What is a weekly review?

The weekly review is a time to reorient yourself to what you have on your plate and renegotiate your commitments. Take some time to look at your calendar, make fresh to-do lists, decide what your biggest responsibilities are this week and then make sure those stay in front of your face so they can get done.

A weekly review is not part of a go-go-go work mode. It is a reserved thinking-time mode where you make sure you have some quiet and you regroup and reassess. I know that can be hard to find.

If need be, it is worth getting up half an hour early or staying up half an hour later. It is worth sending the kids outside and using the time to pull things together instead of fold laundry or cruise Facebook.

You will feel more on top of things after a weekly review than if you have folded laundry and you will feel more refreshed and rejuvenated than if you spend the time on your phone.

As moms, we’re functioning as managers of our homes – if we want to be competent and confident, we will take the time to keep up to date and on top of our game. We can’t do that moment by moment, so we must carve out thirty minutes or so at the end of the week to pull back and process.

So when is the right time to do a weekly review? Whenever you can make it happen. Sometime between Friday and Monday morning is typical, and all you really need is your calendar, a piece of paper, and fifteen minutes.

But even when we reserve a time slot for a weekly review, we are still left with the problem of disciplining ourselves to follow through on it.

Unfortunately, there’s no secret shortcut past forming that discipline. We can set reminders for ourselves so we can be less likely to forget. We can find someone else to be accountable to and learn to form the habit together with our husband or friends. But, ultimately, it’s up to us to learn the habit of following through on our decisions and just doing it.

The more you do that, the easier it will become over time and the more you will stay organized. And the weekly review will help you with all the other follow through you have in your life, because it is a time set aside to look over those commitments and make sure you’re ready for them.

Click here for guided weekly reviews (15-minute, 20-minute, 30-minute, and 45-minute versions)

1. Declutter your plans

A. Brain Dump

A brain dump is simply writing down everything that pops into your head. All it takes is paper and pen. It is easy to dismiss and disregard such a seemingly insignificant practice as a waste of time, but you’re actually clearing your mind of the clutter so that you can better handle life and tackle your responsibilities.

Think about your life and lifestyle and write down whatever comes to mind. Do it thoughtfully and prayerfully, not with discontent or grumbling.

Starting a brain dump list is the best strategy for combating overwhelm and chaotic thoughts. It’s a quick trick to get it out of your head and onto paper; it’s not supposed to be a structured list.

When you get all those crazy thoughts out of head and onto paper, you will often see that the craziness was all in your head. With it solid on paper, you can then analyze it without being overwhelmed.

We include a time to brain dump in our weekly review because we need a moment to gather our thoughts – and it’s better to do that when pen and paper than just in our heads. We also don’t do it first thing because before we can brain dump in a focused way about our week, we have to orient our mind to our week, which we do by looking over the calendar first.

➡️ Set a timer for 15 minutes and brain dump about what’s on your plate right now. Stop when the timer goes off.

B. Clarify Your Calendar

The calendar is the most important organization & life management tool we keep, but it’s only as effective as it is accurate.

Without a trustworthy, accurate calendar, we stare at a day planner or out the window, trying to remember if there was anything else today. We miss appointments or scramble at the last minute. We double-book ourselves or have to bail on a friend because we forgot about the orthodontist appointment.

But when we have a complete calendar, we know our commitments and can make plans confidently.

Our calendar is the most important organization tool because it gives an overview of your time. Missing appointments and double-booking ourselves is one of the key situations we’re avoiding by planning and staying organized.

The more we can keep our calendars trustworthy, the more on top of our time and plans we will be.

During the weekly review, we double-check that we’ve kept our calendar accurate, and then we get a feel for – and maybe even a strategy for – the next week based on what’s on our calendar.

➡️ Take 20 minutes and update your calendar so that at least the next three weeks are an accurate reflection of your commitments & obligations.

2. Focus on Basics

A. Meal Strategy

Feeding people is not a small, insignificant job, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it takes up a not-insignificant part of our days. Meals can be meager and homey, or lavish and distracted, or plentiful and merry. It takes practice to keep up with the planning, purchasing, and prep of 3 (or more) meals a day.

