We’re a family of three humans, two dogs, one rabbit, one chicken, and one pig. That comes with its share of things to plan and logistics to keep moving. We didn’t always hold a weekly family meeting, and it used to seem pretty daunting to even plan for one. But now that we’re up and rolling, it feels more out of place to have a week go by without one.
We didn’t just decide out of the blue, “Hey, we love meetings and we need more of them in our life!” We got there the good old fashioned way – by dropping enough balls to realize things were falling through the cracks.
Schedules would get double booked or we’d start home projects without realizing we didn’t have all the supplies we needed. In response, we’d do what made the most sense – we’d resolve to talk more often. We’d say spontaneously “Hey, you got a sec? Let’s talk about this or that.” We’d stop for a few minutes at home and talk about a specific upcoming day, or an upcoming event, or plans for a house project. Inevitably we’d be interrupted by something and we’d lose a little focus but we’d still cover most of the things we needed to hit.
But that still wasn’t cutting it – it really wasn’t efficient, and it was so short that we never really got our brains in the planning mindset that we’d found so useful in our professional lives. While we’ve both laughed at the meme a ton that says “Well, that was another meeting that could’ve just been an email” – we realized the opposite might be true in our case. That’s when we decided to hold our first weekly meeting and it actually changed the way we do many of the things we do.
The most important thing we found about having our weekly meeting is our attitude. The main element we need as a baseline is that we’re generally in a conducive mood for us to be useful to ourselves and each other in the meeting we’re about to have. When we’re calm, receptive, and not under significant stress it’s an entirely different meeting than vice versa.
It’s not that we try to get into any specific headspace but when we’re at-ease, we get way more out of it. We do that by things like making sure we’re not rushing into the meeting, so we leave a little down time in the hour leading up to it. We make sure that our daughter has plenty of lead time so she knows when it’s meeting time. We have drinks and snacks around. We bring extra paper and pens for drawing to keep our minds a tiny bit in play-mode.
After that, the most important thing for us is when we do the meeting – what day of the week and also what time of day. Ideally it’s a time when we have plenty of energy and when there’s already a good amount of momentum. For us, that usually means weekend lunch time where we’re up and moving and it still feels like there’ll be plenty of the day left when we’re done.
Our favorite place to meet is the kitchen table. It has all the prerequisites: chairs, a nice flat surface for writing and drawing, and it’s round so we’re able to see each other’s faces. We decide which of us is going to take notes, we take a few deep breaths together, and we’re ready to begin.
We’ve been in enough formal work meetings with detailed agendas and action item lists. While we wanted to keep the spirit of this approach, we simplified ours to be a structure that’s more open-ended while still providing usable boundaries and keeping the conversation moving. Each meeting starts with an agenda that’s basically these categories below.
As we’re going through these, we focus on the minimum viable product (MVP). That means “what’s the least we can talk/write/do about this specific thing to keep momentum going?” That keeps us from getting stuck on any one topic by going deep into details so we’re able to cover everything on our list.
We start each topic by reading the notes from the last meeting and talking about anything that’s still a loose end from that session. Then we cover new ground and anything’s fair game as long as it somehow fits in each category. We begin with the topic Home because that’s the soul of where our family lives.
- Upcoming projects, timeline, and any supplies we need to buy
- Our chore chart, how it’s working, any tweaks we want to make
- Anything we need to buy for the upcoming week
- Anything logistical like calling customer service for something or talking with insurance
- Anything that needs a repair
Health & Nutrition
- What our exercise schedules look like for the upcoming week
- What our meals look like for the upcoming week
- Any (essential) doctor appointments we need to make
- Anything we need for mental health like time in nature
- Looking over our calendar for the upcoming week
- Any needs for things to buy or order
- Planning a block of down-time as a family where the whole point is to do nothing. This one is easily lost in the shuffle for us when we don’t intentionally plan it. We’ve learned by skipping this enough times that what Anne Lamott says is true: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it … including you.”
Work & Education
- Any specific work needs, especially any irregular schedule items
- Any education items that are different than a typical week
- Where we stand on the month’s budget
- Any major expenses coming up or anything unplanned
- Goals for next month
- Talking about our wins, what went right, and what we want to repeat
- Any upcoming birthdays that we want to send cards or gifts for
- One goal for each person for the upcoming week, big or small
For our agenda of topics, we created a colorful sheet that we print out each week and that you can download for free! It makes it easy for us to keep moving from one topic to the next and the fun format keeps the mood light.
When we get to the end of the meeting, we’ve gone through all the items above and we’re feeling great. One of us took notes and we know exactly what we’re going to be up to across the next week.
But wait – there’s one more step. It sounds small, although we’ve found it’s anything but. That step is making sure that we agree on the meeting minutes, especially the dates/times for any deliverables. When is “end of day?” What time “today” does something need to get done? Is there anything else that seems implied or obvious to one person but that’s unclear to the other person? By each reading through the notes and revising where needed, we make sure that we’re on the same page and that our expectations match.
HOW IT’S HELPED
Obviously the goals of the meetings and the tasks we come up with are super helpful themselves. Seeing progress in both those areas has been really encouraging and the goals and task lists are arguably the entire reason why we’re even doing these meetings.
There’s more benefit to the meetings though than just the explicit desired outcome. Sure we’ve gotten better at handling day-to-day logistics. But just by virtue of doing these meetings weekly, our communication has improved. We’ve communicated more, which has made us better communicators – both as a speaker and as a listener. That’s not to say that we’re perfect at it but the more practice rounds we do, the more we learn what works (and maybe even more importantly, what doesn’t work).
The whole experience has brought us to a deeper sense of connection both with ourselves and with each other. We’ve become better at stating our needs and asking for things that we want. We’ve gotten better at listening to what the other person is saying – and at listening to understand what they’re saying.
Overall we’ve gotten a little more done, we’ve done it a little more effectively, and we’ve spun our wheels less than we used to – while having fun along the way. If a weekly family meeting sounds like something that might be useful for you, download our free printable family meeting sheet and grab a few pens! After just doing one of these I have a feeling you’ll be hooked and like us, you may wonder how you ever lived without it.