Forget Goals, Try a Weekly Review Instead

In December 2015, I had been unemployed for two months. After five years of working in two corporations, I decided not to look for new employment when my fixed-term contract ended. I did what most people do when they ‘escape’ the corporate world, I went travelling. I had one month and one country, Japan. In a way, going to Japan was my way of going full circle. I was born in Japan but moved to England as a baby and grew up in the UK. I’ve spent my adult life living in London.

After more than 25 years away from ‘home’, I was finally going to explore the otherside of my heritage. I also walked away from my corporate career because I was tired of putting off writing my first book. With a portion of my savings devoted to supporting my life for the next 6 - 12 months, when I landed back in the UK, I spent a day recovering and then got straight to work on my book.

Achievement vs. Value

I was amazed that I could sit and write for hours on end. I had lots of breaks and interruptions of course, but I was also writing around 4,000 words a day. I was fixated on the idea that my book had to be around 300 pages long. Other personal finance books were around this length, so I figured mine should be no different. 300 pages would confirm I had reached my goal of writing a book.

I had all of this time to write and yet what I wasn't creating anything to be proud of.

What I didn’t realize until later was that I was tackling my book all wrong. I only realized this when a couple of months’ later, I sat down to read my draft. I was gutted. What I’d written was terrible. I had all of this time to write and yet what I created was not anything to be proud of. I had been so focused on writing a book that I had neglected the most important aspect: adding value to others. I had been focussed on the wrong outcome so, naturally, I was disappointed.

Other authors may have done the same thing, but I’m sure their books were 300 pages in length because that was the amount of space they felt was appropriate for communicating their message. Anyone can write a book. If you don’t believe me, watch this TED talk on writing a novel in a month. But writing a book isn’t the point - you need to know why you’re writing a book.

Achievements are anti-cathartic when you haven’t added value to the world through them.

Why Goals Annoy Me

Despite the title of this article, I’m not against setting goals. I just believe that we place too much emphasis on setting goals that are so big, we find it difficult to know whether we’re making progress. We can become distracted by achievement instead of how we’re adding value. Around the same time, I realized having this big goal wasn’t ‘enough’ for me to create something worthwhile. I looked to Live Your Legend for inspiration and found an article about using a weekly review.

Scott Dinsmore, founder of Live Your Legend, wrote the weekly review article to argue that most accomplished people never seem to have time management issues. Instead, they employ a strategy to plan out each week. Dinsmore employs the same strategy.

It literally changed the game for me.

  • Scott Dinsmore

How to Do a Weekly Review

Dinsmore’s weekly review is comprised of 5 steps:

Make Time - Establish a Ritual. Write down your planning time and schedule it.

Connect and Visualize the Big Picture. Visualize, feel and connect with the biggest things you want to be part of your life.

Celebrate Last Week. List at least 10 things from the last week that you’re proud of.

Write Down Major Lessons. Look back through your notes and ideas from last week and list all the lessons that come to mind.

Analyze What Didn’t Happen. Be honest with yourself and list the big things that didn’t happen and what you can improve for next time.

After employing Dinsmore’s weekly review template for a few months, I found myself focusing on how I was adding value through my writing - week by week. Towards the middle of 2016, with my book’s 2nd draft well under way, I started adjusting elements of the weekly review to better suit my lifestyle. Since I’d established the habit in 2016, in 2017, I use 3 steps to complete my weekly review:


  • What are the 1 - 3 outcomes I want to have by next Sunday?

  • How will each outcome add value to others?

  • How will each outcome contribute to the bigger picture?

Lessons learned.

Usually noting down inspiring quotes from articles or books I’ve been reading during the week or writing down something new I’ve learned about writing, personal development or personal finance.

Celebrating this week.

I’ve spent a few weeks at a time keeping a gratitude journal: noting down one thing I’m grateful for at the start and end of each day. Instead of using Dinsmore’s strategy to celebrate last week, I have the option of filling this section in every day and at the end of the week.

I keep a text document with the information for my weekly reviews for the current month. I use a table format to track my progress:

At the end of the month, I use a quick list of bullet points to summarise achievements and lessons learned. That way, when I go back over my year in December 2017, I’ll be able to pull out the most significant actions I took in 2017.

Benefits of a weekly review

I would echo Dinsmore’s comment that using a weekly review is a game changer. Here are the benefits I’ve felt from over a year of using this strategy:

  • Recognition of gains made from your efforts towards a bigger goal
  • Alignment with the 1% improvement principle
  • Sorts goals into manageable chunks of effort throughout the week and month instead of over the year
  • Encourages accountability
  • Forces you to become more critical of your actions daily
  • Reminds you of how much of the year has passed
  • Acknowledge your own hurdles for getting stuff done
  • Celebration of small wins and making gratitude habitual
  • Awareness of types of emergencies that can arise and how to manage them

How do you manage your goals throughout the year?

Have you been using a template or do you play each week by ear?

What strategy for getting stuff done are you most receptive to?