Each week, I carve off an hour or so to write my “Week in Review.” This ritual affords me space and time to step back from the tactical and the fire-of-the-week to build (and rebuild) my mental model about the strategic, long-term vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. It also allows me to revisit the conversations from the week, recognize themes and patterns, connect these to the larger strategy and vision, and share context with those who weren’t present.
As I begin to prepare to write my Week in Review, I start with my calendar. Looking back on the meetings over the previous week, I rely on my memory and my notes to start collecting recurring themes, “aha” moments, successes, challenges, and anything else noteworthy. Since these patterns may not have emerged on their own, this time for reflection allows me to arrange these events in a non-linear and creative way… potentially telling me a story I hadn’t yet considered.
Secondly, I reread my previous week’s Week in Review to ensure continuity in story-telling and strategy. If there were any commitments made, any particularly exciting developments that warrant follow-up, or any challenges that require resolution, this is the time to ensure that I am closing the loop on these topics.
Next, I review my own personal strategy notes — a continually-evolving document that describes where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. This serves as a reminder of the long-term vision, but also provides dedicated space to adjust that strategy based on new information from the week.
After I have spent some time collecting my thoughts from the week, revisiting the week prior to it, and reminding myself of (and, if necessary, tweaking) the bigger picture, I start to draft my message. As with any piece of long-form content, the act of writing brings clarity to all of these topics from the week. Sometimes that clarity is easy to come by, and the words begin to flow effortlessly; sometimes the notes and topics need to be massaged, organized, and re-organized until they tell the right story for the audience. And that usually starts with these questions:
- Who will/should I be sending this to?
- What do they care about? What motivates them?
- What do I want them to know?
- What do I want them to do now?
Fortunately, the audience isn’t likely to change much, if at all, from week to week, but this process exists as a reminder to keep the content topical and relevant.
I write the Week in Review with two goals in mind for those reading it:
- Team members should have context about topics discussed and decisions made in meetings they weren’t part of (and alleviating FOMO for future meetings)
- Team members should understand how the current work and priorities connect to the larger strategy.
As an additional bonus, this weekly letter can be used to recognize individuals for their accomplishments and efforts over a given week. Initially, it’s on me to keep track of these recognizable moments within the team, but I have found that after some regularity, other team members will begin to recommend others when they know my Week in Review is coming up. As this gains momentum, the readership becomes more and more engaged and invested in the content. Of course, this still requires diligence on my part: to double-check that I am recognizing all the right people for doing outstanding work and that I don't leave anyone off.
Feedback and Follow-Through
Before I send the first few of these Week in Reviews, I like to get feedback from a trusted cross-section of recipients to understand the interest and relevance to them. This gives me a license to revisit content, presentation, and tone. By rereading and revising this one last time, I am also able to make a list of commitments I am making for the next week. Visibility breeds accountability.
Finally, when I’ve nervously found that elusive sweet spot between revision and perfectionism… I click Send.