Why do you skip the Weekly Review?

A year ago I wrote about the fear that is often correlated with the Weekly Review. I still that’s a valid point but this past week I’ve been considering a much simpler reason I skip the Weekly Review: complexity.

When I was heavy on OmniFocus I had a long checklist of things I would do for the Weekly Review. Even when I had a short checklist I had a lot of project folders to examine and a number of contexts to verify. Frankly, it’s always been too much and took too long. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend two hours on a review.

And yet, I’m the guy who promoted the Weekly Review! I should have this figured out, right? :man_facepalming:

It’s no secret that I’m moving to paper. And that not-so-simple migration has taught me a LOT about myself. And as far as a review goes, I learned that I’ve been doing too much and give myself too many things to look over. It’s a big time commitment if a review takes two hours. But if it takes 20 minutes to update all my projects and do a brain dump, I end up with more time to do the higher level thinking and still keep it under 45 minutes.

I don’t know why I didn’t think this through well enough before, but alas, here we are. Please tell me I’m not the only one that struggles with this. :grimacing:

raises hand

My main struggle with the weekly review has not only been complexity, but clarity.

What do I review? How do I review it? To what depth do I need to analyze everything?

There’s never really been a clear teaching that helps me understand exactly what a weekly review should look like. That’s the same for most all of productivity. It’s been a series of ideas or individuals‘ implementations, but little insight into the mindsets and actual processes required.

I’ll be honest, that’s exactly where I have struggled in this space. Having been part of this community for a period of time now, and having journaled out struggles and parts of my system has helped me. I don’t think it’s possible to try to figure this out on your own.

In part it goes back to what you were talking about on the latest episode of theoretical accountability with the perennial seller. Very few people want to show the grit and hard work that it takes to get somewhere. You also can’t sell that very well.

I do think there is a real desire to see the struggle and iteration, though. As I like to put it, everyone wants to be Mark Zuckerberg without putting in the hundreds of hours of iteration to get there. They just want the overnight success.

That’s been me in the productivity space. But that’s partly because the productivity space has failed to show me just how iterative the productivity process is. You can’t just say well I’m going to implement GTD today and everything is fixed. Heck, you have to work really hard to get GTD to work! There’s so much meta-data that needs to be tracked, decided upon, and kept up but it gets challenging.

All this ranting to say that yes I have severely struggled at times with the weekly review, and all other kinds of reviews, just as much as the next guy. I want to avoid it because it’s a bunch of manual work for something that I think the computer should do for me. I want to avoid it because it takes so much time. Because I don’t always know what the heck to do. And, ultimately, I’ve struggled with it feeling pointless.

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I think the weekly review falls into the same category as things like “sharpening the saw,” exercise, flossing, etc. It is something that, intellectually, we know is valuable, but it doesn’t provide the same immediate sense of satisfaction as responding to emails, making phone calls, or getting something done. A weekly review is an investment that pays off in the long run and in the “background” of our goings on. We are human, and so we put things off that we know we should do. I’ve learned its a matter of discipline.

Your comment about complexity rings true as well. If something is too complex and time consuming, we are less likely to do it.

This past summer I was fortunate enough to take the Level 1 GTD in person training with Mike Williams. He shared us on a spreadsheet that listed various versions of the weekly review. If you only have 10 minutes: do this. If you only have 30 minutes: do this. If you’ve got an hour or more: do these things. I will ask his permission to share it with others. If he says, “yes,” I’d be happy to share it with the group here.


I think Joe hit on the key point there - what is the point of the weekly review? Is it a work session to re-engage your brain with everything you have ever committed and re-prioritizing? Or is it about re-assessing your priorities and selecting what you are going to do towards those this week?

Working on paper has the strength / flaw, that you have to simplify and reduce the complexity of what you are doing for it be sustainable. I think the one piece of brilliance in the Bullet Journal, is the re-writing or carrying over of actions. It is just painful enough for you to start really thinking about whether you should be doing it and it is baked into the system as presented. In a digital task manager snoozing or rescheduling is just too easy. The irony is the carrying over is the first thing people reduce or eliminate from their bullet journals.

