Sunday, April 21, 2013

Calendars! Budgets! Plans! Oh My!

It is no secret that the MommyJustine family is a busy group of folks. Aside from the typical, day-to-day bustle of a family of four, we have church activities, tee ball, and volunteer obligations nearly every day of the week. We also try to be purposeful about fitting in quality time as a family, time to connect as a couple, and one-on-one time with our kids. Several weeks ago, all of that collided into a mess of cranky kids, stressed parents, and a general lack of productivity and happiness. At the same time, I read a Girlfriends In God daily devotional that stated "Don't mistake busyness for productivity." That hit me hard. I realized that I had been running and rushing day in and day out and wasn't accomplishing nearly any of my goals. Worse than that, I wasn't even sure what my family's goals were anymore. It was time for a "family meeting." Since my kids are little, the family at the meeting consisted of myself and the Fella. It was such a refreshing, rejuvenating time! It was exactly the jump start that our family needed to get back on track!

Ideally, we would like to have a big meeting like this once every three months. We plan to stay on track by having a short weekly recap each Sunday night to talk through the previous week's accomplishments and set backs and to get on the same page for the upcoming week. I would love to share with you the way we accomplished such a beneficial meeting, and I hope that someone else will find it as useful as we did!

Set aside an evening when you will have at least a few hours to devote solely for the meeting. Plan it in advance so that both you and your spouse are in the right mind set for such an extensive conversation. Have your meeting in a clean, comfortable space (we spread everything out on our bed). Get a babysitter if you need to, although we just put our kids to bed early that night. Pray about your time together ahead of time and then again as you begin. I think that an important part of this prayer is to ask the Lord to make you of one mind in your decision making and to guide your communication so that it is effective and loving.

What you need:

  • a calendar
  • a notebook
  • your budget or a basic expense list
  • a computer

STEP 1: Goal Setting/Talk Time
This is the part where you will need a notebook. Write each area of your families life at the top of it's own sheet of paper, followed by your goals. Example:
Our Marriage
Short Term Goal
Long Term Goal
What we can do right now to accomplish those goals.
Changes to be made/Method of making changes.

Although your categories may be different, we established goals in the following categories:

  • Our Marriage
  • Our Parenting
  • Our Finances
  • Our Ministry
  • Our Schedule
This part of the conversation took up the bulk of our evening. There were many areas where each of us needed to share present concerns that had not previously been voiced. We needed to share our individual visions for our family and then discern how to make those individual desires a unified purpose. This was the time that we needed grace the most, and I will admit that at times it became emotional as we wrestled with difficult choices and each of us compromised.

STEP 2: Plan of action
This will take up somewhat less of your time than your goal setting did. This is where you pull out your calendar and make changes or additions to what is already there based on your new goals. Add in family time or dates as needed to meet the goals in your parenting and marriage categories. Get on the same page with one another's schedule. The Fella added all of my calendar items to his phone, and I did the same. You will want to draw up a basic plan for a new budget if you have altered your family's financial goals. We also used this time to schedule and book our summer vacations online and talk about a basic budget for new baby items, back to school shopping and even Christmas.

STEP 3: Weekly Planning (to be repeated each Sunday night)
We looked at our monthly family calendar and added any appointments, practices and meetings to a separate weekly calendar. We then added any "to-do's" attempting to space them out throughout the week so that we don't have to rush to do everything on Saturday and can devote more of our weekends to family time. Based on what the week looked like, we then agreed on meals for each day. Our hope is that by planning our meals around what we have going on, we will be less likely to make a quick decision to run through a drive-thru on a busy evening. For example, on Thursdays, I have some volunteer work in the afternoons and the Fella has Student Ministry in the evenings. By planning a simple meal like grilled cheese, we ensure that I will have time to prepare it and he will have time to eat it.

I know that this type of planning meeting will look different for every couple and every family. I am only sharing it because it was such a blessing for us and created such an atmosphere of peace within our home. Knowing what your are doing, when you are doing it, and why you are doing it is so freeing!

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