March 15, 2021
Shooting azimuths is a critical skill required for accurate land navigation in foreign territory. The steps involved are simple:
- Ascend to the tallest nearby point with a compass in hand.
- Select a landmark in the distance.
- Recalibrate your route toward that landmark.
An azimuth in life could be a goal or project. “Shooting Azimuths” allows us to recalibrate the route towards our goals. But, how do we shoot an azimuth in life?
Enter the Weekly Review.
The weekly review allows you to process all of the loose ends circling your mind and competing for attention. It will also enable you to sharpen focus on critically important projects and define the next actions needed to move those projects forward. It’s often underrated and underutilized. However, these 1 – 2 hours per week dedicated to clarifying goals may ultimately yield more progress than any other single activity. How will you know where you are going if you don’t know where you are? Our goals provide a destination, while the weekly review provides our precise location.
The first step is committing to the weekly review. Carve out 1-2 hours in the week and mark it on the calendar; this will help create the motivation to complete the review and prevent you from overbooking appointments. I prefer Friday, it’s arbitrary as I don’t have a regular schedule, but it seems natural as the week’s events are fresh in my mind. If I’m working on Friday, I adjust accordingly. Next, work deeply and eliminate all distractions. Put your phone and computer on silent mode or do not disturb mode; this will allow you to focus entirely on the weekly review and the essential projects in your life. Finally, begin your review.
I find it useful to keep a notepad on hand. Pen and paper can provide flexibility and liberation from the digital devices that will likely be in use when processing email inboxes and other checklists. I also find it less distracting and cumbersome than switching back and forth between multiple screens.
There is no single universal method that will be perfect for all. These are tools; not rules. These principles are not a rigid sequence that we must faithfully follow. Productivity is a journey, and we need to remain malleable. David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” provides the framework to start: get clear, get current, and get creative.
Get Clear—process all your loose ends. Start your review by cleaning. Clean off your desk and put all items such as articles, books, and paper in a physical in-tray. Empty your shredder bin and wastebasket. When everything is clean and in its place, you’ll feel tremendous clarity and sharpened concentration.
Then perform a mind dump. Clear your mind and write down any uncaptured ideas, projects, and goals swirling around and occupying real estate in your consciousness. This is a continuous process that often occurs sporadically and spontaneously throughout the week. Consider the weekly review a final cleaning. Next, process both physical and digital inboxes according to GTD’s workflow diagram until empty (see below). Discard trash, file reference material, and add the remaining items to your task list.
Get Current—review, update, and clarify all relevant checklists and projects. Check that each project has a defined purpose, intended outcome, deadline, and next action item. Then review any other relevant checklist from other sources such as slack, outlook, or even text messages. Next, review the previous week and upcoming two weeks of your calendar. Lastly, clarify what you intend to accomplish in the coming week and begin planning.
Get Creative—Reflect on your week. What went well? What could you improve? Eliminate the excess items not congruent with your goals and create a plan to advance the essential projects. Capture spontaneous ideas and keep them on a “Someday—Maybe” List. These ideas may spark creativity for future projects.
- Allen, D. Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. Penguin, 2015. [Link is Here]
- The Weekly Review: A Productivity Ritual to Get More Done. Todoist. https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/weekly-review. Published 2021. Accessed February 10, 2021. [Link is Here]
- Newport, C. Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Hachette UK, 2016. [Link is Here]
- Deep Work: The Complete Guide (Including a Step-by-Step Checklist). Ambition & Balance. https://blog.doist.com/deep-work/. Published 2020. Accessed December 24, 2020. [Link is Here]
Post Peer Reviewed By: Anand Swaminathan, MD (Twitter: @EMSwami)
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