One aspect of keeping on top of your tasks and projects (and life in general) is reviewing the current state of things. But if there’s any habit that seems to be difficult for people, it’s regular weekly reviews.

Whether this is due to the fact it can be a daunting task, or because it is given a low priority by people, or some people can get by with a lower frequency of reviews, I’m not sure. But I know I struggled with the habit myself for many years and I’ve heard many others complain of the same.

Now that I’ve been able to keep the habit more regularly, I want to share what has helped me.

It’s more than tasks

Previously, my weekly review would consist of combing through my task management app. And that is a big reason why it was a struggle for me. Your list of tasks is going to include a lot of stuff you should do, but don’t really want to. It likely also includes a lot of stuff you’d like to do, but don’t currently have the capacity for.

If you're review is just another chance to get frustrated, you’ll let it slide more often.

A good weekly review should less about what your overall list of responsibilities and more of a review of what you’ve just accomplished in the week past and how you're going to get closer to your most important goals in the week to come.

If you’re good at the capture aspect of productivity, you don’t have to spend your review poring over that big list. Instead, you should be getting excited at the progress you're making on the important stuff and identifying the next most important step forward.

That leads nicely to the next aspect of a good review.

Some structure

Although I just suggested your review should not consist entirely of reviewing your task list, that does not mean it’s unstructured. Just the opposite. Having a structure ensures you’ll get the review done consistently. Nothing kills the attempt to form habit more than uncertainty. Putting a format into place will go a long way to ensuring you make regular reviews a part of every week.

The exact structure can be highly varied from one person to the next. Personally, I enjoy using my own mash up of a few different tools. I essentially take the parts of the SELF journal that I like and adopt those in my own notebook. Here’s how it looks and the end of each week:

here's a sample from my journal

Here’s my entire process:

  1. Fill in the following sections Wins, Lessons learned, Things I’m grateful for.
  2. Sketch out a page for the upcoming week
  3. Evaluate the progress I made on the goals for the past week, then set the goals for the coming week
  4. Clean up any lingering tasks in my notebook (cancel them, or add them to 2Do)
  5. Take a picture of the current week’s page and add to Day One, tag the entry as Weekly Review
  6. Review my life vision document
  7. Review my annual goals
  8. Review my calendar
  9. Review 2Do
  10. Review Basecamp

That’s it. Now the key here is that some weeks, I do not go past step 5. As long as I have fairly regular monthly or quarterly reviews, I do not need to get to the bottom half of this each week. The magic happens in steps 1–5.

Previously, I would get frustrated with my weekly reviews as they would feel mostly useless. Now, I enjoy the process and look forward to the exercise.