Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Family Meeting

Family Meeting.

I know the phrase makes some people cringe, maybe it’d be less dull sounding, although twice as cheesy, if we called it the team huddle, the go party, or some other euphemism for ‘sitting down to get your rear in gear and your life in order.’

I’ve decided that the family meeting has been my “Keystone habit”; the single habit that has had an incredible ripple effect of positive changes everywhere in my life.  Because of our family meeting, our days run smoother, we accomplish more of what we want to do and we move with intention and purpose towards our long term goals.  Our family meeting has become the single most important hour of our week and I can’t imagine how we’d keep everything straight without it.  But inevitably, when I mention our family meeting, I’m met with a mixture of amazement or disbelief. I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose and power of this relatively simple habit, and I can’t stress enough how important it has become to me.

Our family meeting is a safe and special time and place to come together as a family.  We discuss grievances, share ideas, support each other’s goals, and take care of the daily business of running a household; things like work schedules, kids classes, and our budget.

The top three reasons people have given me for not having a family meeting are detailed below:

  1. There is no way my spouse would participate.

That’s okay!!  We can’t change anyone but ourselves and in my experience trying only causes problems.  I think it is wonderful for families to come together and meet regularly, but even if that’s not possible, a family meeting is still possible.  In fact, it’s probably even more important.  Bills still need paid, appointments confirmed, goals checked in with. In other words, the family meeting is steering the ship, and someone needsto be at the helm!  Long before my husband participated, I had a ‘family meeting’ each week.  My children are very young, so they don’t currently participate, but I hope that as they get older, they will.  Not because they have to, but because it provides a way to help steer the direction we are moving as a family.  Because ulitmately that's why I want my family meeting to do:  provide direction and purpose.

2. I’m too busy!

I work almost full time, I have 2 toddlers, and I strive to be a contributing member of my community, so I do know how it feels to be too busy to breathe.  Still, I truly believe that a family meeting is a worth the time investment.   If you’ve never read Stephen Convey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change , I urge you to do so.  In it, he tells the story of a man who is laboring to cut down a tree.  Someone suggests to him that he should stop and sharpen the saw. The man believes he is too busy to stop sawing and sharpen the saw.  Sharpening the saw would take no time at all compared to the time saved by using a sharper saw, but the man is so busy cutting down the tree he hasn't taken the time to really think about what he needs to get the job done.  Each swing would be that more effective and the work would be reduced by simpling sharpening the saw. A family meeting is sharpening the saw. It takes time, usually about an hour for us, but I can guarantee that I save more time than that each week as a result.  Time spent frantically looking for a babysitter because my husband and I didn’t realize we both had important commitments on the same night, time running out to buy a last minute gift for a party I forgot about, time on the phone with a utility company dealing with a bill that’s past due.  Not to mention the mental and emotional energy of worrying tasks that slipped through the cracks, goals and dreams that seem further from reality with passing years or relationship tears that fester instead of being cleaned and allowed to heal.  I’m not saying our family meeting eliminates these things, but in our family, it dramatically reduces them.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I am not arguing that time isn’t a valuable and scare resource, but I do hope I have made the argument that the time invested in preparation and planning will pay dividends.

3. I have no idea how to even start.

If you have never had a family meeting, I imagine it can be a little intimidating to start.  The most important step is the first one, right?  For most families, I would say a calendar is a great place to start.  Family calendars get crazy fast.  Most people I know have a calendar of some sort, so the first step is to simply sit down with your calendar and a notepad.  Make sure every time dependent task is on the calendar. (Work, school, social commitments, classes, bill due dates, holidays, service appointments, workouts, etc).  In our family, we look at the next two weeks in details. If you’ve never done this, you will be surprised at how many things will come up.  For example, the appointment for “Book Club” on Tuesday might remind you that you need to finish your book and pick up the wine you are bringing and the appointments for your son’s doctor’s appointment might remind you to jot down your questions for the doctor and pull out the immunization records. We often find more logical or efficient ways to get things done when looking at things together.  By writing it in my notebook ahead of time, I have plenty of time to make sure I’m not rushed or missing anything when each appointment arrives.

I’m planning to share how we coordinate calendars and the details of our meetings soon, but in the meantime, I hope I’ve made a compelling argument for at least giving a family meeting a shot.

One final piece of advice: serve brownies.  Everybody likes a meeting with brownies!

Did I convince you?  If so, check out our family's agenda here: Agenda!

1 comment:

  1. Great info Amy! "Sharpening the saw" is so important and so often overlooked (in many aspects of life). Thank you for the wonderful reminders and tips!