Have a break…Have a weekly review!

The counterproductive step toward productivity in a chaotic season

by Liesel Houghton

[4 minute read]


As I interact with leaders and chat productivity and managing the chaos of COVID many of them are confessing their emails are out of control. Systems that once served them well just aren’t functioning as they grapple with zoom fatigue and feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the change. As someone whose natural strengths are systems and productivity, let me just say,

It’s ok to not have it all under control!

My inbox is not at zero and I’ve spent countless hours staring at a to do list that seems impossible. We all need to remember that this season of COVID and chaos is completely out of the ordinary. This is not you at your default, this is crisis management and it’s ok if your usual rhythms have lost their cadence. We’ve had two months of isolation and constant change and we’re in for at least a few more of the unknown new ‘normals’. So as you come off the adrenalin of getting your world online and home office set up, can I encourage you to go back to, or introduce you to, the weekly review.

Firstly, open up your calendar and book in at least an hour for this week (maybe more for this first one) grab your calendar, device, a pen and paper and find a space away from distractions (turn all notifications off and switch emails to “Check for new messages manually”). My go-to used to be my favourite café with a cup of coffee, on the table with the sun on my back. But for now it’s my $1 servo coffee and a spot outside on the deck. The idea is to find a location and environment that is enticing and rewarding for you. You are much more likely to do it weekly if you enjoy it. Then follow these steps:

  • Pray: Give the lists, the overwhelm and the next hour to God. Refocus on Him first.
  • Clear the decks: Turn Wi-Fi off to make sure you aren’t getting in any new emails and try and zero all inboxes. (Find out how to get to zero here.)
  • Brain Dump: Take out a blank piece of paper and brain dump. There is no logic or order to a brain dump, just get everything out of your head. Every idea, every task, every person you need to talk to, that book recommendation someone gave you yesterday or the shopping list. Let the thoughts come and write it all down until you can’t think of anything else.

Take a quick breather and enjoy a clear mind

  • Re-organise: Now open up your task management system or to do list and spend some time reviewing what’s already there. If you’re like us here at Arrow then a lot has changed in your world and your task list probably needs a good sort out. Re-schedule everything to fit the new deadlines and make sure you leave extra margin in your world right now as you will see in a few steps time self-care and rest needs some extra attention.
  • Re-build your system: Take your brain dump and start to organise it all into your task management system, adding in deadlines and being specific about next actions. Take note of those new ideas in your ‘someday’ area and maybe carve out some time in your calendar to spend on those ideas and new creative spaces.
  • Look ahead: Look through your calendar, tasks and projects for the next month and get your head around what’s coming up. As you get this big picture view think about self-care and ask yourself these questions:
    • Where am I depleted?
    • Have I built in time for recovery and rest?
    • Am I getting enough sleep?
    • Is there a new activity I need to embrace?
    • What will I keep doing or improve?
    • What do I need to stop doing, or do differently?
    • What can I celebrate? Pause and thank God for these.
    • What are my three main priorities for this week?
  • Re-view: Finally take a fresh look at your systems and habits. Maybe they just need to be tweaked to suit this season or maybe they need a major overhaul to help manage the chaos. Make sure you book in your weekly review for next week as you start to move back to your default.

These steps are focused on getting back into this habit or starting it for the first time in what is a unique season. For a great outline of a regular weekly review check out ‘Do More Better’ by Tim Challis. Overwhelm is my biggest barrier to productivity and I’ve found myself there more times than I can count in these past two months. But finding the space to enjoy a coffee, clear my inbox and get my tasks and systems back on track has set me up so well. I’m getting more times of energy and productivity than just staring at the screen wondering where to start.

My weekly (sometimes daily) review has never been more important. Remember “Self-care is NOT Selfish”. It can seem counterproductive to step away from the ‘doing’ and focus on review, recover and rest, but you will find those times of ‘doing’ produce so much more.