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The Sunday Meeting
Monday Motivator 


The Sunday Meeting 

I've spent a lot of time helping people to create their strategic plans, and it's become clear to me that while many people are great at making a list of goals, they struggle to connect their goals to time and to make their plan work on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Since a strategic plan is unlikely to be useful if it is only a statement of goals that won’t be touched again until the end of the term, I encourage you to see the process of creating a strategic plan as one where you identify WHAT your personal and professional goals are, outline HOW they will be accomplished, and commit to WHEN you will do the work. At that point, the real secret to making a strategic plan come to life is to use it on a weekly basis as the foundation for planning out your week. One of the simplest and most transformative strategies that I have seen graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty put into practice is what I call "The Sunday Meeting." As with all strategies, you may want to try it out for a few weeks, see how it works for YOU, and then adapt it to your particular needs, workload, and lifestyle.

The Sunday Meeting is quite simple. All you have to do is devote 30 minutes of time at the beginning of each week to planning the rest of your week. It doesn’t even have to take place on Sunday, though many of the people I've worked with begin preparations for the week on Sunday night. Regardless of when you hold your weekly meeting, it's important to have your plan in place before your week begins so that you can make sure all the things that contribute to your long-term success get done and that you don't get distracted by seemingly urgent (but unimportant) tasks throughout the week. During your weekly meeting time, try the following five steps: 

STEP #1: Create Your Skeleton (5 Minutes)

Start your weekly meeting by blocking out all of your commitments for the week, including research and writing time, classes, office hours, meetings, etc. You should also include non-work items when you're committed to at a specific time and place, such as child-care pick-up, date night, and/or Zumba class. If you haven't tried it yet, you may want to schedule your writing time first thing in the morning (before you check e-mail or Facebook, prep for classes, and/or respond to everyone else's needs in your workplace). Your commitments form the skeleton of your week because everything else has to be fleshed out on top of them. 

STEP #2: Brain Dump (10 Minutes)

Write out all your to-do items for the week including the short term tasks you need to get done, including the strategic tasks associated with your long-term research agenda. These should already be listed by week in your strategic plan. The purpose of this step is to: 1) reconnect you with your strategic plan on a weekly basis, 2) get everything out of your head and onto paper, and 3) put you in a position to control your week (instead of your week controlling you). Many new faculty members I've worked with categorize their to-do items under the headings "teaching," "service," "research," and "personal" so that they can quickly assess the relative length of their tasks and to determine whether their lists are aligned with how they will be evaluated for promotion and tenure. The brain dump often causes relief or anxiety, but no matter how you feel about it in the moment, go on to the next step. 

STEP #3: Introduce Your Tasks To Your Calendar (15 Minutes)

Here's where it can get ugly! Turn back to your calendar for this week, and assign each of your to-do items to a specific block of time. This will require you to estimate how long your tasks will take, prioritize what’s most important, and commit to actually doing specific work at specific times this week. Inevitably, you will have the same devastating realization each week -- you don't have enough time to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. Breathe deeply. Having more tasks than time is the perfectly normal reality of academic life. No matter how frustrating it is, it's far better to deal with that reality at the beginning of the week then to walk blindly into that realization at the end of the week. 

STEP #4: Decide What To Do With Everything That Doesn’t Fit

Acknowledging that you have more tasks than time, consciously choose how you will spend your time this week. You may need to prioritize the tasks on your list. I suggest using the criteria by which you will be evaluated for your next step. For example, if you're on the tenure-track, use the criteria for tenure and promotion as your guide. And for the tasks that don’t fit, you have many different options! You can: 

  • delegate
  • lower your standards (especially for non-critical tasks)
  • compromise
  • renegotiate deadlines
  • ask for help
  • let some things go

Step #5: Commit To Executing The Plan

Of course, the best-laid plans can be thrown into disarray by unexpected circumstances and daily chaos, but having a clear plan and genuinely committing to its execution are essential to making progress on your long-term goals each week. Your commitment to your plan will also help you to easily say "no” to additional request during the week and will assist you in being far more productive than you would be operating on crisis management each day. 


The Weekly Challenge

This week, I want to challenge you to do the following: 

  • Take 30 minutes and hold a Sunday Meeting. If you want to spend a bit more time to walk through the process step-by-step, view our February core curriculum webinar by clicking here.
  • If you still don't have a calendar, it's time to get one! It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can even download and print my free and simple time map as the most basic way to get you started.
  • Gently acknowledge that having more tasks than time is perfectly normal for academic life. It is not an individual shortcoming or personal flaw.
  • Review your calendar and tasks before saying "yes" to any new commitments this week.
  • Recommit yourself to at least 30 minutes each day (Monday - Friday) for your writing.
  • Consider creating your strategic plan if you haven't already completed it; it's not too late!

I hope this week brings you the willingness to try a Sunday Meeting, comfort in knowing that you are not alone in having more tasks than time, and the creativity to make conscious decisions that are in line with your priorities.


Peace and Productivity,

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD

President, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity


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