Dear Crucial Skills,
I try to make a non-negotiable appointment with myself to do my weekly review, but most weeks I push it off and push it off. I don’t know why I avoid the weekly review so much, or, more importantly, how I can make myself take the time to do it. Any suggestions?
Dear Review Neglector,
Welcome to the club. As powerful and effective as the Weekly Review is for stress-free productivity, most people avoid it. I wish I had the magic pill that would seduce everyone into doing it, but, alas, that’s not available yet.
First, let’s be clear that it may not be necessary to do every week. The purpose of a consistent review is to maintain trust in your “external brain”—that its contents are clear, current, and complete so your mind can let go of remembering and reminding (which it doesn’t do very well). Your mental energy is best utilized when available for creative and constructive thinking about your world, not of your world.
There have been times in my life when I daily needed to do something like a Weekly Review—things were in such rapid flux that I had to quickly and regularly review my lists to keep my head above water. And there have been times when I only needed that kind of reflection and recalibration every two or three weeks.
So, why do so many people resist this process? One reason is that we know it requires us to think and make decisions. This is more difficult than most people realize, and it’s the same reason people procrastinate many activities—they’re not sure how to engage appropriately with them. Thinking is hard work. Ask any writer.
So how do you get yourself to do something that seems daunting? The same way you get yourself to clean the bathroom, take out the garbage, walk the dog in the rain, or exercise. These may not be fun to do, but they are must-dos because of standards you hold. I do a Weekly Review because, if I don’t, I experience a creeping ambient anxiety about my commitments, and I can’t tolerate that.
Because most people are willing to live with that subtle but very real stress that results from trying to track commitments in the mind, they don’t do what it takes to eliminate it. What’s the cure? Learn to love a “mind like water.” Then you’ll notice when you’ve lost that presence of mind, and you’ll do what you need to do to get back to it.
How long will it take to change your standard so that it becomes a habit? I don’t know for sure, though I bet the skills taught in The Power of Habit can help. Here are some tips:
Establish a regular time and place. For some that might be at the local coffeeshop with a good internet connection and a morning brew. For others it could be an uninterrupted hour in their home office.
Give yourself a reward for doing it—a piece of chocolate, a glass of wine, time with your favorite Netflix series. Whatever floats your boat.
Arrange your environment. Make it conducive to doing the review. One way I do this is with sound. Maybe you choose noise-canceling headphones because you find music or outer sounds distracting. Or you might put on your favorite background tunes—heavy metal or quiet classical. I have a playlist called “Work Classical” with lots of Vivaldi and Bach.
Take it easy. Don’t make it a big deal. Get started, and then come back to some sort of review when you can. Simply reviewing the next three weeks on your calendar might get you into your groove.
At least you know what the game is. Just stick with it, and before you know it, you won’t need to “make yourself” do anything—it will come naturally. Like taking out the trash or walking the dog in the rain.