Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review, and Make it your Habit

Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review has been newly updated for Talking Story as we enthusiastically greet our 6th year. We have consistently found that the Weekly Review is a must-include within the arsenal of good habits which serve to fortify our Ho‘ohana [MWA Key 2] no matter how we might individually define it.

The original version of this article was published on Joyful Jubilant Learning in October of 2007, and that version was a revision of another originally written for Talking Story two years earlier. How’s that for a time-tested yet still-current habit?

Take it from me: Your calendar is your best friend

We have spoken of our Strong Week Planning recently, and that got me wondering: How has your Weekly Review helped you lately?

I don’t know about you, but without my calendar there is very little I would remember. Surely calendars are the single best organizational tool EVER conceived of. If there were no such thing I would have had to invent some semblance of one myself by now, or I would appear to be a complete mess. I would be a mess (and not this embraceable one).

Perhaps JJLer Robyn McMaster of Brain-Based Biz can explain this to us: With all due respect to my brain, it is a great servant but poor master. Like some turbo-charged vacuum-servant it obediently and dutifully collects all I place before it to handle for me, whether logical or completely random, but it doesn’t necessarily retrieve my stored up tidbits and gems at that precise moment I may need to recall them again, and put them to best use.

Productivity guru David Allen of GTD fame talks about this with some great examples, and I’m sure you have your own; think of the last time you got back from the grocery store and had done the shopping cart stroll without a list, only to remember what you needed at the exact moment you’d returned home and had just parked your car. Then, as you deposit your shopping bags in the kitchen, your spouse or roommate says to you, “You went to the grocery store today? I thought we were going to take a drive to that great Farmer’s Market just outside of town this coming weekend.”

Thus, I worship my calendar, and with the easy-to-program recurring features now offered, digital and electronic is the way to go. My 5-Step Weekly Review is part of my Strong Week Plan [MWA Key 7] and it goes like this:

5-Step Weekly Review

Open your Calendar, and …

1. Audit last week. Make appointments with yourself in the coming weeks for whatever you didn’t complete that is important to you. Seek to complete your pending stuff sooner versus later ”“ stay in flow, and don’t procrastinate.

2. Preview the coming week. Clean up any fast entries you had penciled in, and others you may need to update. Be sure you have allotted sufficient time to debrief and finish things so they don’t end up on your pending list with Step 1 next week!

3. Check your to-do lists and project lists (whatever system you have for keeping them), and determine what you can check off in the coming week. Program action steps into your calendar by making realistic appointments with yourself.

4. Reality-check your goals and grab time blocks to work them into your calendar too. Baby steps add up to big leaps ” you are making room for those BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)! However don’t go overboard; leave white space on your calendar because stuff happens ” life happens.

5. Team up with others. With the planning of the week to come now steeped into your subconscious mind, think of those you can enroll in your goals, putting the power of we into play. I once heard someone say, “life is not a solo proposition” and I’ve discovered there is much wisdom in harnessing that belief. Thus my Weekly Review ends on Monday: I contact those I have thought about collaborating with, hoping to secure their agreement to work with me —and their ideas!

What to expect

The Weekly Review is a great habit that creates more great habits.

For instance, when we studied the strengths revolution within a Learn to Lead with Your Strengths learning project on Joyful Jubilant Learning, Marcus Buckingham’s Strong Week Plan became one of my ‘current projects’ included in Step 3 above. His coaching for keeping my strengths and weakness statements readily accessible for further strategic work has now become part of that step for me.

If you are interested in this integration, I highly recommend Buckingham’s book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance containing a self-paced coaching program that I have consistently found to be very achievable and effective for many of the managers I have since recommended it to.

People who are diligent with their Weekly Review get things done, and they help others stay on track too. You will begin to see that those people you initially sought out to work with you are now returning the favor. They introduce you to exciting new projects they have become involved with because they greatly value your partnership, and your track record with getting results in a well-planned, strategic fashion.

Something to think about:

Where does your planning impact the action steps of others?

GTD author David Allen says Friday afternoon is the best time for many of the executives he coaches to complete their Weekly Review, because they will then help everyone else they impact: As they delegate, they create a chain reaction for the Weekly Review of everyone else in their company.