For the folks that struggle doing a weekly review (been there) do you do a daily review? I take 5 minutes in the morning and I look at a visualization or layout of what is important. I just sit with it. Then I schedule out what I’m doing that day. Even if subtle, there is now a slight tickle in the back of my mind of whether what I’m doing matters towards where I want to be. Doesn’t mean I don’t do those things, but it keeps that uncomfortable feeling in my head. Uncomfortable is absolutely the correct word for it and does promote negative views about my day job, recent choices, etc.

The weekly review is important, however the daily review has a bigger impact on my thinking.


well, it looks like I had a post stewing in Ulysses about the weekly review. I was working on a “Today” perspective in OmniFocus post but I think I’ll put it on hold and just write up something short about what I’ve thought about in regards to the review. Yes, it’s difficult but essential. More coming up later…

So, for me, the whole GtD system breaks down a bit since I have multiple buckets of things to do and organize. I’m a contract software architect. I lead (and advise) various development teams. Each of which have a different way to track things. And some of these are hyper-secure. I have five laptops from various companies, and another one is coming soon (most of that is just to be able to get into company-specific VPNs).

I also. Have all of my personal stuff to track. I got a bit overwhelmed when starting this phase of my career and dropped back to a paper Bullet Journal for a while. It taught me that I can still kinda GtD things, but I use a modified flow.

I track the overall arc of my life with paper. And I organize as I go. This keeps all the buckets clean and functional and practically eliminates the need for an official “weekly”review. I’m essentially doing on-demand mini-reviews on a daily basis.

I have a line item on a Someday/Maybe that reads simply Working With the Weekly Review. I wrote that down about a year ago and have been collecting ideas on a video course about it for that entire time. I’m thinking it’s time to pull this out and give it some real breathing room because these questions are exactly what it should answer.

So true. This reminds a lot of the Whirlwind mentioned in The Four Disciplines of Execution. There are things that we have to fight for and do the hard work of committing while the remaining world continues running full-speed trying to keep us away from the higher impact actions.

Bingo! This is something I picked up on about a week ago. My current paper system is designed to contain ever-growing, running lists for both projects and contexts. I have a notebook (sitting in my mailbox as I type) for re-creating my paper system with the intent of mandating a bi-weekly re-write of all projects/tasks. It may move to weekly and act as my review but regardless, the idea is to force the re-evaluation of… everything.

This is an important question. I do a quick skim of my tasks in the morning and again in the afternoon to set up the list for the day, but if I skip the weekly I don’t even have those in place. Which means the whole thing goes to pot. :man_facepalming:

My question then is this: do you have regular time for thinking about your career path? Your goals for the quarter/year? Your health/finances/cars/house? Those are things I want to go over periodically but would never get to it if I didn’t have it on a list to review.

Precursor: I’m a gigantic geek and always have been. I found that “gamifying” my life entertains and motivates me through stuff I otherwise struggle (or get bored) with. So I have actually been working on putting this stuff into my Bullet Journal as well (in a gamified way).

I have been working under the inspiration of the 12 week year (now, I haven’t actually finished the book, it was pretty dry, so I used the cliff notes version from your podcast :wink: ). In general, I break all of my main roles into 12-week blocks and create an overall strategy arc for each role.

Three examples:

Career: Goal = Become CTO, current block = social proof, write book, next block, get people to read it
Finances: Goal = Pay Off All Debt, current block, pay off medical debt, next block, pay off vehicles, future blocks, pay off house
Health: Goal = Ideal Weight, current block, de-addict from soda, next block, enter Ketosis, future blocks, walk, run, join dojo

This gives me a built-in natural point that I can reevaluate my progress on each role. And see if I’m still on track.

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I’m really curious to see what ypu come up with. Definitely have a hankering to give paper a try again.

Please share with us if he says yes.

Nice! I suppose that’s the main point. As long as you have a way to keep it in line (I don’t always) you’re set.

I have a feeling Working With Paper is going to be a must. :wink:

+1 to this. :+1:

I tend to just realign things as I complete or revise goals and plans. It is pretty easy for me to take a look across roles and ensure I’m moving toward a target (which is usually a target across my main two roles: Leader, and Philanthropist).

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