productivity tips

The One Tip That Can Take Your Weekly Productivity From ‘Meh’ to ‘Magic’

Thomas Edison said, “Being busy doesn’t always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment.”

There is a lot of truth hidden in these few words. Especially for those who are constantly running to do more.

Tell me….are you busy this week?

I am sure you are nodding your head in affirmation!

Were you busy last week?

That nod again. Good!

So how are you feeling about yourself? Great? On top of the world? Raring to do even more?


How can that be? You were busy! You didn’t waste any time.  You were constantly swatting at the distractions! You ought to be bubbling with a sense of achievement and marvelling at your competence!

If this pillar to post lifestyle is not giving you an adrenaline high and the self esteem to scream ‘I am King of the World’, something is wrong! You are busy and overwhelmed alright. But you are NOT productive.

What is Real Productivity?

Productivity is that zone where you feel alive, excited and capable. Where every fiber of your being is singing with the fact that you are getting something done! And that too without squandering your precious mental bandwidth grappling with the urgent instead of the important.

Productivity in short is doing the right thing at the right time with just the right effort for the absolute maximum return.

This insider’s secret lets you eliminate frustration and embrace productivity on a permanent basis.

The Silver Bullet: For Stress Monsters

I love this practice so much that I call it my silver bullet – a compact solution to combat a great many sources of tension, anxiety and confusion.

It’s the fourth step of David Allen’s, Getting Things Done Methodology.  It is known as the ‘Weekly Review’.

Once you are committed to conducting a review every 7 days, you will feel infallible, invincible and utterly in control. I am not exaggerating. Just try it for yourself.

What is a Weekly Review and Why is it so Effective?

I always feel like a productivity ninja the day before I travel!  Have you felt that too?

The reason is simple. Before we go on a trip, we force ourselves to inventory what we are leaving behind. The open loops, the incomplete project files, the undone shopping for the week and so on.

Since we do not have a choice in the matter, we go ahead and ‘process’ or complete as many as we can so that we can board that flight with a clear conscience and snatch the 3 hours of sleep!!

The Weekly Review is an iterative version of the same practice, done intentionally with a firm eye on the benefits to be had.

The Weekly Review as the name suggests is an hour or two over which you prepare for the coming seven days by taking stock of:

  1. What has been wrapped to your satisfaction
  2. What is incomplete and requires more effort
  3. The new commitments and projects on the horizon

Let’s Break the Process Down into a Few Simple Steps

1.Getting Clear: We all have some collection points for our correspondences. It may be the mail box for you, is the email inbox for most and the in-trays for meticulous people like me.  Getting Clear simply refers to emptying out these collection points so that they are ready to receive the inputs of the coming week. Be careful when you ‘get clear’. Do not chuck away everything to the trash basket or hit delete.

Getting clear means:

  • Briefly evaluating an item
  • Deciding what to do with it
  • Parking the result of that decision in a list.

You may already have such lists. However, the minimum that we recommend are:

  • A Project list(List of all items that may taken more than one step to complete)
  • Calendar(Yup your calendar is a list of all your commitments that are time specific)
  • A Next Action list(List of all the next actions that you need to take to move forward on your Projects.  If this list gets too large you can break it down by topic such as Next Actions @ Home, Next Actions @ Work or Next Actions for Spouse to name a few)
  • A Waiting For list(List of all items that you have successfully delegated and are now waiting to hear back on).
  1. Getting Current: Getting current is the second step of the review process.  It stands for updating your existing lists to ensure they reflect your current level of progress and the status of your commitments. You have already added new inputs while getting clear. Now it is time to align these lists with your accomplishments of the past week.
  • What has been done already?  Strike that off.
  • Is a project completed to satisfaction? Or has it been stalled? What next action must be added to an appropriate list to ensure that a particular project wraps up on time? What new project needs to be a part of the list to keep your mind truly empty of nagging commitment ‘ghosts’?
  1. Getting Creative: This is easy. Once you are clear and current, you have a very good idea of where your various projects stand and the degree of completion of their next actions. You are the master of your own time and schedule. And with this clarity and freedom comes the ability to think better and ‘have ideas’. You may be struck by inspiration – not once but multiple times. I advise starting a ‘Someday/Maybe’ List to document these million dollar epiphanies so that you can work on them when you have the available bandwidth to do so!

A weekly review is effective because it allows us to work with lists that are updated and eliminates open loops from the equation. As a result, we:

  • Attack the coming week with a mind that is free to have ideas(instead of bothering about what might be falling through the cracks) and be a 100% present.
  • Unerringly know what task must be done in a particular setting. At home? Just look up the ‘Home’ list and utilize the resources at hand to get things done.
  • Have an inventory of all our commitmentsand thus can choose to focus on the important instead of the urgent in a very objective manner.

Through this tip, you shift your focus from merely hugging the trees to managing the entire forest. You develop a good idea of how your schedule will look, your ongoing commitments, the need to amp up your efforts and your possible leisure time.You thus make the most of opportunities that come your way or avert any crisis looming large.

Weekly Reviews are so powerful because they give you an accurate estimation of what you can knock off and where you should draw the line. And forewarned is forearmed.

 Arif Vakil is an avid GTD practitioner and Master Trainer who has been working in the productivity niche for well over ten years. The founder of Calm Achiever, a personal improvement platform that holds the Master Franchise of GTD in India, Arif juggles his job as the Director of Vakil Housing and a Trustee of ILM Montessori with apparent ease and still finds time to write for his popular medium Arif Ali Blog. 

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