

I’m not saying this to evangelize Weekly reviews. I mean, I do evangelize them, but I realize not everyone needs them. But, if you’re in the group of people who think they’re a good idea but haven’t been able to figure out how to actually get them done I hope I helped.

So, if you want to give weekly reviews another shot, the two best resources I’m aware of are Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Tao of Awesome by Johnny B. Truant. GTD is the Holy Bible of Productivity, it’s widely available, and so are tools and groups specifically for GTDers. On the other hand, the Tao of Awesome is more expensive (it’s an e-course) but I like it better (review here) because I find it easier to implement and maintain. 


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  1. Pingback: Two Kinds of Mental Congestion and Three Ways to Clear Them Up | Remade By Hand

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