Refresh Your Focus Every Week to Achieve More

Every Monday is Productivity & Organization Day at Zen Habits.

Recently I posted my new twist on the excellent GTD system, Zen To Done (ZTD): The Ultimate Simple Productivity System. This is the seventh in a series of posts exploring each of the 10 Habits.

Let’s face it: even the best of us loses track of things over time, and loses focus on our goals, and let’s the best-planned system fall apart a little. With a busy workweek, and a busy life outside of work, the best systems tend to gravitate toward chaos.

That’s where the Weekly Review comes in — it gives you a chance to get things together and refocus yourself on what’s important.

But today we’re going to look at how to tap into the power of the Weekly Review in as little time as possible — the Simplified Weekly Review.

ZTD Habit 7: Review your system & goals weekly. GTD’s weekly review is great, and ZTD incorporates it almost exactly, but with more of a focus on reviewing your goals each week. This is already in GTD, but isn’t emphasized. During your weekly review, you should go over your yearly goals, see what progress you made on them in the last week, and what action steps you’re going to take to move them forward in the coming week.

Here’s how to do a powerful weekly review in five simple steps:

  1. Review your long-term goal (1), medium-term goal (1) and short-term goal. Review your life goals (if you haven’t written them yet, take some time to do it now), and from those goals, you should choose one long-term goal that you want to accomplish this year (it could be a sub-goal of one of your life goals if they’re not achievable in the next year). Only choose one — if you choose too many, you will lose focus, and focus is the most important component in achieving a goal. Then choose one medium-term goal that you can accomplish within the next few months — and it should be a goal that moves you closer to achieving your long-term goal. Then choose one short-term goal that you can accomplish in the next week or so that will move you closer to your medium-term goal. Once you’ve done this, every week’s Weekly Review should be just a review of the progress you’ve made on those goals, and a refocusing on those goals. It’s important to refocus yourself on your goals every week, as this will keep you on track, keep your attention and energy where it should be, and continue to move you forward on your goals. (10-15 minutes in your initial planning session; 5 minutes every week thereafter)
  2. Review your notes. If you’ve been following ZTD Habit 1 (Collection), you will have notes from the past week. Many of the tasks in your notes will be already done, but it’s important to look back over them so you can find unfinished tasks, phone numbers to enter into your contacts, etc. Just do a quick scan and jot down any unfinished items. (5-10 minutes)
  3. Review your calendar. Look back over your last week’s calendar items to see if there’s anything that needs to be moved forward, and to see if there’s anything that triggers new tasks that need to be done. Also look over your upcoming week’s calendar to see if there’s any tasks that need to be done. (5 minutes)
  4. Review your lists. Whether you have multiple context lists or one to-do list, it’s important to look over them, to make sure they’re up-to-date. Cross off completed items. Also review your follow-up list, your someday/maybe list, and your project list, if you keep them. (10 minutes)
  5. Set your short-term goal this week and plan your Big Rocks. In Step 1 above, if you’ve accomplished your short-term goal, you’ll need to set a new one. If not, refocus yourself on that short-term goal, and see what mini-tasks you can do to complete it. List those tasks and any other really important tasks that you want to accomplish this week, and schedule them on your calendar. Put them early in the morning. These tasks should have the highest priority each day. Only put one or two on each day’s schedule.

Total time for review: 30 minutes, if you stay focused. Don’t get distracted, and go through each step quickly. You’ll want to clear away all distractions, turn off email and the Internet (unless your lists and calendar are online), turn off your phone. At the most, these steps should take you 45 minutes.

By doing these essential tasks at your Weekly Review, you will not only keep your system together, but you will keep yourself focused on your goals. Remember: just focus on one goal at a time, making it much more likely that you’ll achieve it. Print it out and post it up if necessary. Send yourself email reminders. Tell everyone about it. Put it on your blog. However you do it, maintain that laser focus, and it will happen.