We don’t need to menu plan from scratch each week, starting with a blank slate, treating the menu plan like a designer piece of our lives. Each meal, especially breakfasts and lunches, does not need to be different from the day before, or even different every week. In fact, repetition builds habit and streamlines the entire process: planning, shopping, and preparing. What we repeat, we get good at.

Our goal is to feed people regularly without stress or strain. Our goal is not to become a gourmand or use all the food options that are available to us.

If simplifying and streamlining is your goal, then you must eliminate options and intentionally repeat meals – with no guilt.

Menu planning is not an extra project. It needs to be a regular part of your normal planning & homemaking routine. The meal plan time included in your weekly review is not the time to find new recipes or reinvent the wheel. Instead, it’s the time to adjust your food plans based on the actual calendar and list of weekly obligations in front of you.

As you repeat this process, you’ll develop your own strategies for simplifying and you’ll see where you actually need to spend time meal planning in project-mode. That project-mode planning will be informed by your knowledge of your actual circumstances and needs rather than by wishful thinking.

B. Routines

The routines you outline or track in your planner and during your weekly review do not need to be those of a paragon of excellent homemaking. They simply need to be a baby step above your current routines if those routines are in place but not quite sufficient. If you are missing regular housekeeping or personal habit routines, then choose small changes to practice – adding not more than 10 minutes of new routines per week.

Once you master that, take another baby step. You’ll make lasting, effective change by building slowly rather than trying to overhaul everything (including yourself). Whatever routines you set up for yourself, write it out and keep it somewhere you can easily refer to in the midst of the day. Training ourselves to look at the lists is the hardest part of planning and doing; it’s what we need to practice most.

Whether you have your routines on a checklist in your planner, on a sticky note on the calendar, on a white board, on clipboards, or inside an app – the trick is looking at them and following through on them. What chore happens when is less important than practicing that habit of following the list, even when we don’t feel like it. The weekly review is when you create the reminders that you need to practice your next-step routines in the coming week.

Resist the urge to overcommit and make your routines unrealistic and drastically more than you’re accustomed to.

You wouldn’t take a two-year-old in hand and expect him to be as responsible as a ten-year-old or twenty-year-old because of one discipline session. So, with ourselves, we need to make incremental adjustments in our plans, growing over time, not trying to wake up tomorrow and be perfect.

Each weekly review is when we can adjust and take the next step.

3. Plan in Place

Find my planner templates here.

A. Weekly Dashboard

Your planner might have a lot of moving pieces, but the workhorse, the essential piece, is the week-at-a-glance view. Keeping a weekly dashboard – in any format – will help you keep your plates spinning when life is hectic and busy.

When we imagine a particular planner or page in the planner as being the heart, the key, the important piece, we become paralyzed as we stare at it. We don’t want to mess it up. Something that’s so vital ought not be scribbled on, we think.

However, a weekly dashboard, by the end of the week (and maybe even at the beginning), will be a messy page because it will be a reflection of real life. Our job as both mothers and planners is not to contain life into neat and tidy baskets, but to orchestrate many moving pieces – that means mess happens. Mess is part of the plan or our plan is a waste of time.

Your weekly dashboard is where the hands-on orchestration of all the details happens. It is your at-a-glance, go-to overview. What details make it onto the weekly dashboard will vary from situation to situation and person to person, but there are three universal components.

First, your dashboard needs boxes for each day with plenty of room for writing. What you write in those boxes might change up from week to week, but there will usually be day-specific yet non-appointment notes to track. For instance, if I plan overnight bread for Friday’s dinner, I need a place to note to start that bread on Thursday.

Second, your weekly dashboard needs a spot for tracking your home’s necessary routines and any habits you are currently trying to build. After all, our sense of our own consistency is often inaccurate. Instead of relying on our feelings, a routine and habit tracker gives us concrete data to evaluate not only how we’re doing but also where we most need improvement.

