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12 Ways to Upgrade Your Weekly Review

12 Ways to Upgrade Your Weekly Review
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    Fans of GTD will already be familiar with the weekly review. Weekly reviews are designed to give you uninterrupted thinking time each week. Instead of tackling the big questions of your life between coffee breaks and morning commutes, you can set aside time to do a review.

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    Weekly reviews are a great concept and I’ve used them faithfully for the past few years. But I’ve found just setting aside time to review isn’t enough. Without any structure for your review, these weekly sessions don’t accomplish much. Random musings of the week aren’t as useful as specific ideas for tackling the next seven days.

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    What Are Your Mental Bottlenecks?

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    A bottleneck is a term used to refer to the limiting step in a process. If you have enough fabric to make 200 shirts, but only enough buttons to make 20, the button sewing is your bottleneck. Mental bottlenecks occur when a lack of ideas or planning keep you from doing your best. Overspending because you didn’t plan out a budget or wasting work time because you didn’t organize your week are both examples of mental bottlenecks.

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    Weekly reviews can help you overcome mental bottlenecks. With a structured review you can prevent wasting time and energy in the week ahead.

    Weekly Review Tips

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    Here are some ways you can upgrade your review to overcome mental bottlenecks:

    1. Time Off Review. Carve out when your downtime will be during the week. By deciding when your time off will be first, you prevent work from expanding to fill your entire week. Don’t let your energy levels get down so low that you can only function on caffeine and adrenaline. Try to pick a day where you won’t work on major projects, and move your work to morning hours instead of in the evening.
    2. Weekly To-Do. Write a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish in the next week. A weekly to-do allows you to squeeze in activities that don’t scream with urgency, but have long-term importance. Weekly to-dos also help set the pacing for your week so you can see how much work you need to split up for each day.
    3. Goal Review. Go through any written goals you have and write out what you did to work on them in the past week. Spending time to carefully review your goals each week can help you stay aligned.
    4. Optimization Review. When you use a traditional goal setting + to-do list approach, every activity becomes either a multi-month project or a short task. Weekly optimizations help you find the middle ground. Brainstorm a list of short projects that would take less than a week, but could have long-term significance. Then pick one of these short projects to work on next week.
    5. Expenses Review. Tally up all of your expenses for the past week and compare this to your monthly budget. Keeping track of your spending on a weekly basis can make for easier purchasing decisions later. If you know you’re going over the amount you wanted to spend, you’ll know to cut back on non-essentials in the following week.
    6. Habit Review. I have several habits that I do my best to run each week. Exercising, waking up early, staying organized and batching my internet usage are just a few. Reviewing these habits can help you pinpoint possible trouble spots before they start. If you’ve missed a few days from the gym, you can make a point of going next week so your habit stays conditioned. Habit reviews can also help in deciding what new habits you might like to change in the future.
    7. Learning Review. What books did you read this week? Doing a quick review of the major ideas you’ve picked up in the last week can help in two ways. First, it can help you anchor in that knowledge. Second, it can help you see how much you are learning. If you read little in the last week, you can set aside more time to read in the following week.
    8. Social Review. What social activities will you be doing in the upcoming week? A lot of social events are spontaneous, but knowing when you want to visit with friends or family can make organizing your work easier. If you know about an event ahead of time, it can help schedule your work to avoid conflicts later.
    9. Entertainment Review. Beyond just work, what fun and interesting things would you like to do next week. Boredom is usually a lack of planning. By picking out potentially interesting activities for the next week, you already have a list of things to do when you get some free time.
    10. Dietary Review. Track everything you eat for a week. Measuring everything is a lot of work to do all the time. But occasionally doing a weekly dietary review can help you see exactly what you’re eating. It’s easy to delude yourself that you are “mostly healthy”, until you track the numbers and see a lot of junk.
    11. Character Review. What did you do last week that went outside your comfort zone? If you keep drawing blanks to that question week after week, you’re stagnating. Decide to do something that will make you uncomfortable next week.
    12. Productivity Review. What system of lists, calendars and schedulers are you using? Going over your productivity system can help you find holes where information is slipping out. A regular review can also point out places where you are keeping lists and folders that go unused. Reviewing your system keeps your life simple and stress-free.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    The Planning Fallacy: Why Your Plans Fail 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines How To Create More Time: 21 Ways to Add More Hours to the Day How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways to Try Now How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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