I rage quit my consulting job in June of 2013. I had had enough of the consulting world. Enough of the overwork and burnout, enough of the lack of guidance and support, and enough of working on other people’s goals instead of my own. A couple weeks later, on my first day newly unemployed, I woke up in my tiny apartment with a terrifying thought: “I’m all on my own.” For the first time I could remember, there was no company or school or community that was my default “place to go” each day. It felt like being lost in a dark forest where no one would ever find me. Like being plunged into ice cold water far out to sea, far from any solid land to stand on. That was the moment I decided I needed structure if I was going to make it. I needed a routine that would carry me through the day and tell me what to do and when. I was pacing around my tiny apartment and pondering this problem when a blue-and-orange book cover on my bookshelf caught my eye. It was the original edition of Getting Things Done, the classic book on personal productivity by David Allen. I had read it a couple months before, and even ran a book club with my colleagues to discuss its teachings. I flipped open to my highlights, and quickly found this quote: “The Weekly Review is the master key to your productivity.” Those are powerful, hard-to-ignore words. I decided that day that my Weekly Review would be the cornerstone of my life. It has been the steady rudder keeping me on course through the howling winds of unemployment, the raging storms of a freelancing career, and eventually, the Category 5 hurricane known as entrepreneurship. My Weekly Review has evolved dramatically in the 7 years since then. At times it has been long and elaborate, taking several hours. At other times, it has been short and concise, taking only minutes. It is like a living organism, evolving to meet my needs in each chapter of my life. Every discipline has a “basic move” at its core. Chefs have basic knife skills. Tennis has the forearm swing. Martial arts have the straight punch.  These moves are basic, but have infinite depth. You can improve them endlessly, but never quite perfect them. They are the building blocks that must be mastered before you can ascend to higher forms.  Like the famous “wax on, wax off” of Karate Kid fame, you have to humble yourself with these foundational moves before you can advance. The Weekly Review is the “basic move” of personal productivity. It is the foundational building block out of which all other workflows are built. It keeps the most important system of all – you – running smoothly. I’ve shared exactly the Weekly Review process I follow each week, in The One-Touch Guide to Doing a Weekly Review. It includes narrated videos of me completing each of the 5 essential steps in real time:
  1. Email
  2. Calendar
  3. Desktop/Downloads
  4. Notes
  5. Tasks
But lying beneath the checklists, there are universal principles. Principles that apply regardless of which app you use, which platform you’re on, or even whether you use software at all.  Those principles snapped into view for me when I read the personal finance book You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham (here’s my members-only summary). Managing money has striking parallels to managing time, and shares many of the very same principles. Here are the 6 most powerful principles of time budgeting I’ve learned from completing my own Weekly Review approximately 364 times over the last 7 years.
  1. Move quickly, touch lightly
  2. Age your tasks
  3. Change the plan frequently
  4. Manage what exists
  5. Make tradeoffs visible
  6. Play with the rules

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