Third, you’ll want to choose a weekly set of top three tasks to be sure to do. There’s always a lot on our plates and many tasks to track, but this section is where you call out what really matters most and can’t be skipped this week.

Choosing a limited number of priorities – not huge projects – helps us accomplish more because we stop procrastinating on the tasks that matter most. The weekly dashboard is the plan of action. We don’t know how each day will play out, but we do need an idea of what needs to get done when.

So we make a weekly plan to move our current projects and commitments forward – not a moment-by-moment, play-by-play plan, but a weekly overview. Then when available time pops up amid all the hustle and bustle of life at home, we know what we need to do.

The whole point of working the plan is that we can know what we have on our plate so we can be both focused and flexible. With such a plan in writing in front of our face, we can roll with the punches and adapt on the go.

B. Planning Realism

When our plans are swirling in our head, we’re more vulnerable to our default responses, which are often not our best choices. So we become unpredictable, unmotivated, and volatile – because that’s the nature of our default emotions.

Taking time to write a plan, to see a plan, is one way of “preaching to yourself.” We don’t need to live by default responses and impulses. We can use our brain to think and problem solve, rather than to hold information and details.

We write things down so we can think about them more clearly and respond more appropriately to the actual situation at hand, even when that situation doesn’t go according to plan.

Without a plan, we’re using up too much of our bandwidth thinking the same things over and over again so we don’t lose them – then we don’t have the mental and emotional resources to properly process and respond to the real life in front of us. However, when we’re working from a regular planning rhythm, we’re not operating at the edge of our emotional resilience, but from a place of clarity and calm.

We know that real life doesn’t follow our plans, so our planning time becomes wishful thinking time where we imagine all we could do if things would only go our way. As soon as things don’t go our way (like first thing Monday morning), we toss the plan out the window.

We have to do that, because that plan wasn’t made for real life.

Instead of wasting time on wishful thinking plans, we need to make plans in light of our current reality and use them not as a tool of control against others, but as a tool to control our own moment-by-moment choices – even if that choice is to switch gears and take care of the current urgent, unexpected need.

Our plans should help us make those judgment calls with calm clarity and consistent conviction. The weekly review is a time set aside to remind us what we have on our plates and choose our commitments so we can stay organized.

D. Goals

Goal-setting is simply taking the time to think about where we are, what needs to happen, what direction we are headed, what direction we should be headed, and how to move the planned way rather than drift.

It’s a thought-exercise that then influences our mindset, sets our intentions, and makes us aware of our calling and our situation. You don’t need annual goals, much less life visions, to make an appropriate action plan for your real day to day and week to week. If you want to work out such things, you can, but it’s not necessary.

Instead, look at the responsibilities in front of you, make a plan to tackle those first, and the next phases will become clearer as you begin to move forward.

E. Projects

According to the dictionary, a project is an undertaking requiring concerted effort; it is a plan for accomplishing something. Projects have an end; they result in finished products. Projects have an end-point goal.

If you know the goal of your project, you’ll know whether or not the urgent situation in-your- face is more or less important and be able to make better decisions in the day-to-day and the week-by-week.

Too often we think we’ve listed tasks, to-do items on our plan, when we’ve really listed a project. A project takes multiple tasks to accomplish a goal. One reason you might be procrastinating on a certain “task” in your plan is that it isn’t one task, but a project.

Can you break down the project into the one next step that will take you 15 minutes or less to do? Write that down instead and start making actual progress, one small step at a time.

F. Running Lists

Many of us are natural list-makers, so we have lists hither and yon, started and unfinished, written and never looked at again. We can categorize our lists, organize our lists, and yet they don’t help us get the traction we need.

The problem isn’t lists themselves; lists are a super useful tool. The problem is overcomplicating lists and not giving our list a simple job and a clear home.

At Simply Convivial, we call a simplified list, kept with our dashboard, a “Running List.” The format doesn’t matter at all. It can be on a post-it note, on a piece of notebook paper, in an app, or just on the back of your dashboard. What matters is keeping it simple.