As an executive coach I will encourage a big-picture view as well, and I will model it, understanding that my own Weekly Review conversations each Monday can proactively impact my clients before the following Friday if my coaching is to be best for them.


Two days ago, I brought Paul Graham’s “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” into our Leadership Tuesday focus as a very important consideration with the teaming-up you do with others:   My encouragement to you was titled “Leading encourages Making. Embrace the Mess” and the question it posed was about the alignment between work schedule, and work flow. Please set aside some time to read of those connections if you have not done so already.

These days my calendar is getting the super deluxe project treatment within the Weekly Review I do, for I’ve become a Google Calendar web-based convert and I am experimenting with some of their new Lab features. At other times I will take the time to a Monthly Review which includes time audit habits I have picked up from HCer Dwayne Melancon. If I have highlighters in hand you can bet I have the 30-70 Leading-Managing Rule in mind (yep, I do it too!)

2010 Update on the 30-70 L/M Rule:
Reduce your Leadership to a Part-time Gig in 2010

Bonus Tip!

My Most Important Tip for you is probably this one: Set a time frame for your Weekly Review, and stick to it.

If you turn this into an epic production each week, you aren’t going to do it ”“ especially if you are carving out some time on the weekend. I do my Weekly Review on Saturday mornings while my family is asleep, and within two hours max with my coffee: I’m the only one who is a morning person and early riser, and so it is quiet time I am not taking away from them though I prefer doing this at home.

So let’s go back to the question I started with:

How has your Weekly Review helped you lately?

Guess what popped up on mine? A calendar trace I had noted about wanting to revise this article, for it is that important.

You’ve got to honor your calendar, and you’ve got to love the magic of your Weekly Review. I sure do.

Bonus Tip 2: For more thoughts on GTD, Dwayne Melancon of our JJL Advisory Board has a good index of his writing about it on his blog Genuine Curiosity. As I mentioned above, Dwayne also has great audit habits.

Bonus Tip 3: In updating this posting for Talking Story I could not bring over some of the terrific comments it stirred up over on Joyful Jubilant Learning, and if you have a bit more time you might want to click over there to read them. Robyn McMaster had this to say in responding to my not-so-subtle shout out for her expertise:

“Hi Rosa, yes, indeed a calendar is a great way to outsource your brain, so to speak. You have a central place to keep life organized. It’s how leaders create success. A recent Yale research study over a 10 year period shows that people who keep targets daily make ten times more money than other do. Now that’s really something to buzz in your brain!”

Photo Credits: These fabulous 2009 calendar images were done by Jan Muder and published on Flickr. You can see his entire photo set here. Admittedly you will need a much more functional calendar for what I suggest with the Weekly Review, but I could not resist sharing these beauties with you.


  1. asiriusgeek says

    Rosa: I thought Paul Graham’s article made TERRIFIC points about work flow and time management. I’m interested to see that this resonated with you as well. I agree also about the value of the Weekly Review, but I need to make that a more ironclad commitment to myself. It’s too easy to succumb to “latest and loudest” and the next thing I know, the day is over.

    • Rosa Say says

      I will admit that Paul Graham’s world can be a bit hard for me to relate to at times without some very focused thinking about it! I think he is pretty brilliant though, and so I do try to read all of his essays.

      The WR does take directed focus, and when you are cultivating the habit of doing it I think the best decision you make is definitely when you tackle it: As a habitually early riser, that 5am time works best for me because it is so quiet all around me, and I know I am at the top of my game then – I’m truly a morning person. I also make sure I don’t go online until it’s done!

      Once you start to see the effects of having a good Strong Week Plan, it does self-perpetuate, because there is such a huge difference between when you work within one and when you don’t — but yeah, you have to develop the habit first.

  2. Rosa Say says

    Here is another good blog post for those of you already in this habit, and wanting to refresh your routine with more “why” thinking: It’s by Tanveer Naseer, “Business Strategy coach, writer, and overall nice guy” (he is! Spend some time on his very well-written blog, and follow him on Twitter too)

    In Need A Boost? Strategies For Recharging Your Productivity, Tanveer says “I want to share some of the strategies I use to recharge my productivity batteries so I could complete my tasks for the week” and covers these five points:

    1. Review what you’ve completed so far
    2. Surround yourself with a support network
    3. Change your scenery
    4. Give yourself a break
    5. Listen to your mind