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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

    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.

    15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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