Reviewing the week that was

Today’s Before Breakfast episode is called “Review the week that was.” In it, I talk about my Monday morning ritual of looking over the previous week’s time logs.

Longtime readers know that I’ve been tracking my time on weekly spreadsheets for approximately 6.5 years. That’s well over 300 weekly logs. I analyzed the first few quite closely, but after a while, they began serving more of a journal function than anything else (I’m not immediately adding up how much time I spend on, say, housework or driving each week). Since the week goes Monday at 5:00 a.m. to Sunday (well, really Monday morning) at 4:30 a.m., I’d generally finish the previous week’s log when I sat down at my desk on Monday morning and then archive it. Then I’d open a new, blank one.

I was doing this in a cursory fashion until recently, when I realized that I could do this ritual more mindfully. Life is a circus here, but on the other hand, we have a lot of good systems, and I’m making a lot of conscious choices about my time. It’s good to take a moment on Monday morning to reflect on everything that happened in the previous week. If nothing else, it’s good to see if I’m following the Tranquility by Tuesday rules whose adoption corresponded with statistically significant boosts in time satisfaction for other people!  Am I going to bed at close to the same time most nights? Am I running, and having family meals, at least three times per week each? (“Three times a week is a habit.”) Am I having one big adventure and one little adventure? (Or more?)

This past week was really good for all that. I did my editing retreat in Cape May, which meant I did two walks on some birding trails, and ran on the beach twice. My husband and I did our long-planned double art museum date night on Friday — we made it to the Barnes and the Philadelphia Art Museum and even squeezed in a quick sushi stop after. We had a family waffle breakfast on Sunday and then drove to Hawk Mountain to hike in the pretty fall leaves. By planning this ahead, we knew to get up on time to fit the trip and the hike in before the kid activities began at 2 p.m.

All of this served to make time feel rich and full. Indeed, it felt so expansive that I was trying to even think back to the beginning of the week when I took one kid to a try-it-out fencing class (he likes it…so that will be his new physical activity now that baseball is ending for the season). That seemed like ages ago. It is all a reminder of how vast 168 hours can be.

Anyway, I know most people don’t keep time logs (though it’s worth trying!). However, most people do have calendars, and some have planners, or journals, or other such record keeping materials. It might be worth building a few minutes into the schedule early each week to reflect on the week that was. Hopefully it will be a moment for gratitude — reminding yourself how much you accomplished, and of the fun you had. But if it wasn’t a great week, then the reflection can serve a more practical purpose. What could change? Maybe some things can’t, but if some things can, that’s helpful to know.

Time keeps passing one way or another. Reviewing the week that was lets us pause as the water goes under the bridge. It’s waving it on its way, thanking the time for what it gave, rather than having it disappear, unacknowledged, into the past.


12 thoughts on “Reviewing the week that was

  1. Did you go to the Jasper Johns exhibit and if so, how was it? We hit the one at the Whitney this weekend, it was so fascinating. We are now trying to figure out how to get down to the Philly exhibit without having to drag children along. It’s going to take some smart planning….

    1. @Elisa – so we were more mixed on the exhibit. I mean there’s certainly a lot of Jasper Johns work, including the flags and such that you would recognize from the art history books. But I was a bit underwhelmed with a lot of the more recent work. I guess in such a long career — I mean, producing in the 50s and now! — there’s going to be a lot of volume and it won’t all be everyone’s taste. We were a lot more taken with the Suzanne Valadon exhibit at the Barnes — and then going to see her son’s work (Maurice Utrillo) in the main collection. Maybe you could hit both museums if you came to Philadelphia?

  2. This is inspiring me to think about how I will use my new planner (Wonderland 222) that I bought based on reviews Sarah’s did on her blog. I’m going from extremely minimal planning in a bullet journal to this system so this gives me an idea of how to use some of the space and what to include in my monthly reviews. It’s easy to forget what happened each week so doing this on a weekly basis makes it more doable! Then I can just pull from my weekly reviews to fill out my monthly review (thinking of having a highlights and lowlights section). I know lowlights is negative, but in this stage of parenting, it will probably make me feel like I’ve accomplished something when I look back and see challenges we once had (current one is baby waking at 5:30) resolved!

  3. What’s the fencing spot you took your child to? We live in the area and I’m interested in the sport for one of our kids. Thank you!

  4. So glad that your kiddo enjoyed fencing! Our oldest child saw fencing in the London Olympics, tried it out at a local parks & rec. class, and has been fencing ever since. (She’s now 16, and just got her first recruiting letter from an NCAA Div. III fencing program.) Our middle & youngest children saw how much fun fencing was, so they began fencing too — and then my husband decided he’d tried it out as well, since he was taking them to practice anyways. We’re now a fencing family! And have a whole “armory” section on our basement shelves, dedicated to fixing broken swords and gear.

  5. Love this, and reinforced an idea I was toying with – I could fill in my 5 year journal on a weekly basis instead of the more haphazard system I do now (sometimes daily, sometimes a week catchup) and that could serve as sort of a fun mindful week review. (I can look back at my planners to remember – sort of like your time log!).

    Maybe this will be a Monday Night thing as I hate to add more to Sunday . . .

    1. @SHU- it could be a Monday morning thing? That’s when I do mine – and you’re way more of a morning person than I am!
      “Morning” for me is when I sit down at my desk (8 a.m.)

  6. I’ve always loved to-do lists, but I’m starting to realize that ta-da lists are equally important.

    Above all, they provide perspective. I can often get “down” feeling like I’m underperforming in a particular category, say 1-on-1 time with the kids. They’ll start grumbling and I’ll start berating myself for failing in this area. But when I start listing all the activities from a given week, I’m often amazed at how many things fall under this category! I feel a lot less guilt when I have tangible evidence of my work toward reaching particular goals/values.

    While I don’t have a great system in place right now, I do summary e-mails that I send out to family/friends each month which help me remember what I’ve actually accomplished. Looking through the pictures on my phone can also be a great trigger. And I’ll often write things down in my daytimer AFTER I’ve done them so I can see at a glance all the things I’ve managed to accomplish. But day-to-day, I’m not sure how to best account for this sort of thing. I like SHU’s idea to incorporate this into her 5-year journal. And @Grateful Kae had a great summary on her blog today that stems from this blog post/podcast episode.

  7. I’ve been writing a weekly thankfulness list for years now. I normally do it during Sunday evening church (being child free helps!). Some weeks there are lots of big things, other weeks have more simple things like sunsets and seeing friends and phoning my sisters. But I am always able to write at least a page. Looking back with thankfulness helps me to be more intentional about planning the week ahead – both work and family time.

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