One of the big complaints that people trying to get themselves more organized and productive have is that no matter how on-the-ball they get, their family still throws them curve balls. While it’s clearly insane to expect a 6-year-old to start worrying about todo lists and ubiquitous capture, I think at least part of the problem lies with our attitudes and expectations about our home life. Home is supposed to be a respite, a sanctuary from the pressures of work and public life, and I think that makes us a little hesitant to apply some of the principles at home that we know work for us in our professional lives.
One thing we can easily apply to our home life is the weekly review. The idea was planted in my head by a comment Jonathan Fields made when I interviewed him on Lifehack Live. I had asked him how he takes care of his relationship with his wife, who he works with both as a business partner and as an employee of a major client. Jonathan suggested something like a weekly review, a regular meeting with his wife to go over their plans and processes and see what needed work. A comment made by David Allen in some material I received from DavidCo (which I’ll be reviewing in greater depth here soon) gave the idea greater weight — Allen recommends taking an hour or two to do a weekly review with your spouse, though he doesn’t elaborate very much.
What would such a review look like? We have lots of great advice, from Allen and others, on how to do a personal weekly review — collect “open loops”, process your inbox, review your lists, review your calendar, and so on. It makes sense in a workplace setting where you have clear “buckets” to collect things in and clear objectives that have to be met. In a family setting, where things can be a lot fuzzier around the edges, what would be a workable weekly review?
Here’s what I came up with. It’s a good idea to set up a family binder or notebook to keep track of this stuff while you do the review — or else, just make sure that whatever system you each use already is at hand and ready to be added to. Schedule an hour or two when you’re both at home (maybe on a weekend morning?) to:
This is where the two-person review is dramatically different from a solo review. You might want to have both of you prepare for this beforehand. You also both need to commit to toal honesty and to constructive response. This isn’t a time to criticize each other; it’s a time to be open about what’s bothering you, with an eye towards fixing it.
Check your lists to make sure everything that needs to be taken care of gets taken care of,
I find in my own relationship that the hardest part is not working out the compromises that keep things running but keeping both of us on more or less the same page. Most people today have very different lives from their partners as far as their primary occupation is concerned; unless we work hard to keep each other in the loop, it’s easy to grow out of touch, to make wrong assumptions, to let little resentments grow into major problems.
A weekly review gives you a safe space to air all those little maladjustments before they turn into big problems. They also help you and your partner to better anticipate what’s coming up, so that neither of your plans are thrown out of whack when the other does something new. And because you’re working together, you’ll be better able to face the truly unexpected — the trip to the emergency room when a child is hurt, the sudden business trip, a death in the family, etc. — comes along.
Most importantly, though, you’ll be acting as partners, sharing the important work of maintaining and expanding a relationship. You’ll be expressing and reaffirming your commitment to making your relationship stronger — and doing the work that allows that to happen. And what could be better than that?
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