Evaluation is a critical component to making long term improvement. I feel that one of the best ways to do this is the weekly review. This review allows you to really gauge your progress and make and major decisions. Finally, because you will be able to devote around 2-3 hours to your review, a weekly review allows you to fully explore problems that you might normally ignore in a busy life.
The one big problem with weekly reviews is that they leave too large a gap. In between your extensive reviews you have seven days of wandering. Seven days is just too long to leave without doing some form of evaluation and correction of your progress. How many of you have had a bad day that turned into a bad week? While weekly reviews can give you the in-depth analysis you need, we need to find a quicker method to make minor adjustments.
So I am going to introduce to you the daily review. Daily reviews are often considered a pain by most people because they don’t feel they have enough time. While I think time spent in evaluation usually gives you far more time than you put in, trying to schedule daily reviews beyond the scope of 10-15 minutes can be incredibly difficult. Especially for you busy goal-setters!
My process for the daily review is to cut out a lot of the fluff and get straight to the point. In depth examination of your goals, your life’s progress and long evaluations are best left to when you have more time. A quick daily review can allow you to make those corrections you need to make immediately so your week doesn’t turn to garbage because of a misstep.
How was my day?
First ask yourself this question. When asking this question you need to focus on two things: what went wrong and what went right.
Quickly itemize a list of all the things that went wrong today. It would be best if you can write these things down in point form on a notepad or word processor (remember to write to solve problems!). So lets say your list looks like this:
- Didn’t exercise
- Didn’t have time to prepare a proper dinner
- Got in an argument with friend
- Didn’t work as much on project as hoped
Once you’ve got your quick list you need to write another quick list. This time itemize your accomplishments. Although the need to create the first list was obvious, this one is equally important. By finishing your list off with your accomplishments you can get a sense of the improvements you have already made. This will give you the perspective you need to tackle those challenges.
Once again your list might look like:
- Woke up early without hitting snooze button
- Didn’t eat any junk food
- Finished book
You now have your two lists complete. You will probably have 3-5 points for each one and this list should have taken you no more than five minutes. Already you probably have some ideas about how you can improve tomorrow. By listing your accomplishments as well as your challenges, you should also feel a greater sense of control and confidence in tackling the next day.
With these two lists in hand, you need to decide on one or two of those weaknesses to focus on for tomorrow. If you try to focus on more than two, chances are you will forget or lose energy. Instead, picking one or two areas ensure that they receive your attention for tomorrow.
So with our list, we might decide to circle our lack of exercise and our argument with a friend as areas we want to focus on. By doing this we are deciding that, for tomorrow, we are definitely going to exercise and we are going to try to repair any damage with our friendship. This decision isolates what is critically important for the next day. This process of selecting should only take a couple minutes.
Now that we know what we are going to focus on improving, we need to run a short visual replay of our day in our minds. Go through your day with the points you had in mind and imagine how you want the day to come out. This quick visualization exercise helps lock your areas of focus into your mind. Now, when they come up tomorrow, you will remember to follow your plan. Once you’ve finished this process your daily review is complete.
So, the process of a daily review is:
- Create a list of what went wrong.
- Create a list of what went right.
- Identify one or two areas of focus for tomorrow.
- Run a quick visualization of your day with your two focuses in mind.
In total the entire process should take about ten minutes. The real benefit of this process is that it puts you into a good emotional state for handling your next day. By making this process a regular habit before you go to sleep you can make small adjustments to stay on course throughout the week without having to give up a lot of time.
If you are used to the process of creating a to-do list as a form of daily review, then I would suggest adding this ten minute practice. Creating a list of what to doesn’t serve to evaluate how your current day went. By analyzing today you have a lot more insight into improving tomorrow.
Remember, this process can only serve to make minor course corrections. A daily review won’t give you the insights you need for modifying your entire life. So this practice cannot be a substitute for a weekly review. But a daily review can give you the power to make quick, temporary adjustments that will ensure you maintain focus throughout the week. Best of all, it only takes ten minutes!