One of the tools that helps me the most is a personal weekly review. My friends who also have this habit have also found it beneficial, so I will share what I do and my approach ad mindset around it, which is why it works so well for me.
What is a weekly review?
It is a review done on a weekly basis, where you review your goals, habits, plans for the week that has just ended and set up the following week.
Why is it beneficial?
I think one of the issues with sticking to a goal (or keeping new year’s resolutions) is that we forget about them (and the weekly review helps us keep track).
The other problem is that, if we don’t keep up, we often give up, rather than going deeper and trying to understand why and how we can tweak things to help ourselves. Sometimes small changes are what really makes a difference, and sometimes you have to try different things before you find the right one for you.
How to do a weekly review?
Any way that works for you! I strongly suggest writing it down, so you can reference it back easily. I personally prefer pen and paper – I had switched to a digital note some time back and found it less interesting. However, I think digital notes can work well in the case of habits or routine to-dos, especially if you are using a tool like Notion that allows you to tick things off.
It’s useful to do this every week, I usually on a Sunday afternoon. It generally takes me about 20/30 minutes, but it can also be done in 10 or 15 if you’re in a hurry. It’s definitely better to do a quick review than no review at all – you can always add more details after.
Set up your first planning session
This section is for you if you haven’t done a weekly review recently – or ever!
- Think of which sections you want to include. This will vary according to your goals or different areas you want to keep track of. For example, sections could be work, finances, social life/relationships, health/fitness, self-care and so on. I personally do not add a specific section for habits, because I put them in their respective categories
- In the first week, you won’t have anything specific to review from the previous session, but you can think back to how the week went for each category. Think of what you accomplished. Maybe you went to the gym, or you dedicated more time to cook a healthy meal, instead of ordering take-out. Write down anything that comes to mind. Its’ always good to start the weekly review by taking stock of the positives in the week. It doesn’t have to be a task or an activity to tick off a to-do list, of course. You can be proud of setting boundaries with your family or to have gone to bed at 11 pm instead of doom-scrolling Twitter
- Plan the following week. For each category, what would you like to achieve next week? What habits would you keep up with? Is there a new habit you want to create? As a starting point, it can be helpful to think back to the things you observed in the point above: and identify:
- things you want to keep doing or do more of
- what that got in the way
- what you should do less of
Find the right balance
It’s important to keep these goals realistic and doable. Planning on running a half marathon next week if you never ran 5K will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Skip the wishful thinking and write down challenging things you think can actually do. The keyword is challenging since it generally motivates us to focus on a task and tackle it head-on. On the other hand, ensuring it’s within our reach is key: if a task feels daunting we will likely procrastinate. Make sure to be as specific as you can, since sometimes we doon’t lack motivation, but clarity.
What about future weekly reviews?
Once you have done your first planning session (described above) the following ones will be easier and have more structure.
Split it into two steps: a review of last week and planning for the upcoming week. I go section by section: for example, I will think about the past week at work and plan the work week ahead, and then move to the next section, health & fitness.
Step 1 – Review of last week
Celebrate the successes
- You already have an idea of what you had planned to do, based on the previous session – that is a great place to start. Go back to your notes from last week and see what you managed to accomplish!
- Always think of other things (big or small) you are proud of, even if they weren’t in the books. You’ll be surprised at how many remarkable moments there were 🙂
- If you completed a challenging task, it’s useful to break down how you did it, what steps you took. It could be helpful to look back on in Step 2 of the review or if you find yourself struggling on something similar further down the line.
After celebrating the positives, we go into the next part, which is what drives the most benefit for me: looking at what you wanted to get done but didn’t.
The key here is to not be judgemental and critique ourselves for not meeting our plans. The important part is to get genuinely curious and think about why you did not accomplish something.
- is this something I still care about?
- If yes, why did I not do this?
- Is it harder than I thought?
- What exactly went wrong?
- Do I want to give it another shot?
- How can I make it easier for myself this time?
It can be useful to think of what advice you would give a friend if they were in this situation.
Example Let’s say you want to maintain your home clean. Maybe you try cleaning up one room every day after work, or doing 10-minute sprints on your work break if you are working from home, or challenging yourself to clean the kitchen in 15 minutes. Another “trick” could be to listen to an audiobook or a podcast while cleaning, or put on some music to have fun improvising a sing-along.
The main idea is to accept that something that “seems right” or works for someone else might not actually work for you – you need to keep asking yourself why and how you can make it easier.
If you see this part of the review as negative and shameful, you will likely not keep doing this exercise. So it’s really important to see it as a challenge, where you figure out what didn’t work and how to try again.
Step 2 – Plan the week ahead
At this point, you should have a solid idea of what you want to work on in the upcoming week. Defining the specific goals for the week is the second step. Based on what I want to improve upon, I will come up with realistic and achievable, but also challenging goals.
Make it simple
Specify any intermediate steps or break down how you plan on doing something in as much detail as I can. Sometimes we find ourselves not making progress simply because we are not sure of what the next step actually is. This will make it seems quite daunting and lead us to be overwhelmed instead of making progress.
Do not put too much on your calendar, but having a challenge is motivating. lt turns this into a game and makes it more fun, given that these tasks and projects are linked to goals you care about.
I usually add any habits I want to work on (if any) within each section and immediately create a tracker for my desk. I don’t use any app or fancy habit tracker: a piece of paper with boxes to check off is enough. Despite its simplicity, I find that having a visual reminder of the thing I want to do is quite useful. And tracking each time I keep up with the habit is motivating.
I hope you will start doing this if you aren’t already! If you do reviews regularly, what do you do differently?
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