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12 Ways to Upgrade Your Weekly Review

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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.

    More by this author

    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.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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