I have been trying something for the past three weeks now, and it’s proven revolutionary. It’s called “The Sunday Meeting“.
This comes from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), a center started by Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD. NCFDD is an organization I plan on being VERY embedded in over the next several years. They will probably get sick of me. They had me at an entire webinar on “The Art of Saying No”. Now, after reading about and implementing “The Sunday Meeting”, I would marry NCFDD if I could. And I think my husband would understand.
The Sunday meeting is simple. It lasts a total of 30 minutes, and you do it on (you guessed it) Sunday, prior to the upcoming week. You set the timer and spend 5 minutes writing down all of your scheduled appointments for the week in your calendar. These are things like doctor’s appointments, picking up the kids at school, research or other meetings, colloquium talks you really want to attend, gym workouts, and the all-important academic writing (try scheduling this in the mornings before opening email or checking Facebook/Twitter). When the timer goes off, you set it again for 10 minutes, and this time you write down all of the things that need to get done during the week, in one massive “Brain dump”. Just get it out and onto a piece of paper in a notebook somewhere. This includes personal stuff like grocery shopping or laundry, as well as running that N-body simulation, or working on that painting that needs to be done for Lord and Lady Hillary Sheffield of Fancyshire, because they’re paying you to paint that mural for their castle wall, and well, it has to get done.
Timer goes off again. Now you set it one more time, this time for the last 15 minutes. And this is where you take that list of things you wrote down that you need to do this coming week and you give each task on that list its very own time block among the open spaces left. The unfortunate part of this step is the sobering realization that everything is probably not going to fit. This is The Perfectionist’s Nightmare. But it requires that you decide what’s most important and must be done this week, and what can possibly fall by the wayside for the week (or maybe even forever). It guarantees the act of prioritizing.
The beauty of this simple 30-minute exercise is that not only does it require that I spend the first 5 minutes scheduling the really crucial stuff first, the so-called “Big rocks” as Stephen Covey has referred to them, but it also gives me a guide for how to do my week in an organized way. I look at my planner and I can see what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time. And because I’ve gone through and seen first-hand all of the things that I want and/or need to do that week, I am acutely aware of just how extensive that list is (so extensive that everything didn’t fit!). So I am more likely than not to actually do the things I wrote down in my calendar. I don’t want to have to write them down again the next week!
It’s also much easier to say no to additional requests on my time in a given week after doing a Sunday meeting, because I know what my schedule is for the week before it starts. So I know how much free time I have for things not on my list of must-do’s. The answer is “not much”, unless I want to move something else out. Either way, it’s a conscious choice, not an automatic “yes” to shoving one more thing into a clown car.
Since implementing the Sunday Meeting into my normal routine, I’ve felt more directed and organized. I did the Sunday Meeting before facilitating a 4-day Rising Stargirls/Science Club for Girls workshop this summer. I wrote every day for an hour that week, before meeting the girls for our 5-hour days. And I was energized when I met them, because I had made space for my own professional writing beforehand. There’s no way writing would have happened otherwise during that week if I hadn’t scheduled it in there ahead of time. The Sunday Meeting has also helped me spread out my work throughout the week so that I’m not doing too much on any one day and burning out before the week’s half over. This is the wonder of advance planning.
Try the Sunday Meeting out. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.