One thing that helps me keep it together (especially now)

The weekly review is a mental safety net we can all use right now.

These are challenging times for everyone, and much harder for some. Whatever your circumstances, it’s more difficult than ever to keep the day-to-day details of life moving forward.

I did not arrive on this planet as a well-organized person, but I’ve learned some tricks along the way that help me keep everything together, and the one thing that has never failed me in stressful times is my WEEKLY REVIEW.

It doesn’t matter if you are someone who plasters scribbled post-it notes around your house, or you write detailed to-do lists, or you never keep track of a damn thing outside of your head. A weekly review can help keep everything moving forward anyway, and it is a mental safety net that we can all use right now.

I first heard about the weekly review when I read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. The basic premise of the weekly review is that you schedule time once a week to review everything on your plate. It doesn’t matter when you schedule it, just do whatever works best for you, and make it a time that you can protect from other encroaching demands. If you nurture and protect your weekly review, it will repay you in beautiful ways.

Here are the steps of my own weekly review process, which you can tailor to your own needs (and there is a handy printable waiting for you at the end of this post!):

    Clear a space on your desk, a table, or the floor. Get a large box or tub (this will be your inbox) and something you can use to make a list (your computer, phone, or a pencil and paper).
    Collect all the little bits of your physical stuff that need action and put them in the box. They will be hiding around your home as notes on the fridge, unpaid bills, receipts in your purse or wallet, etc. Put all of this in the inbox. Then pull one item at a time out of the inbox and decide what needs to be done with it (file it, pay it, shred it, call or email someone about it, etc.). If you can do it right away, do it! If not, add it as a task to your list and put the item in a stack next to the inbox.

    Repeat with the rest of the items in the box. When you’re done and your inbox is empty, put any items that still need action back into the inbox, which now becomes your “to-do” box for the week.

    Now complete the same level of review with your digital stuff, like emails, voicemails, text messages, files on your computer desktop, etc. Look at one item or thread at a time, decide what should be done with it, and either do it right away if you can, or add it to the task list. If you have a backlog of items and can’t get through them all, pick a reasonable cutoff for yourself (within the last month, the last week, etc.) and just focus on items within that timeframe.
    Open whatever calendar you use (paper, digital, phone, etc.). Look at the last two weeks and the upcoming two weeks. If any tasks pop out at you related to what’s there, add them to your list.
    There is stuff floating around in your brain that desperately wants to get out, but you only seem to remember it at the wrong time (like 2am when you’re trying to sleep). You can help jog your memory during your weekly review by doing what David Allen calls a “brain dump.” Essentially, you review a list of the most common “to-do” categories of your personal or professional life, which can prompt you to remember all those little tasks that your brain normally likes to save up for a midnight reminder. Review the list of categories, and then add any tasks you’re reminded of to your to-do list.
    This is the *most important step* for me, especially in chaotic times like these. You’ve reviewed and processed your stuff and your calendar, and you’ve purged your brain. You might have a pretty lengthy to-do list at this point. But here’s the thing: YOU DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO ALL THAT STUFF. If there are super-urgent or super-important things on the list, get them done as soon as you can! The rest of it? It’s your call. Do it, or don’t do it, but please remember that this is not a test of your moral fortitude. The real point of this whole weekly review is to get that mess out of your head, and for you to decide what to do with it from there. And (hopefully) for you to sleep better at night. Get on with your life, and feel comforted by the fact that once a week, you can return to the safety net of your weekly review to keep the important things from falling through the cracks.

If you’d like to try out the weekly review for yourself, I’ve made a printable that you can use to walk yourself through the process. There are two versions: one with a fun rainbow-colored theme and another with a buttoned-up business vibe. Because as Jenny Slate once said, “are u fun or are u uptight and serious?” Either way, I can relate and I’ve got you covered!

Let me know in the comments if this weekly review is helpful for you, or if you rely on other useful tactics to keep it all together.

I hope you’re all staying safe and sane out there. Take care ♥️

– Jenna

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