I recently completed my 54th weekly review. This means I have been doing weekly reviews for over a year. In this video, I will go over the five biggest lessons I have learned in the process.
🔍What is a Weekly Review?
The term weekly review comes from David Allen's seminal productivity book Getting Things Done (GTD). How it's done changes from person to person.
In general, however, it's a periodic review of your productivity system where you look at your to-do list, calendar, active projects, communication mediums, and goals to make sure everything is set for next week. For the most part, this is the first half of my weekly review.
But the most exciting and insightful part comes in the second half when I review my journal. In my daily journal, I jot down the most noteworthy moments of my day and who I spent time with.
I write down my storyworthy moment, a concept from Matthew Dick's book Storyworthy where I write down the most storyworthy five-minute moment from my day. I also answer a few journaling prompts like what are my greatest fears and anxieties, what was the best thing I learned, and what could I have done better?
Lastly, I evaluate myself on my three most important values:
- Evangelizing the Peanut Butter Religion
- Destroying other people's hopes and dreams
- Spending exorbitant amounts of time creating content no one watches
Nah, I'm just joking. Only a little…
My actual three most important roles are:
I chose each of these roles while developing a philosophical system I call Addition Through Subtraction (ATS). It borrows from Stoicism, Buddhism, and Leidy Koltz's book, Subtract The Untapped Science of Less, which you can watch my Booksquad book summary on.
The main tenet of ATS is that everlasting happiness often comes from subtracting rather than adding. Subtracting what? Almost everything. Commitments, number of friends, values, possessions, etc.
In my weekly review, I go through each of these values and ask myself how I followed them well as well as what I can improve on next week.
Now that you know what a weekly review is, let's talk about the five most significant lessons I have learned after reviewing 54 of them.
✍️Lesson 1: Write Down Your Best Memories
The first lesson I learned is how important it is to write down our best memories so we don't forget them.
For example, last summer, on July 9th, my brother and a group of our friends were trying to create a movie with our senior friends. We wanted something epic to commemorate our last year together before we all went to college.
On filming day, everyone showed up except for two of the most critical actors, making it impossible to record. But instead of sending everyone home, my brother and I made something out of the situation by cooking everyone Dutch chocolate poffertjes. They are a Dutch version of classic pancakes shaped like balls. Just look at them:
Man, I'm hungry.
We had a fantastic time discussing our summers and college hopes while eating them. But for some reason, I had forgotten entirely about this memory until I saw it through one of my weekly reviews. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only thing I had forgotten.
While going through my 32nd weekly review, I came across one of the funniest (It's a word, fight me) statements a friend ever made to me. It was during a lunch conversation at Cornell University on February 5th.
My friend, Amus, was telling me about a test he had crammed for during the last semester at Cornell. During a study session two nights before the test, he felt a need for some energy. So naturally, he drank two massive cups of coffee, a BANG energy, and a chocolate coffee bar.
He could feel his heart beating through his chest. He thought he was going to die.
But in his words, it was all worth it in the end because, get this:
He "thought he would reach nirvana."
I was crying laughing for minutes.
🏗️Lesson 2: Weekly Reviews Allow for Lifestyle Design
The second lesson I learned is how valuable weekly reviews are for lifestyle design.
Each weekly review is a gold mine of personal data.
On any particular day, it's hard to notice the consistency in the activities that bring you the most joy. But when you reflect on your life over weeks, months, and even years, you gain insight into what the best average day is for you. This allows you to take active steps to make your next week more enjoyable.
For example, I can tell from my journal I enjoy exercise, writing, reading, socializing with friends or classmates, and thinking up plans to take over the world. It's also clear I like having time in the morning to spend for myself, so most days, I wake up around 6:00 a.m. I have also noticed I'm more relaxed if, after dinnertime, around 6:30 p.m., I shut my brain off from work.
Each time I realize this during a weekly review, I take active steps to reflect it in my calendar. For example, I pre-schedule activities like reading, exercise, writing, and socializing in my calendar to ensure no other commitments take over. I know these activities bring me joy.
As mentioned earlier, my weekly review also has a section where I go through my three biggest values, health, relationships, and teaching, and reflect on what I can do better next week. This has also led me to make lifestyle changes.
For example, a weekly reflection on my value for teaching led me to integrate my mom, dad, and grandfather into reading my unfinished writings for my blog and YouTube channel (luckily, my parents both teach and I asked them for this favor during the summer!). This is because I realized I didn't have enough sources of feedback for my YouTube scripts and blog posts.
