Family Meeting

Family Meeting

Every once in a while, Laura and I stumble into something that ends up being a tremendous blessing to our marriage.  As boring as it sounds, a weekly “family meeting” is one of those things.  For the record, the boys don’t participate!  But we both do and we’ve come to see it as a hugely valuable part of our week.

To be honest, we see the value so clearly because of the years of marriage we had without this kind of regular touch point.  We were chronically over scheduled, setting up conflicting meetings or not having enough time for ourselves.  There were times when Laura felt like she really didn’t know where we were financially because I do the majority of that work around the house.  It never felt like we had space to discuss major decisions – and, no, trying to work everything out in a series of texts throughout the day doesn’t count as “discussing.”  It was a recipe for frustration.  Even worse, those conversations would often spill into “date night.”  So, what should have been a fun, romantic chance to connect turned into a planning meeting!  Not cool.

In an attempt to regain control of our lives, work more as a team and help each other make better decisions, we started setting aside one hour a week to sit down in the evening after the boys are asleep (well, at least in bed!) and plan out our lives.  We pray together and then we hit on three major points:

  • Our finances.  This is usually just a quick update.  But it’s also a place to discuss unexpected expenses, larger purchases or adjusting our budget.
  • Our schedules.  This is the main event.  We’re constantly working to protect white space, to ask ourselves if we’re living out our priorities and setting realistic expectations for our week.  We both have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew – this is a little forced accountability.
  • Other decisions.  This could be anything from finding a pre-school for Jack, to thinking about a vacation, to checking in on how the other is doing spiritually.

I know many of us have an instinctively negative reaction to meetings.  You do your best to avoid them at work and now I’m trying to get you to add one into your home!  I get it.  That’s how I felt for a really long time.  But, the cost of not having this kind of regular check-in is so high in terms of wasted time, energy and emotion.  If nothing else, try this for a month and see how it goes.  My guess is it’ll become a regular part of your week and marriage.

Getting Ready For Vacation

I used to hate the last work day before vacation so much that I’ve actually considered cancelling vacations just to avoid that day.  That last day of work can be pure torture – an exhausting frenzy of work I’ve put off too long, conversations other people absolutely must have with me before I go and a few totally unforeseen disasters just to make life interesting.  It can be the kind of day when I’m annoyed at everybody including myself.

I used to cope with that stress by carving out extra work time.  I would plan to stay really late at night and get everything done once everyone else left for the day.  When that wasn’t enough, I would start auctioning off vacation time.  Some of those last-minute conversations became phone calls I could make from the car.  Some of the projects I needed to work on became things I could take care of on the plane.  Last minute problems became reasons that I wouldn’t totally unplug during my vacation.

It was an awful way to vacation.

And then I started doing something that made all the difference in the world for me.  It’s so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to write about it.  But it’s been so helpful to me that I’m willing to take the risk.  As soon as I schedule a vacation, I block out four hours of time on the morning of my last day in the office – no meetings, phone calls or interruptions.  Pure space to tie up loose ends.

I’ve found that if I push that time to the afternoon, it gets swallowed up by the events of the day.  But if I give myself four hours first thing in the day, I’m able to make a huge amount of progress.  I get to wrap up projects, answer emails and get a few things in motion that I need to hear back on later in the day.  Once I have that time, I don’t mind scheduling a few meetings in the afternoon.  But the morning is sacred – it’s my time to fight for my vacation, fight for time with my family and fight for the ability to genuinely rest and recharge.

My guess is a number of us are headed out on vacation later this week for the 4th.  So, start planning now for how you can defend that last day of work and actually be able to unplug when you head out on vacation.