December 7, 2018

Iam forever planning what to do next.

I make a weekly to-do list on Monday mornings, and then subsequent lists each day of the week.

I write resolutions in January, and goals for the year ahead on my birthday.

I plan and I plan, and then when I finally finish what I’ve set out to accomplish, I… cross it off my list. Sometimes. If I remember.

There’s no post-mortem, no celebration of a job well-done—I just move onto whatever’s next in my master plan. It’s anticlimactic, but I’d never given it much thought until I learned about the 3 Cs.

Leadership executive David Maxfield studied the habits of over 1,500 managers and employees, searching for a through-line that might indicate what makes the high-achievers of the bunch so productive. Among other smart habits, he found that the majority of top performers hold a sort of weekly review with themselves, focusing on three tasks: getting clear, getting current, and getting creative.

The majority of top performers hold a sort of weekly review with themselves, focusing on three tasks: getting clear, getting current, and getting creative.
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“They keep a sacred, non-negotiable meeting with themselves every week to re-sync, get current, and align their daily work and projects with their priorities,” Maxfield told Fast Company of the high-powered workers he studied. “It’s not being responsive to immediate tasks; it’s being proactive, making sure you are aligned with personal and professional goals.”

Maxfield sees the weekly self-check-ins as critical to the workers’ success, and research backs him up: One study found that employees who spent a quick 15 minutes reflecting at the end of each day performed 23 percent better after 10 days than their unreflective coworkers.

But beneficial reflecting doesn’t just mean sitting and thinking about all the great things you’ve done. It requires a regular routine, with time allotted to the past, present, and future.

Start by blocking out a half-hour chunk in your calendar. Maxfield suggests Sunday night as the best time to recalibrate, but I’ve found that the end of a workday on Friday works well for me.

Once you’re in the zone, it’s time to address those 3 Cs: getting clear, getting current, and getting creative.

Get Clear:

Begin by checking in with what you’ve accomplished over the past week: Are you on the right path?

Does what you’re focusing on now line up with what you had planned to focus on at the start of the week?

Was it a needed adjustment, or did you simply veer off-track?

You might want to check in with your daily to-do lists, or Google cal, to review how you’ve been spending your time. There’s no need to dig into every task you’ve completed—simply take stock of the past week, and gauge how well the energy you’ve expended helps you accomplish your goals.

Get Current:

After getting a grasp on your past performance, move on to the now. That might mean organizing your inbox, recycling papers you’re no longer using, or even tossing out old coffee cups.

The focus here is on getting current, putting the past week aside and moving into whatever’s next. Then, check out what’s on the horizon. What meetings or calls do you have planned for the week ahead? What do you absolutely have to do?

Get Creative:

Finished organizing? It’s time to think long-term.

How does your week ahead fit into your big-picture goals?

Is there anything you can sneak in there to shake things up a bit?

For me, that might mean squeezing in a workout or setting up a coffee with a potential client. It could also mean jotting down some new ideas for the future—milestones I want to hit, or new thoughts on what I’d like to be doing by the end of the year.

I gave this a go on a recent Friday night. I lit a candle, turned on some Cat Power, and started digging through my stack of lists. I crossed out everything I’d done, compiled everything I hadn’t into one master list, and tossed out all the used scraps of paper.

Instantly, I felt lighter.

I wrote out my to-do list for the next week from a place of calm, rather than immediately after caffeinating on a frantic Monday morning.

And once I’d gotten out of the weeds, I got creative: I sketched a map of my plans for the upcoming year, and brainstormed projects that might help me meet my longer-term goals. I wrapped up my solo meeting by jotting down a list of questions to ponder over the following seven days.

The verdict? I felt noticeably calmer heading into the weekend, and the following workweek. For once, I had marked the end of one chunk of time, one batch of goals accomplished, and moved cleanly onto the next. It made all the difference.

For once, I had marked the end of one chunk of time, one batch of goals accomplished, and moved cleanly onto the next.
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Read next: How to Set the Mood For Your Week With the Law of Attraction

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