🗺️Lesson 3: Your Life is a Story
The third lesson I learned is how your life is like a story.
On a single day, it's easy to see life as boring and mundane. Most people wake up, hit the snooze button a few times, rush to eat breakfast and slam a coffee down their gullet, go to work or school, and then come back home exhausted and ready to watch television for hours.
But by looking at your life through weeks, months, and years, you begin to see stories pop up everywhere.
One of the biggest ongoing stories I uncovered was the story of my growing love for teaching.
It started in March of 2021 when I began creating content on my YouTube channel. I didn't think anything would come of it. I simply liked watching other YouTubers like Will Tennyson and thought it would be fun to give it a shot.
At first, I did stupid fitness challenges and workout advice. I created videos of myself trying to eat the most popcorn I could in one sitting. Please don't search for that video. Over time, I moved on to giving reading tips, book summaries, and advice for Personal Knowledge Management.
Then on November 14th, I taught online at my first SPLASH event. This is an event where you can teach a group of high schoolers a class on anything you want. I taught one class on Habit Changing Basics and another on the Science of Learning. Seeing my excitement for that, my mom let me teach a storytelling class to her AP Biology students at Hamilton Central High School.
After this, I took two education classes during my second semester at Cornell. One where I taught a Cornell employee about stress management and communication skills, and another where I got to teach my previous class, Habit Changing Basics, based on James Clear's book Atomic Habits, to a group of sophomore high school students.
Now, I'm continuing my teaching story by considering pursuing a Ph.D. and becoming a professor of Human Development in Psychology.
♻️Lesson 4: You Can Repurpose Past Ideas
The fourth lesson I learned is weekly reviews allow us to repurpose our past self's ideas.
While going through my weekly reviews, I came across an insane amount of ideas I had completely forgotten about. Here are a few examples:
Future Podcast Ideas
I have long wanted to create a podcast but never knew when I would have the time for one. Nevertheless, I sometimes discussed with friends and family what it could look like when I made one.
Over time I began to write down podcast formatting ideas, possible co-hosts, ideas for what to talk about, and more in my journal. Now that I'm finally starting a podcast, I'm getting tremendous insight from going back through these past ideas.
A Thought Leaders Page
The idea to create a thought leaders page on my website came from a daily journal on February 11th, 2022.
My thought leaders page documents the internet influencers who have most changed my life with links to their content mediums so you can also learn from them.
The 1% Rule With My Editor
Finally, the idea for the 1% rule I have with my YouTube video editor came from a daily journal on December 31st, 2021. The 1% rule is a rule where I give my editor one thing to improve on or edit to implement in our next video together. The idea is over time we get incrementally better and better without much effort.
🔐Lesson 5: You Can Discover Your Underlying Psychology
The fifth lesson I learned is how doing weekly reviews can help you uncover your underlying psychology.
For instance, I have realized I have a very judgmental way of thinking. Throughout tons of my journal entries, I discuss how I wish my dad would stop drinking so much coffee, read the news less, or stop buying so much stuff. I do this frequently with other people, often making little nitpicks on their lifestyle choices compared to mine.
By uncovering this natural part of my psychology, I can now take steps to fix it. In the last year, I have tried to voice my judgments less and think more of the positive aspects of people.
I also noticed how easily I neglect relationships if I don't pre-schedule social time. I uncovered this aspect of my psychology after seeing how often I would go until dinner without talking to a friend or family member. Not surprisingly, these were often the days I enjoyed least, even if I got a lot done.
But because I can now see these psychological tendencies for what they are, I can reduce their effect on my life.
👇Why Should You Do a Weekly Review?
Doing weekly reviews for the past 54 weeks has changed my life dramatically. On the day-to-day, it's hard to notice the activities that regularly bring us joy. But over weeks, months, and years, the data begins to collect and give us insight into our forgotten memories, stories, ideas, and inner psychological tendencies.
It's all perfectly encapsulated with this one idea:
Wisdom doesn't come from experience. It comes from reflecting on experience.
Perhaps the best part about doing weekly reviews is they let you be maximally present during each day because we know our task and knowledge management systems have been well cleaned out in preparation for the week.
The day is the largest unit of time we can focus on at once. A lot of anxiety and stress come from thinking about things that aren't happening at the moment.
In this way doing weekly reviews isn't some cheap productivity trick. It's a deeply spiritual and philosophical practice that over time can help you live the best life for you.
Thanks to Astrid and Ian Helfant for the conversations which helped form this blog post.