Simple Family Organization:
Cure “Last-Minute Syndrome”
Get Everyone on the Same Page with the Sunday Meeting
Solves the problem of last-minute syndrome! During this brief meeting, we: review schedules for the next two weeks, review school papers we missed during the week, select lunches and dinners on the menu board, and do Payday for our allowance system. A short, 5-10 minute routine can transform your family organization… and your family!
I can still hear my father now, frustrated at our constant, last-minute requests…
“Why can’t you kids learn to plan ahead!?”
After working with students for 20+ years, I’ve come to appreciate that humans are not naturally programmed to plan ahead. We are born with an “in-the-moment” mentality. That mindset won’t change until someone teaches us how to plan ahead. Or, until something happens that results in deep consequences. (And even consequences aren’t always enough to help people see the value of planning ahead.)
At SOAR, we call it “thinking forward.” And we’ve always taught our students and families that the best way to “think forward” is to take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to look ahead…together.
At home, I will admit that we’ve missed our fair share of Sunday Meetings. But, after 16 years of marriage and 12 years of parenthood, we always come back to this time as our anchor for the week! It’s a simple way to achieve family organization.
How The Sunday Meeting Works
It’s pretty simple. As a family, we meet at the beginning of the week to:
- Review everyone’s schedules for the next two weeks. If there are any conflicts that need to be addressed or arrangements that need to be made, we address them now.
- Review school papers, with each child, that we didn’t get a chance to review during the week.
- Select lunches and dinners for the week. (See our Menu Board.)
- Hold Pay Day. (See our Allowance System.)
How to Make Sunday Meetings Work for You
First, decide on an “anchor time.”
For our family, we do our Sunday Meetings as soon as we return from church. The “anchor” of returning from church makes the Sunday meeting happen naturally. However, there are some weekends we don’t go to church. (Shh.. Don’t tell my mom!) There are other weekends we are out of town. For example, next weekend, we’ll have to rush from church, half-way across the state to attend my niece’s birthday party.
So, for the 20-35% of our weekends that our “anchor time” of going to church doesn’t work, two things happen:
1) We simply don’t have a meeting. It’s not the end of the world, but we’ll notice it during the week ahead: We’ll have to manage more last-minute issues. There will be more friction between all of us, less cooperation. (NOTE: Whenever possible, we at least try to review schedules for the upcoming week while driving in the car together. This is very helpful!)
2) The children will beg us for a family meeting on Monday. Yes, that’s right… the children. Since the allowance “payday” is attached to our Sunday Meeting, our kids are often motivated to get their allowance. We don’t pay until the meeting is complete. (They still get the money they earned, but they may have to wait until next weekend’s meeting before receiving it.)
The key to selecting an anchor time is to identify something you do naturally, most every weekend. Perhaps you hold the meeting following a meal.
For children that travel between two different homes on the weekend, the transition time is a great opportunity to hold a meeting with both parents. Or, with one parent in person and one parent on the phone.
Secondly, put your kids in the driver’s seat.
Do this in two ways:
- Have your children take the initiative. In our house, our kids don’t get paid their allowance until they have brought their completed Sunday Meeting Agenda to us.
- Avoid questions! Instead, have a conversation. Your kids will absolutely resist this time if it feels like an interrogation. (And, even a couple of innocent questions to us feel like an interrogation to them.) The best way to avoid questions is start by sharing your schedule; tell your kids about deadlines at work or other things your managing. This sets the stage for a mutual conversation instead of a one-sided interrogation.
SOAR families have been telling us for years that this one simple system transforms their family! A few minutes of discussion at the beginning of the week brings countless hours of peace and cooperation for the rest of the week. It’s not fool-proof. –Last-minute changes are unavoidable.– But, this system easily fits my criteria of “80% successful or better.”
- Family calendar.
- Your personal calendar/agenda.
- Children’s school agendas/planners, if age-appropriate.
Sunday Meeting FAQs
Q: Why do you look at two weeks at a time?
A: Our primary focus is to share schedules, get organized, and prepare everyone for what to expect in the immediate week ahead. However, we all take a peek at the following weekend and week to prevent last-minute surprises at the early part of the following week.
Q: What if you miss a week?
A: We have missed a LOT of weeks. As mentioned earlier, we went seven weeks in a row without doing a Sunday Meeting, during a particularly crisis-ish time in our lives.
So, we just resume the meetings as quickly as we can. When we miss the meetings, we notice it! Our weeks are far more frenzied and last-minute issues come up much more often. But, we keep rolling and try to get back on track as quickly as possible.
Since “Pay Day” is part of our Sunday Meeting process, the children don’t let us lose track of Sunday Meetings too often.
Q: What if I do my grocery shopping in the middle of the week?
A: Skip the Menu Board during the Sunday Meeting. Instead, have your children fill in the Menu Board on the morning you are going grocery shopping.
In our case, we go grocery shopping on Tuesday afternoon, but we still fill in the Menu Board on Sunday. We resolved this problem by establishing every Monday as “Chicken Taco Monday,” with groceries purchased the week before. (We keep some chicken in the freezer and canned tomatoes for back-up, just in case.) The children then choose Monday & Tuesday’s lunches based on what’s in the fridge. We keep a very consistent supply of things, so this is rarely a problem. When it is a problem, I remember my “80% Success” rule. Sometimes, I will remind my family of that, too.
Simple Family Organization: Three Rules for Success
This is just one post in my series “Simple Family Organization.” Find a full directory of additional posts, here. I’ve been creating systems for students and businesses for more than 20 years. In that time, I’ve found three “rules” that make systems successful for all ages:
Three Rules for Success
1. They must be easily accessible. Everything must be within easy reach for every member of the family. Also, whenever possible, supplies should be accessible with just ONE HAND. If you need two hands to move or manipulate something, the rate of compliance drops significantly.
2. They must require little maintenance. I have found lots of beautiful systems on Pinterest. But, I always ask, “What’s required if I need to change something down the road?” (Such as add a new meal, or a new ‘task’?) If making adjustments in the future will require more than a few steps, I’ll never get around to doing it. So, I keep it simple from the start.
3. They must be “80% Successful or better.” Not one of my “Simple Family Organization Systems” has been used accurately, 100% of the time. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes the kids forget. Sometimes our rhythm is thrown off for some unforeseen reason. But, overall, these systems have made a dramatic improvement in our lives at least 80% of the time.
Make it happen!
Susan Kruger, M.Ed.
Mom & Founder of StudySkills.com
Six Steps to
Conquer the Chaos
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