Craft By Zen

Unsplash image from Larissa Gies showing a yellow check-in sign
Unsplash image from Larissa Gies showing a yellow check-in sign

8 min read

#weekly   #reflection   #breakdown

Weekly Review, Annotated (2024 Edition)

Raw Template

How did I come about this process?

Tiago’s pillars of productivity can be broken into four categories: tasks, calendar, notes, and reading later. Of course, there’s the inevitable email inbox as well, which I’ve also included. And there’s this, the weekly review.

Prior to taking the course, half of my weekly review was tidying up, and the other half was reflection. One of the major changes that has helped me make the weekly review more accessible for me is to split those two things apart. My weekly note that I write on the website is part of my weekly reflection, and the tidying is the weekly review.

Pillars of Productivity give a ton of tactics to help tidy up for work week ahead. What I found enlightening was only to take the few things, at most two, that you can start this week. As it becomes intuitive, then continue refining the process. “Plan, Do, Check, Act”, as they say.

Annotation: Emails

I’ve made it a point to try to reduce the email load to very little. As a developer, most of my conversations are around Slack. Emails are for external chatter or sharing documents amongst a larger group. And even then, if it’s not a Google Doc or a Confluence Wiki, then I usually start one so that we can end the email chain. I know not everyone at my company likes this as there are non-technical people who are used to email transaction. It’s slowly changing, but it’s a process.

I’ve made a point to unsubscribe to newsletters, promotions / advertising, and any other recurring email. I don’t care about weekly usage reports, social media updates, and any other periodic updates. When there’s follow-up actions involved with email, I go ahead and forward it to Things, which I’ll cover in the next section. Also, I only check my personal email at a dedicated time in the morning. Otherwise, I’ve found myself hitting refresh way too often.

When I have to reply to someone, and I have to put more thought into it, it also goes in Things.

The reason I’ve come to this conclusion is I used to use Superhuman. It was way too expensive for what it was worth for my workflow. What I took away was the following.

  1. Use shortcuts
  2. Get to archiving an email quickly
  3. Unsubscribe from anything unnecessary

YMMV for the definition of “unnecessary”. I’ve found that I’ve been able to reduce my email load to a very manageable level.

Annotation: Tasks

My task manager of choice is Things. I love that it’s a one-time fee. I love that I have a special shortcut to create a new Todo. And I like how they integrated Areas and Projects to it. While I’m not strict to PARA (I have a modified system), the mental model makes sense. Especially for my work area that has many projects.

Also, I waver between my inbox and anytime. The inbox is a holding area for me to add a todo to a project and attach a date to it. If unattached, it could wind up in my “Anytime” box, which would get lost to the void. Having a weekly check-in for this helps immensely as I figure out what I have to do for the week.

📣 Shoutout to Ayush who introduced me to Things. Who also introduced me to Todoist, although I found Todoist much harder to not be overwhelmed by.

Cal Newport talked about an obligation list on his podcast, and it stuck with me. Tiago’s phrasing for this is an open loop. There’s no next action you can take as you’ve “delagated” this to someone else, but there might be some follow-up later (see David Allen’s GTD about how he delagates).

This could also be you promised to do something for someone else, but that time has not come yet. Like tell someone you can make it for their New Years bash in August. I’ll typically plan to put something, but not sure what that task will be just yet. There’s usually an element of time and duty. For a rule of thumb, I don’t rely on others to remember for me, so I put this in Things in a personal project that has no “when”.

Annotation: Calendar

I use Google Calendar as the default base calendar. I use Fantastical to create events easily, and Notion Calendar to indicate the time between meetings, and to pick up the zoom meeting link invites. Honestly, after Cron rebranded, I might drop it.

At the beginning of the day, I see if there are new meetings, or changed meetings, that I have to update my RSVP. During the weekly review, I use the existing meetings to plan when I’ll need focused time. I think a lot about Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule vs. Manager’s Schedule.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. Paul Graham

While Paul uses Office Hours to work in a manager’s schedule within a maker’s schedule, I opt for deep focus sessions that are unstructured. I have enough tasks through my task manager to indicate to me what to work on next, so I never worry about the content.

Whenever I plan a date weekend, or have obligations for others, I’ll schedule it in. I stopped putting recurring tasks on my calendar and shoved them over to my task manager.

This one is simple. I exported all of the birthday dates from Facebook or other social media of choice and give them a text or a phone call. It’s something to remind them that I’m thinking of them and an easy lift to do.

Also, I’d rather have this in Things, so I’m doing a slow migration.

I’ll have both calendars open and pen them in my physical planner. I use the physical planner as a working area to help me slot other things in. Paper and pen helps a lot better for me to think about the week ahead. See The Extended Mind.

Annotation: Notes

I’m a prolific Obsidian user as my primary personal knowledge management (PKM). My default note folder is ”+”, previously called my inbox. Each note belongs somewhere, and maybe I’ll talk about my PKM more publicly. First, I have to hide all the private notes.

My laptop’s downloads folder is the clutter area where anything can go in. Either they belong in by inbox, they get organized, or they go in the trash.

The inbox folder is something worth saving and ready to file. I use my modified version of PARA to organize where things go.

Snail mail! This is a two-fold action. I rarely check my mailbox, so I go to the mailroom. Then I review quickly anything that has a follow-up action, otherwise it goes in the recycle bin.

I use Drafts on my phone and laptop to write down anything. Calculations, initial ideas, a working draft of a next blog post. Really, this is my scratchpad, and I’ll file them away or archive them. The syncing is the reason I keep coming back.

After Thoughts

I try to minimize this time as much as possible. Tidying up isn’t the work, so I do this to prep for my focus productive time.