As promised, I’m sharing a deeper dive into our “End of Year Celebration & Family Planning Meeting” and answering some questions I’ve received.
Back in 2019, Matt and I began a tradition of scheduling a date at the end of the year to celebrate the year we’re closing out, and discuss our goals and plans for the upcoming year. It’s evolved quite a bit over the last 4 years but for the most part, it’s been hugely helpful in getting organized and setting our vision and goals for the year ahead.
We call it our “End of Year Celebration & Family Goal Planning” date, but we really need a more fun title for this!! Side note: If you have a more fun title for this, drop it in the comments (and if we use it I’ll send you a little treat!).
Anyway, we recently completed our fourth annual meeting a few weeks ago and this was finally the year I felt like we really nailed the format and ran this so much more efficiently than we have in years past. In fact, it was our best meeting yet and we are entering the new year feeling energized, excited, and most importantly, on the same page.
I should probably preface this post with lots of disclaimers since it’s so personal, but the biggest thing I want to mention is that this process is what works for our family, and maybe it looks different for yours!
My goal in sharing this is to inspire you to take the time to truly celebrate the life you’ve lived (celebrate those wins, milestones, and accomplishments) and spend time with your partner envisioning what you’d love life to look like for your family in the coming year (maybe you want to tackle holidays differently, plan a big summer trip, focus on finances, create better household systems, etc.). The point of this meeting is to put pen to paper to make those dreams a reality.
Family Planning Meeting Prep
This meeting is going to take several hours (at the very least) to complete. And if it’s your first year, it will take even longer.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned in this process is dividing this meeting into TWO parts — the actually planning meeting being the first part, followed by a celebration dinner (at a DIFFERENT location than the meeting location — very important).
A few days in advance of the meeting, I’ll print out our current year spreadsheet and provide it to Matt so he can review it and start thinking about what he wants to discuss. You don’t have to use a spreadsheet. You can use a google doc, a notebook, or even a shared iPhone note to record all your notes. I have a deep love and appreciation for excel, so it’s my preferred format for staying organized.
The categories/topics we cover in our meeting and record in a spreadsheet include the below. As a reminder, your topics may look different, these are just ideas to help you come up with categories for your family.
- Family Goals: In addition to discussing goals for our family (ex: get a dog, improve our church attendance, play more golf/tennis as a family, etc.), we like to talk about what we did well as a family that year that we want to carry into the next year (ex: family movie night, family dinners, etc.).
- Personal Goals: This section always gets a little wild and is broken out by family member. These are usually a combination of health, hobby, and self-improvement goals. Matt always includes a golf handicap goal. And I usually add something new I want to learn (piano, mahjong, tennis). Previously, we set goals for each kid (register them for a sport they want to play, learn to put in contacts, improve reading, learn to cook a meal, etc.), but starting next year we plan to involve them in this part of the meeting so they can create their own.
- Marriage Goals (ex: schedule a standing date night)
- Finance Goals (ex: save for certain house projects, tweak investments, etc.)
- Business Goals (we usually share a few longterm goals for M&T and CC). Last year one of my Carolina Charm goals was to leave my corporate job, so that was really fun to look back on this year!
- Home Projects: This is when we plan, prioritize and budget for home projects.
- Vacations Plans: We discuss any big trips we want to take as a family over summer break, as well as timing and destinations for our annual trip away as just the two of us. We also start tossing out ideas for Spring Break plans and discuss any re-occurring traditions we plan to continue (cabin weekend, camping weekend, snow tubing weekend, river tubing weekend, etc.). I wrote an entire post on How I Plan Our Family Travel & Activities.
- Holidays: Where are we spending Christmas? Are we staying home or traveling for Thanksgiving? This is where we iron out holidays EARLY.
Part 1: Planning Meeting
Now that we’ve been doing this for several years and have a good template to follow, we can roll through our meeting much faster, and with a lot less debate. I think it’s important to share the mistakes we’ve made in previous years and how we’ve learned from them.
- Meeting location is important. Our first year we made the mistake of trying to tackle this meeting over dinner. Plates are arriving and you are running out of work space, your table location may not be private enough to discuss personal information, you may feel rushed if it’s a busy time and the waiter is trying to flip the table, etc.
- Make sure you plan for enough time. Another mistake we made one year was trying to knock this meeting out at a coffee shop over a long lunch break during a workday, while the kids were in daycare. Even though we had blocked our calendars, inevitably we ran out of time and had to run back to the office for meetings. When we reconvened to finish, we had lost the good rhythm we were previously in.
- Start with just a few categories and build up to more. If it’s your first year holding this meeting, maybe start with just a few topics to discuss so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Each year different topics may hold a heavier weight, so just be mindful of everything you’re trying to cover. If it’s been a hard year for marriage, finances, health, etc., decide if that’s a topic that is a good use of your time and energy.
Part 2: The Celebration
Time to have FUN together and celebrate the year you’re closing out. Oftentimes we are moving through life so fast and we don’t take the time to look back on all the things we accomplished throughout the year. Maybe you changed jobs or got promoted, hit a financial goal, had a big parenting win, solved a problem, discovered new ways to manage your household, resolved a family conflict, hit a goal in your hobby, etc. Celebrate it ALL — big and small.
And celebrate in whatever way feels good to YOU! This year we went to TopGolf to drink beers and hit balls and then ended the night with a loooong fun dinner. The ONLY rule we have for the celebration is that it MUST be held at a separate location from the planning meeting. This is important because that meeting can be fun and exciting, but it can also be intense or frustrating if you’re working through big plans or challenges. Changing the location and having time in between is important for a reset and fresh vibe to celebrate.
I do want to share one more thing about our celebration that was extremely impactful. Last year I pulled a few questions from a blog post by a local marriage therapist and texted them to Matt at the same time I gave him the spreadsheet. Over dinner, we shared our responses with each other to the questions and it was just so dang meaningful. Taking the time to share such intimate feedback with each other was such a beautiful way to wrap up our year, and is clearly something we don’t do enough (ahem, marriage goal)! HIGHLY recommend.
If you’re curious, here were the questions we tackled this year:
- I am so proud of you for…
- Three things I love about you are…
- I hope we spend more time in 2023 doing…
- One thing I hope our future holds…
- One thing I wish I said more to you is…
You’ve set the goals, made the plans, and celebrated.
If you’re serious about making and tracking progress, I would recommend scheduling time throughout the year to check in and see how things are going. In FULL transparency, we suck at this. The first two years we didn’t do any check-ins, and last year we did ONE. So quarterly meetings is a really big goal for us this year. I’ve already sent calendar invitations to Matt for 4 check-in dates throughout the year to see how we’re doing, make any revisions to our plans, and re-prioritize things if needed.
Alright friends, I hope I answered your questions! And most importantly, I hope you feel inspired to create some sort of standing tradition that helps your family grow together.