Saturday Blueprint on the Monthly Review
My suggested prompts for a Monthly Review, plus my full Monthly Review template.
Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
There is a unique clarity when looking at past events with hindsight. There is certainly some truth to the adage that ‘hindsight is 20/20’ and this week I share my own Monthly Review process and prompts.
🔄 Monthly Review prompts
For me the Monthly Review is a chance to focus on goals, in contrast to the Weekly Review where I focus on habits. It’s that higher-level view and reflection on whether I’m on the right trajectory.
When I look back over the last month it is often clearly evident on whether I’ve been allocating my time effectively, something that is curiously opaque in the present moment when I tend to be hopelessly short-sighted.
Nevertheless, the monthly review isn’t a chance to berate myself, it’s a chance for a honest look at where I am and where I’m going. if my goal is to say increase my muscle mass I can be frank and look at whether my actions and results over the last month are on the way to achieving this. I can then be clear on whether I need more patience and should keep doing what I’m doing, or whether I need to intervene in some way.
The actionable intervention is typically a mini ‘project’ - a micro challenge for example like my 4 week of 100 press up a day challenge - see Saturday Blueprint 5 on Press Ups and Stress. Or it could be an output, like a mini project to edit and publish a YouTube video.
My Monthly Review template is a set of simple prompts and is captured inside of my logseq graph. I have a template set up so I can quickly create a Monthly Review - see the screencast below.
My review template includes the steps of:
Although not in that order - Plan comes at the end since I’m planning for the month ahead.
Under ‘Do’ I’ve got some actions I repeat on a monthly cycle, for example scheduling a monthly 48 hour fast. As well as those in the standard list I also ask myself what other actions I want to take this month and record them here.
For the ‘Review’ section I have some prompts to get me started and I mostly structure this by looking at my metrics dashboard - the one I wrote about in Saturday Blueprint 19 on Routines and Habits - since this gives me a fantastic monthly view of both my habits and the results of my habits in the metrics I track.
There are lots of rabbit holes I can go down in the ‘Review’ section but I do try to keep it to a higher level and focus on longer term goals and the broader direction of travel via the projects I’m working on.
I use the term ‘projects’ in the broadest sense. This isn’t a work project, it’s simply something that is more than one action to achieve an outcome. Entering and competing a running race is a project. Publishing a YouTube video is a project. The distinction is that I focus on the things that fit more on the monthly timescale to achieve, and are often require stringing together a number of steps or tasks to achieve.
It’s also a chance to check in with my 9 life accounts, which I’ve taken from Michael Hyatt’s book Living Forward. The idea is that there are a number of ‘accounts’ in your life, and much like a bank account you can be depositing or withdrawing from these accounts, and your balance might be healthy or overdrawn. Every month I’ll try to objectively rate each life account on a scale of 1-10. If it’s not a 10, which it never is, I ask myself what would need to happen to get to a 10.
Finally there is the ‘Plan’ section. This is my favourite part of the monthly review since it’s the ‘so what’ part. I’ve reflected on where I’m going well and where I’m falling, and now it’s time then to plan what to do about it in the month ahead. Is there a new habit I need to introduce? What project do I need to commit to? Do I need to focus on one aspect and knowingly step back from another? I capture the actions on the monthly scale as ‘monthly themes’.
The ‘monthly themes’ are the key things I want to have front and centre of my mind over the next month. They will inform my weekly planning, define any big rocks I need to schedule in my calendar, and set expectations for which habits to double-down on.
Scroll to the bottom for my monthly review template in full.
🔭 Other review cycles
I have three review cycles:
- Weekly Review
- Monthly Review
- Yearly Review
Each of these serves a different purpose in that the there is a different perspective or focus for each one.
- The actionable output of the Weekly Review is habits.
- The actionable output of the Monthly Review is projects.
- The actionable output of the Yearly Review is goals.
Whilst not a review per se but worth mentioning that I also have my daily journal. At the daily cycle I focus on gratitude, and it’s also where the rubber meets the road with actually doing my daily habits. Just writing something down daily is a form of reflection, even if I don’t use a particular prompt or approach.
A recent study on nurses showed that journalling, being a reflective practice, is effective in promoting the development of clinical judgment and emotional competency.
Journalling and periodic reviewing and reflecting would seem to improve metacognition - that is, thinking about thinking - and this means a reflection practice can help look at your life and experiences with a little more objectivity. It’s that slight distance that gives you an advantage in seeing this as they are, not as you think they are. This simple act can reduce stress and improve gratitude. It’s also the realisation that you do have some control over the trajectory of your life and can take actions to course correct if only you can take a minute to stop and look around.
To use an analogy; a hillwalker who never lifts her eyes from the ground isn’t looking where she is going. instead, take a moment periodically to stop. Get out the compass. Look at the map. Look at the where you’ve been and where you’re going. And then put your head down and off you march again. Don’t forget to enjoy the view too!
It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊
 Greenleaf Brown, Lynn et al. “The Influence of Journaling on Nursing Students: A Systematic Review.” The Journal of nursing education vol. 61,1 (2022): 29-35. doi:10.3928/01484834-20211203-01
About the Saturday Blueprint
The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.
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Subscribers only template
If you also use logseq, reply to this email and I'll email you the exact logseq template.
Monthly Review template
- Log CP
- Schedule a 48 hour fast
- Phone a friend
- Monthly MAF test
- 1:1 time with kids and wife
Monthly review prompts
- Review my metric summary spreadsheet. Which areas need attention? Which areas are doing well?
- How are my goals doing? Do I need habits against these goals?
- What about my professional objectives?
- How did I do against last months plan?
- [[Monthly Review]]
- answer the prompts above
Plan (for next month)
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I continue doing?
- What should I start doing?
- What goals am I prioritising?
- What is the plan for this month?
- What action am I going to take then? What are my [[Monthly Themes]]?
- answer the prompts above