The impactful people we admire from business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey, to social entrepreneurs like Chris Underwood, founder of Basic Needs, owe as much of their success to “doing the ordinary thing extraordinarily well” than daring to have a big idea.
One day at a time, they made simple, ordinary choices that led to amazing results.
Many of us have aspirations and even audacious goals. An essential and (often) unglamorous part of achieving them is to form simple habits and then take action on them consistently.
I’ve found one simple habit that gives me clarity and insight and is transformational.
It’s the simple power of doing a weekly review. A weekly review is a practical way to get things done, but it’s also an essential opportunity to reflect, and gain self-awareness, and that’s where we grow as leaders who make an impact and influence outcomes.
I prefer to combine the pragmatism of getting things with reflection that gives me clarity.
Here are 4 ideas to help you benefit from a weekly review:
1. Begin with appreciation – even in hard times.
Your weekly review should be different than just checking in with your goals, moving paper, and ticking a box. Yes, it’s a way of quickly identifying what’s working or not working for you, but it matters that you cultivate a growth mindset that generates momentum, and helps you avoid being stuck.
2. Make it enjoyable and easy.
Put it on the calendar. I schedule mine for 30 – 45 mins on a Sunday evening, but sometimes miss it – last Sunday was Easter – so I did my weekly review last night, (which is why I’m writing about it today.)
I prefer to do mine over a glass of wine – my favorite right now is a cold glass of Newton Chardonnay.
3. Use a template.
My weekly review is not just about my work, as important as that is. It includes my career, health, family, spiritual life, and more, since each area profoundly impacts the other.
My template is based on categories of my goals for this year – these represent my top priorities for the year (my article on setting SMARTEST goals outlines the process I use now, which has developed over the years through fits and starts.)
Here’s a quick description of my template and how it works; see if there are ideas that can work for you.
Themes – I start with a themes paragraph. This implies that there was a unifying idea for the week; and most weeks there is. For example, good feedback on work I’ve done, a major customer or partner win. Or, a happy surprise that had a ripple effect I want to reflect on. So, I write a brief paragraph that summarizes the week.
Recently I wrote: “Spent planned & unplanned time with visionary women. It encouraged & inspired me! And as I sought to help them, new opportunities opened for me & my work.” I’m careful about over-committing my time, but decided to invest in a few well-chosen “networking” events. These new acquaintances and connections reminded me how important it is to connect with others beyond my usual orbit.
Go through each of the categories where you have specific goals, one by one and write a line or two.
In the spirit of “what gets measured, gets done,” I review progress on the 3 key goals I had for the previous week and gain clarity on why I did or didn’t achieve them.
If I realize I’ve hit a snag on projects, I troubleshoot and make notes to follow up.
Often, I list the next step or two to take; even if the next step is to wait. Answers to pressing problems don’t always come at the exact moment I do my reviews. There are several things that reliably inspire me when I need to “work a problem” such as go for a walk, listen to a podcast, talk to a friend, or read a blog. Sometimes the best answers come after I’ve stepped away from a pressing problem.
4. Get practical so you get more done with less stress
In 2012, I realized I needed an expert to help me purge my office and develop a new system that works – meaning that it takes into account my own unique strengths and this finite season of my life with two sons at home and a husband who also loves his career.
Together, we set up a system that cherrypicks great ideas from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. He’s probably the best known advocate of weekly reviews. His five steps: Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, and Engage are powerful – and when you follow them weekly, they work! However, one size does not fit all.
Although I have a good system in place, I do the paper review less frequently than Allen recommends – yet I somehow manage to get the most important things done. There is grace for those of us who are not drawn to dealing with lots of bits of paper!
Why do a weekly review? It’s a simple habit that will help you spot patterns you may be missing. We’re all so busy moving from one important activity to the next, that we miss insights that could lead to simple tweaks that renew our mindset, increase our productivity, satisfaction and impact.
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change,” says Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, and this applies to weekly reviews, too.
How about you? Do you do a weekly review? What tips do you recommend?
This article was recently published on LinkedIn’s Pulse.