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How to Improve Your Relationship with a Weekly Review

How to Improve Your Relationship with a Weekly Review
How to Improve Your Relationship with a Weekly Review

One of the big complaints that people trying to get themselves more organized and productive have is that no matter how on-the-ball they get, their family still throws them curve balls. While it's clearly insane to expect a 6-year-old to start worrying about todo lists and ubiquitous capture, I think at least part of the problem lies with our attitudes and expectations about our home life. Home is supposed to be a respite, a sanctuary from the pressures of work and public life, and I think that makes us a little hesitant to apply some of the principles at home that we know work for us in our professional lives.

One thing we can easily apply to our home life is the weekly review. The idea was planted in my head by a comment Jonathan Fields made when I interviewed him on Lifehack Live. I had asked him how he takes care of his relationship with his wife, who he works with both as a business partner and as an employee of a major client. Jonathan suggested something like a weekly review, a regular meeting with his wife to go over their plans and processes and see what needed work. A comment made by David Allen in some material I received from DavidCo (which I'll be reviewing in greater depth here soon) gave the idea greater weight — Allen recommends taking an hour or two to do a weekly review with your spouse, though he doesn't elaborate very much.

What would such a review look like? We have lots of great advice, from Allen and others, on how to do a personal weekly review — collect “open loops”, process your inbox, review your lists, review your calendar, and so on. It makes sense in a workplace setting where you have clear “buckets” to collect things in and clear objectives that have to be met. In a family setting, where things can be a lot fuzzier around the edges, what would be a workable weekly review?

Here's what I came up with. It's a good idea to set up a family binder or notebook to keep track of this stuff while you do the review — or else, just make sure that whatever system you each use already is at hand and ready to be added to. Schedule an hour or two when you're both at home (maybe on a weekend morning?) to:

  • Gather loose ends: With your spouse or partner, collect bills, statements, slips from school, letters, etc. and dump them into some kind of inbox, even if it's temporary. It's not a bad idea to set up a basket or tray where all this stuff goes. But as long as there are children, pets, and gremlins haunting your house, be prepared to do some gathering.
  • Process your inbox: Go through everything together and decide what action needs to be done. Write it down — I suggest you set up a family calendar with space for notes (to put a todo list on) and add tasks either into the calendar (on the day you plan to do them) or in the notes area (for non-date-specific tasks).
  • Empty your head: Talk to each other about things that have gone wrong over the past week, things that you're struggling with, things you'd like to do, and so on. Share. Here are some triggers:
    1. What went wrong over the past week?
    2. What did you particularly enjoy that you'd like to do more of? (meals, activities, TV shows, trips out, etc.)
    3. How are you each handling your respective household duties?
    4. What is coming up that you need to be prepared for?
    5. What kind of help do you need from your partner?
    6. What issues in the house have been occupying your thoughts lately? (problems with kids, repairs needed, messiness)
    7. What's going on at work, or coming up at work, that could affect your family life?

    This is where the two-person review is dramatically different from a solo review. You might want to have both of you prepare for this beforehand. You also both need to commit to toal honesty and to constructive response. This isn't a time to criticize each other; it's a time to be open about what's bothering you, with an eye towards fixing it.

  • Review projects and actions: Write down any projects that you need or want to do: upcoming vacations, household repairs or remodeling, car repairs, school performances or meetings, doctor's appointments, etc. Figure out a plan of action for each, and decide who is going to take care of each action.
  • Review checklists: It's a good idea to make up checklists for anything you do with any frequency. The most obvious is a shopping list — I have a single list, organized by store aisle, with the items we buy most frequently (and spaces for additions). We decide what we're going to make in the upcoming week (I should have a checklist for that, too!) and go through the shopping list, cross out anything we don't need, and add anything unusual. Other checklists could include:
    • Travel and packing (if you travel frequently for work)
    • Monthly and quarterly household maintenance (change AC/heater filters, check outside lights, reset thermostats, test smoke detectors, etc.)
    • Birthdays and holidays
    • Health (doctor's and dentist's appointments, pets shots, prescription refills, etc.)
    • Chores (both adults' and kids')

    Check your lists to make sure everything that needs to be taken care of gets taken care of,

  • Dream time: Discuss long-term future plans. Maybe you want to take a vacation — where should you go? Maybe you want to redo the backyard? Or maybe you'd like to change jobs, or careers? This is for someday/maybe-type stuff — think of things that you're not ready to commit to but that would be nice. This lets you start incubating the idea and making plans, together. Give yourself free rein, here — this is where you're bringing your and your partner's wishes into harmony.
  • Last look-over: Review your waiting-for list (if you have one) and any other material to make sure there are no other actions you need to capture.
  • Be creative and courageous: This is straight out of GTD — what “new, wonderful, hare-brained, creative, thought-provoking, risk-taking ideas” can you come up with?

I find in my own relationship that the hardest part is not working out the compromises that keep things running but keeping both of us on more or less the same page. Most people today have very different lives from their partners as far as their primary occupation is concerned; unless we work hard to keep each other in the loop, it's easy to grow out of touch, to make wrong assumptions, to let little resentments grow into major problems.

A weekly review gives you a safe space to air all those little maladjustments before they turn into big problems. They also help you and your partner to better anticipate what's coming up, so that neither of your plans are thrown out of whack when the other does something new. And because you're working together, you'll be better able to face the truly unexpected — the trip to the emergency room when a child is hurt, the sudden business trip, a death in the family, etc. — comes along.

Most importantly, though, you'll be acting as partners, sharing the important work of maintaining and expanding a relationship. You'll be expressing and reaffirming your commitment to making your relationship stronger — and doing the work that allows that to happen. And what could be better than that?

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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