Because we crave peace of mind, we need to reevaluate our plan weekly so that we can prudently prepare for our current responsibilities.
What is a weekly review?
The biggest obstacle we have in working a plan is actually trust.
We don’t trust our plan because we fear not being able to be flexible or we doubt our own ability to follow-through.
We know that real life doesn’t follow our plans, so our planning time becomes wishful thinking time where we imagine all we could do if things would only go our way. As soon as things don’t go our way (like first thing Monday morning), we toss the plan out the window.
We have to do that, because that plan wasn’t made for real life.
Instead of wasting time on wishful thinking plans, we need to make plans in light of our current reality and use them not as a tool of control against others, but as a tool to control our own moment-by-moment choices – even if that choice is to switch gears and take care of the current urgent, unexpected need.
Our plans should help us make those judgment calls with calm clarity and consistent conviction. The weekly review is a time set aside to remind us what we have on our plates and choose our commitments so we can stay organized.
We take some time and look at the calendar, make fresh to-do lists, decide what our biggest responsibilities are this week and then make sure those stay in front of our faces so they can get done.
Once we spend some time getting organized, the next step is to stay organized. We can’t stay organized without looking at our plans and keeping our systems on track. A weekly review is the key to staying on top of the maintenance real life requires.
Moms need a weekly review just as much as a business executive. We have sports practices, volunteer dates, meals, and so much more we must accomplish in a week. The process of evaluating everything that’s upcoming in a calm manner beforehand helps us meet our commitments with peace and preparedness.
Regular review is the absolute key to maintaining a sense of organization. We have to look at our lists to make them happen, and that looking over is called a review. A weekly review sharpens our intuitive focus on our important projects as we deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at us the rest of the week.
If we have a sense of where we are, where we’re going, and what we have going on, we’ll be able to make better on-the-fly decisions about commitments and responsibilities and ideas that come at us throughout the week. That’s one way we stay organized.
But it is hard to discipline ourselves to set aside the time for a weekly review. We are used to scrambling. We just keep on going as one week becomes another without pausing to reflect and set ourselves up for any solid, focused progress. But it is only our own peace of mind and sanity we are sacrificing when we skip a weekly review.
In his productivity classic, Getting Things Done, David Allen says that a weekly review is the key to both peace of mind and staying organized. Allen recommends we set aside 2 hours at the end of every week to update lists, do a brain-dump and processing routine, and generally evaluate how things went and what needs to be done next week. This is a time to look at your past calendar, transfer anything you need, look at what’s coming up for the next week and the next month, and jot down any notes the overview process inspires.
Instantly, the mom-mind rebels. We do not have a spare 2 hours each week! Allen tries to tell us we will reclaim wasted time by reserving a consistent regular review, and he’s not wrong, yet we still cannot commit 2 hours of uninterrupted time to anything as moms at home. There is no office door to close, no phones to hold, no babysitter time to spare.
However, a weekly review does not need to take two hours to be effective. In fact, a weekly review does not need to take even one hour. You can take 15 minutes to get your stuff ready for the week ahead. A weekly review is the key, the linchpin, to being sure that our planner is effective and helpful, not a waste of time.
It is by a regular weekly review that we can keep a clear mind and a sense of relaxed control in the midst of a crazy and full life.
It is precisely because our work at home threatens to deluge and overwhelm us at all hours and every day that we need to carve out a time and space to strategize, to regroup, and to be refreshed.
Your weekly review is where you get fresh and current, where you process all the incoming opportunities, responsibilities, and tasks that have been thrown at you during the week, so you can wrap up the loose ends from the previous week and be prepared for the upcoming week.
After all, being organized is really about being prepared.
As moms, we’re functioning as managers of our homes – if we want to be savvy and smart, we will take the time to keep up to date and on top of our game. We can’t do that moment by moment, so we must carve out thirty minutes or so at the end of the week to pull back and process.
Your weekly review is when that happens.
Step #1: Brain Dump
A weekly review is the solution to feeling like your life is out of control. To know what you need to review and when, first think through these prompts – by writing down whatever comes to mind.
When is a good time for you to look back over the past week and look ahead to the next? What is already a part of your weekend that you can tie your weekly review to?
Step #2: Write a weekly review habit statement
If we have a cue, clarified motivation, clear action steps, and a reward, we’re going to be more likely to follow through on our plans rather than skip it. Use your previous brain dump to fill out the habit statement formula.
Because I want (desired result or direction),
I will (specific action)
when (identify a clear cue or time)
so that _(benefit of action)_.
Commit to a time you will try for at least a month to use 30 minutes for a weekly review. Tie this new routine to a current habit as the cue. Put it on your calendar as an appointment with yourself.
Choose the very first thing you will do as you begin your weekly review and the place you will do it. The first action might be sitting down and opening a can of sparkling water; it doesn’t have to be a part of the weekly review itself. Starting the same way every time is a helpful way to build a new routine.
Write a habit statement. Fill in this phrase: “Because I want ___________,”. Then add your main clause with your first action: “I will _____________”. Next, add your cue to perform the action: “when ________________________.” Conclude the statement with the reward you will notice as you do your action “so that I ________________________.”