Your running list is where you collect the extra tasks that pop into your head. Tasks that need to be done, but aren’t priorities go here. Tasks you might want to do, but need to think about a bit more can sit on your running list. Add those tasks that should be done soonish, but not necessarily immediately.

The running list allows you to get those “I should” items out of your head, onto paper, sit with them a bit, maybe get some of them done in the margins, and then evaluate during your weekly review.

The running list is casual. The point is not complicating it and not overthinking it. It’s a quick and easy place to jot to-do items that don’t need to be on your “DO TODAY” list.

4. Iterate for Progress

A. “Keeping Up”

Although our plan is there to prevent us from procrastinating, forgetting and ignoring what we’re supposed to be doing, our plan is not there to steam roll over other people or ignore life as it unfolds. We can’t rigidly follow a plan regardless of what happens.

Keeping a written plan actually can help us be flexible and adaptable in the moment. We don’t need to be anxious about forgetting something; it’s written down and we know that we can return to the plan and review it, and we will review it shortly, so we can deal with the present moment in the way that the present moment needs us.

Our mind is free and unburdened. It’s not trying to hold on to all those details. The details and responsibilities are written down and they’ll be there when we can get back to them. So we can take a deep breath and move on without stress.

With our planning structures in place, we have a place to toss the information that comes at us, internally or externally, and we have reserved times to look through those plans.

So, say when a bill arrives in the mail, or an idea pops in your head, or a child runs out of toothpaste. You don’t have to pay that bill right away, plan out all the details for your idea, or go buy toothpaste immediately. It’s like these incidents are balls that you catch and deflect onto a running list.

Then during your weekly review you’re going to make sure that they are all handled appropriately. But you don’t have to worry about handling them all in the midst of daily life. You just catch it, toss it in the right container, and take care of it later.

We’re making judgment calls every time we make a decision about what to do next, and every time we have to choose one thing over another. The more we practice appropriate reflection and assessment times daily, weekly, and occasionally, the better we’re going to get at making those judgment calls.

We have to be familiar enough with what’s on our plate to make informed, intentional choices in the moment. And we gain that familiarity during the weekly review.

We also have to trust that what we have to take care of will come in front of our faces again before it explodes. That happens during the weekly review. We also have to have margins built in so we’re able to step back and gain perspective.

Gaining perspective is seeing the forest for the trees. But so often we aren’t just in the forest among the trees taking a walk, we are in the forest putting out forest fires. It is worth the time to pause and pull back out of the immediacy of the situation, at least once a week during our weekly review.

All of these practices are things that we have to practice. The more we do them, the better we will get at it. It’s not an overnight transformation; it’s a gradual maturing and growing.

We are going to get better at making good choices the more we deliberately practice and also the more times we have to keep our systems current and familiar. Working the plan is more of an art than a science; an art that we will get better at the more we choose the next thing.

B. Attitude

We imagine that once we get our act together and completely organize and systematize our routines and our home, then it will all be easy. We seek that holy grail – organization – believing that having attained the quest, our lives will then have purpose, meaning, and ease.

We are weary, frantic, pestered, distracted, fatigued, and confused. Organization seems to be the answer to our problems. So we try and try and try, but we just can’t seem to get to the blessed state.

News flash: The reason we are weary and frantic and pestered is not because of our situation, but because of our hearts. And only God can change our hearts. Organization begins in the heart, having a heart rightly ordered to our Creator and Lord.

The blessed state is the state of repentance and obedience, from which rejoicing and gratitude flow.

The siren call of organization is that if we just get our act together, then we can make our life go our way, we can make our life easy on ourselves, we can be control.

It’s a lie. Real, true, God-honoring organization is being always ready to serve as needed.

Being always ready is first an attitude, a mindset, a heart thing and secondarily a preparedness with the material resources we use in service.

Bonus: Guided Weekly Review Videos

A. 15-minute version

Download the 15-minute weekly review checklist here.

B. 20-minute weekly review

Download the 20-minute weekly review checklist here.

C. 30-minute weekly review

Download the 30-minute weekly review checklist here.

D. 45-minute weekly review

Download the 45-minute weekly review checklist here.