Today we come to the most important part of my personal organizational style, the weekly review. I got this from David Allen’s book, and it has always been huge. When neglected, I lose focus. When preserved, I find greater effectiveness.
I’ve written of the need for organization and planning, but I’m sure you didn’t need convincing. I’ve also written of how I try to capture everything, including a description of all my inboxes. What’s next? What do I do with all those inboxes?
This is where the weekly review comes in. I need a time to sit down and process all those inboxes, preparing and planning what I’ll work on next.
For me, a solid weekly review takes about 75-90 minutes. If I schedule more time than that I will lose focus and allow the time to drift away with research or curiosities. Anything shorter than an hour and I just can’t get to everything. This time frame is my sweet spot. I’ve held this weekly review at various time slots, but right now I do it on Sunday afternoons before our Sunday night service. This is a natural start to the week, so it is helpful to get my mind set before Monday comes.
First, I sit down at my computer with all my inboxes available (email, Evernote, journal). I also have my preferred task list software open. I use Nozbe right now, but have also enjoyed Things and Omnifocus. I’ve heard Wunderlist is also great.
My task list has my weekly review on it. Here is the breakdown of what I will move through during this review slot:
- Process Inboxes
- Calendar Review
- Review Project List
Step 1: Process Inboxes.
So I sit down and begin by processing my inboxes (journal, Evernote, email, physical). The rule is simple. If I can handle something in less than a minute, I handle it right then and there. If it takes more than a minute, I schedule it in my task list, archiving the item out of my inbox.
For example, if there is an email that will take me ten minutes to respond to, I will schedule it for a specific day (usually telling the person I will get back to them shortly). Obviously, you will need to determine the priority of certain emails, how soon to respond. But my review usually doesn’t include many emails because I already check my email 3x daily, so the weekly review usually has little to do with responding to email.
For example, I recently wrote a note to myself in my journal that asked, “Is the video in Sanctuary 2 good quality?” As I process my inboxes, I have a decision to make about this note. I could do it by setting a reminder to myself to go check it out next Sunday. I could delegate it by sending a quick ten-second direct message on Slack to the appropriate person. I could delay it by scheduling a meeting with them about it. Or I could delete it and trust the people already responsible for this. I decide that. I delete the note.
Another example would be a meeting agenda subject I may have written down in my Evernote inbox. During my review I make a decision about those ideas. Do I need to meet about this? Who with? Can I just send a short note?
The key here is that everything I’ve captured needs a response. There are four possible responses. As I mentioned already, I might just do it right then and there. That is one response. Additionally, I might delegate it to someone else. Also, I might just delete it. Perhaps I didn’t need that idea or article. Just trash it. Finally, if I schedule it in my project or task list, I schedule it.
Here is a simple way to remember it:
- Do It
- Delegate It
- Delete It
- Delay (schedule) It
Step 2: Calendar Review
Once I’ve processed all my inboxes, I then move on to a review of my calendar for the week. It’s important for me to have a template week to start from. This ‘ideal’ week serves as a launching point for various adjustments. In reality, I probably live this ‘ideal’ week about half the time. The other half I have to adjust. But it is better — at least for me — to go into each week with a plan. Even the weeks I need to adjust are adjusted in advance. In other words, I know what to expect as I head into most weeks. Obviously, emergencies happen occasionally that are completely unexpected.
Here is my template week:
- Sunday — Teach and pastor church services all day long at Calvary Monterey
- Monday — Write / Study / Editing
- Tuesday — Write / Study / Staff Chapel / Meetings / Run / Date Night
- Wednesday — Write / Study / Record Podcasts / Meetings / Work Out / Life Group or Church Midweek
- Thursday — Write / Study / Meetings / Run / Family Stuff
- Friday — Write / Long Run / Study / Home Work
- Saturday — Family Day
I have tried to abide by the principle that the major priorities in life must go in my calendar first. What is my mission? What am I trying to accomplish? My calendar ought to reflect that. This template serves as a baseline. From here, I can add various ministry opportunities, teaching engagements, one-on-one meetings, etc.
So, during my weekly review, I also preview the week that is ahead (usually the month ahead also). I will fit meetings in, adjust my schedule, and set up the week to come. There are many demands, so I try to pace myself. Here are some guidelines that help me:
Limit meeting times: I think many meetings go too long. I like to keep work related meetings at more minimal amount of time. Instead of an hour, 30 minutes will often do. Sometimes 15 minutes is perfect.
Create buffer between appointments: I don’t always do this well. In fact, it is a "classic" Nate move to create zero buffer for travel time, transition to the next appointment, or overflow. I am getting better though, and the results are fantastic. Just a little cushion is a great idea.
Do intellectual work first in the day: My workday starts immediately after my quiet time, so at 6:30am I begin to work. Since much of my life is spent in study, reading, and writing, I like to use the part of the day when my brain is fresh for this type of work. I try not stray from that.
Get exercise: For me, there is hardly any movement in my day. Pastoral work is usually sedentary. I sometimes walk during meetings, but mostly I am sitting. For me, regular exercise is healthy for the body, but also the mind. I need a time to process and release stuff.
Step 3: Review Project & Responsibilities List
After processing my inboxes and setting up my calendar, I review a few different lists. These lists help jog my mind to the various longer term projects I am working on. This is a crucial element to the weekly review. If I don’t do this I will usually just respond to a mountain’s worth of inbox material, stuff that often isn’t connected at all to the big picture responsibilities and roles I serve in.
What are your major responsibilities and roles? Write them down. What are your current projects? Write them down. When you review this list each week your memory will be jogged for next steps, action items, and necessary meetings. You will then add these items to your To Do List or your Weekly Calendar. As you do, you are keeping the mission as the priority. This step helps me live as less of a responder, and more of a planner.
In my review folder I keep various lists that I also like to quickly glance at during this Weekly Review. Here is a list of some of the things in the folder (Evernote):
List of people I’ve recently met (I write their names here)
My personal mission statement
List of responsibilities at Calvary Monterey
My personality profile results from various online personality profile tests
My iRules (another post)
List of pastors and teachers I would like to have speak at Calvary Monterey
Some travel and speaking guidelines our pastors developed for me
Calvary Monterey’s Mission, Vision, and Culture Code
This step actually works best in conjunction with the calendar review. That way I can still getting change my calendar as I review my projects and responsibilities.
I try to get this Weekly Review done in a hurry. What I mean is, I can easily take way too long on this. It helps me to put a 60-90 minute clock on it. I literally have a timer counting down on my desktop as I work on this. It helps me keep the pace moving. This isn’t the time to do the work, but to plan the work. It hasn’t been bulletproof for me, but it has helped immensely.
This is just how I do it. My life is pretty straightforward. Yours might be more complex. Regardless of how you do this, I recommend you spend some time each week preparing for the week to come. This seems crucial for our effectiveness.