On an index card you keep in a prominent place, copy your habit statement.
“Because I want to have a handle on the upcoming week, I will open my planner and calendar to begin my weekly review when breakfast is over on Saturday morning so that I can drink coffee and get prepared.”
“Because I want peace that I haven’t forgotten important things and excitement at the thought of tasks that will move my goals forward, I will use the worksheet & list to complete a weekly review during quiet time on Saturday so that I can freely move on to Saturday fun time.”
“Because I want clarity for the next week, I will open my planner at the kitchen table to complete a weekly review after the kids go to bed Sunday evening so that I have peace of mind going forward.”
“Because I want to feel less scattered and more prepared for the upcoming week, I will work through my weekly review checklist Sunday afternoon so that I can feel less anxious about my responsibilities.”
“Because I want to be ready for the upcoming week, I will begin my weekly review checklist after our Sunday Family Meeting so that I have the whole family’s needs in mind while I make my lists for the week.”
The Weekly Review Process
A weekly review is the pivotal practice for peace of mind.
A weekly review is not part of a go-go-go work mode. It is a reserved thinking-time mode where you make sure you have some quiet and you regroup and reassess. I know that can be hard to find. If need be, it is worth getting up half an hour early or staying up half an hour later. It is worth sending the kids outside and using the time to pull things together instead of fold laundry or cruise Facebook.
When we sit down with your planner for a weekly review, it helps to have a process list to follow because it is easy to get distracted, sidetracked, and waste time.
Gather your planner, calendar, and a notepad for jotting quick notes and brain dumps as you work through your weekly review process. If you have mail or emails that will affect your next week’s activities or tasks, have those handy as well.
1. Flip through your whole planner, glancing at each page.
If you write things down but never look at what you’ve written, you’re not going to trust your planner. You don’t have to read every page, but you should flip by and glance at each page, just so you keep fresh with what’s there.
Look over your calendar closely for the next week, but also check what’s coming up in the next three weeks and even the next two months. Is there anything you need to prepare for? Take notes as you read through these big-picture places, don’t immediately start filling in your actual task list yet.
With your calendar helping you make smart choices, plan the food for the week – both the menu plan and the shopping list. Don’t draw this process out and make it complicated. Use your meal strategy page to do this quickly. Now is not the time to browse recipes online, but to draw from your previous legwork. As you read the meal strategy pages and pantry master list, use the notepad to sketch your food plan for the upcoming week.
Read over your routine details. How did you do this last week? What’s working, what’s not working? Now’s not the time to change things up, but just to spend a minute thinking about it. What will you work most on this coming week?
3. Set up lists for the week.
Your plan for the week is made of your food plan, your top three tasks, a running list of subordinate tasks, and your routine or habit tracking. Do you have those pieces in place and visible? Is your task list informed by your calendar, notes, and running lists? Don’t add an unrealistic number of tasks. Look at your calendar and predict what will be reasonable for the coming week.
Also, look at your previous week’s dashboard. How did you do? Do you have tasks that need to move off your current view and onto the running list? Do you need to move last week’s tasks onto this week’s list? Mark meals that were a hit and those that fell flat so your next meal strategy can be better tuned to your family.
Although it’s easy to draw this process out and make it elaborate and consuming, it really can be done quickly, especially if we practice it regularly, use our planners daily, and also set a timer so we remember to focus and not let the time get away from us.
Step #3: Start with a baby step
The only way to begin to figure out how to do a weekly review is to practice, adjust, and learn as you go. Just jump in and try it. Something is better than nothing.
Your baby step weekly review should only take 15-30 minutes. Get good at this basic version before expanding and customizing.
Flip through your whole planner, glancing at each page.
What blocks of time do you have that are discretionary? How much of those do you need to mentally reserve for parenting?
When you want to take on a project or new responsibility, look at your time budget to see if you have the capacity for it at this time.
Step #4: Iterate for progress
Sometimes a full weekly review isn’t possible
It will happen. Not only will life get in the way of your planned weekly review, you will forget, postpone, or neglect your weekly review time slot. Most people take many tries before they even find the time slot that will work for them and the time and place that worked at one point will not work forever.
It’s also common to look at that list of 4 steps and overzealously overcommit in each one of them, instead of seeing the bare minimum as adequate for now. Very few of us have the time or commitment to completely process everything that’s in our heads – after all, so much is in our heads!
Starting is the hardest part of any process, so make starting as easy and simple as possible. I try to create a trigger situation to help myself get into a groove. Once this process becomes a habit, though, it will be straightforward to stay organized and keep on top of the details of your life.
Pro Tip: Evening reviews make weekly reviews much easier. It’s much simpler and more natural-feeling to do a weekly review when you’re in the groove of the evening examen because it doesn’t feel like such a big lurching change-of-thinking-mode and because you’re not saving an avalanche of brain dump material for one day a week. Work Your Plan #5 is about evening reviews.
Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.
If you have a sense of where you are and where you’re going and what you have going on, you’ll be able to make better on-the-spot decisions about commitments and responsibilities and ideas that come at you throughout the week. That’s how to stay organized.