Scheduling a 20 minute meeting with yourself

Gina Trapani, former editor of Lifehacker who now runs the inspiring and informative website Smarterware.org, has compiled a list of strategies for the Harvard Business blog on “How to Mitigate the Urgent to Focus on the Important.” She discusses how if a concerted effort isn’t made to set aside time for big-picture items in your day that they easily can be pushed aside by sudden requests and demands.

To realign your work day, she offers three concrete plans of action. My favorite:

Set up a weekly 20-minute meeting with yourself. Put it on your calendar, and don’t book over it — treat it with the same respect you’d treat a meeting with your boss. If you don’t have an office door or you work in an open area that’s constantly busy, book a conference room for your meeting. Go there to be alone. Bring your project list, to-do list, and calendar, and spend the time reviewing what you finished that past week, and what you want to get done the following week. This is a great time to choose your daily three important tasks. Productivity author David Allen refers to this as the “weekly review,” and it’s one of the most effective ways to be mindful about how you’re spending your time.

Do you make time on your schedule for focused planning on big-picture projects, free of interruptions? What would you need to do to schedule a 20-minute meeting with yourself? How could it impact your work?

16 Comments for “Scheduling a 20 minute meeting with yourself”

  1. posted by jan on

    March is my month. I will use this great idea. Focus. Focus. Focus.

  2. posted by Shanel Yang on

    I don’t actually schedule a weekly meeting, but it seems to happen by default anyway at some point during the weekends. My boyfriend will bring up, “What’s going on with the blog? How about your book? Screenplay?” Or, I’ll ask him, “How’s the savings plan? Are we on target so far this year? Do you think you’ll survive the next layoffs at your office; and, if not, let’s figure out what we’ll need to do so we’re not totally blindsided.”

    We don’t limit ourselves to 20 minutes, either. We usually talk at least that long, but often up to two hours. Great ideas pop up more for us in an unhurried discussion that if we limited it to just 20 minutes.

    But, if you can’t take all that time, definitely 20 minutes once a week is better than nothing! : )

  3. posted by Sherri (Serene Journey) on

    My husband and I have weekly meetings (each Sunday) and use this time to chat about the previous week, what went on, what we were grateful for and what if anything we were a little less than pleased about. When that’s out of the way we usually take a bit of time to talk about the upcoming week. We highlight all the major activities so they are fresh in both of our minds as we head into a new week (things like, dinner parties, grocery shopping, movie nights etc…).

    It’s great catching up and reconnecting after a hectic week and it sets the tone for the coming week. We find it very useful.

  4. posted by Taylor at Household Management 101 on

    Having a plan and then working the plan is so very important to actually getting things done. I think the danger with GTD is that you can focus on getting unimportant things done, if you are not careful, because those things are much easier to get done sometimes. However, if you actually do the weekly planning David Allen recommends, and then follow through with your plan, you can start getting important things done.

    I try to use a weekly plan to help myself with all aspects of my life, professional and personal, and it seems to help when I actually follow the plan. I also like to time map, and decide how much time I should be devoting to certain tasks, knowing I only have 24 hours in a day, and that I also want to relax and sleep. This helps me focus daily on the important things, not the unimportant things.

  5. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    What a great idea. I work from home, so my distractions are not necessarily the same as at an office, but since I am remotely connected, I do get interrupted (I just don’t get the casual walk-by, I get the casual IM)

    I think I will try this out by blocking off time on my calendar as ‘Do Not Disturb’.

    I don’t think 20 minutes is enough to do everything I’d want, but if I use that 20 minutes to focus on the tasks ahead, and develop a schedule for tackling them, I think it would ultimately save me a lot of time.

  6. posted by Sefa on

    Great post, i will try it ¡¡¡¡¡

  7. posted by Catherine Cantieri, Sorted on

    It’s funny; I do this every Sunday and it does, in fact, take exactly 20 minutes! I use a Planner Pad to sort out my priorities for each category in my life and a SwiftFile to put what I’ll need each day into that day’s folder.

    Sunday is my “prepare for the coming week” day anyway; it’s the day of laundry, cooking and planning.

  8. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    I do this informally every Monday morning. I keep a paper calendar that is set up by the week starting on Monday (computer calendars just don’t work for me), and when I flip to the next week I take the opportunity to look at what’s ahead and what *must* get done, then I come up with a rough plan. I’ll also take a look at my big “someday” project list and see if there’s anything I feel like tackling from that, if I have any big chunks of leftover time. And it does end up taking just about 20 minutes.

  9. posted by Cate on

    On Friday’s, I try to take time to put together a to do list for the next week and go over my next weeks meetings and events so I make sure I am prepared. I like to do this on Friday so I don’t have to take time on Monday putting it together. My Friday’s are more focused and the office is much quieter so this is an easy task whereas Monday’s are so hectic that it becomes a chore or gets lost in the mix.
    I think planning to set aside 20 minutes to do this is a great idea and will add it to my routine.

  10. posted by Dream Mom DBAwww.dreamorganizers.com on

    I usually create my basic weekly plan every Sunday night. At that time, I focus on what I want to accomplish that week both personally and professionally. I start with last week’s plan-there I have written notes on what needs to happen the following week. As the week progresses, when new items come up that I know I won’t get to this week, I simply list them at the end of Friday’s tasks so I know to schedule them in for the following week. I expect that there will be tasks that won’t get done (and that’s o.k.) but the important ones always will.

  11. posted by Trying something different - Vicarious Thoughts on

    […] This post at Harvard Business is well worth reading. The three main points are: Choose three important tasks to complete each day, Turn off your email client, and Set up a weekly 20-minute meeting with yourself. I’m already doing the last one (though more like 3 hours), and can testify that it helps define the week and gives a time to reflect on the past week, how you did, and what to concentrate on in the coming week. I’m finding it also helps me to realise I’ve only got a certain amount of time til I will be sitting down and doing this reflection so there better be something decent done to reflect upon. Limiting the distractions while getting work done and Choosing only 3 taks is something I need work on. I’ve been trialing using post-it notes to score what I need to do next – creating a small stack of 5 or 6 small tasks and then having the satisfaction of unveiling the next task and chucking the just-finished post-it. (via unclutterer) […]

  12. posted by Dave H. on

    I used to do this, but somehow stopped – thanks for the reminder!

  13. posted by overvejelser.dk » 3 opgaver + nul mails + 20 min. møde med dig selv on

    […] links: Gina Trapani: How to Mitigate the Urgent to Focus on the Important unclutterer.com: kommentarer til Gina’s artikel Gina Trapani’s website Lifehacker.com Address: […]

  14. posted by Good stuff on the Web this week - Simpler Living - timesunion.com - Albany NY on

    […] Unclutterer explains why you should take the time to schedule a meeting with yourself. […]

  15. posted by Friday Reading Roundup on

    […] Scheduling a 20 minute meeting with yourself – Unclutterer: great idea, one I try to do but not so formally as to schedule it. […]

  16. posted by chaotic kitten on

    This is a fantastic idea! A really focussed time for planning and prioritising could have huge benefits for me 🙂

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