We made the decision to spend a few days away with one another at the end of every year. To quiet our hearts from the inevitable busyness of the Christmas season, to reconnect as a couple, and to give ample space and margin to seek God together about the upcoming year.
This end-of-year rhythm is one of the most helpful and beneficial things we do as a couple all year. The time away provides room to actually rest, to reconnect and it leaves space to evaluate very specific areas of life that we just normally don’t have time to pray and think through and discuss.
In the past I would come up with my own goals for the year, mostly arbitrary based on other people’s goals and I almost never included my husband in that process. I was missing out on a great opportunity to be unified with my husband, an opportunity for us to work together, setting a vision and direction for our family for the upcoming year, together.
Though I think this Year End Reset is especially important for married couples so that there is unity around common goals, dreams, desires and direction, this Year End Reset is not just for married couples. I believe the process is very helpful to anyone, no matter what season of life, married, single, kids or no kids. The same intentionality and purposeful planning applies no matter what season of life you are in.
YEAR END RESET QUESTIONS
Part One: What Worked, What Didn’t & Goals
We generally tackle these questions in 6 different categories: Spiritual, Marriage, Family, Physical, Career/Work, & Ministry (personal & family ministry). A helpful tip is to look back at your photos, planner or calendar from earlier in the year so you aren’t basing the answers solely off of the previous few weeks.
- What worked in 2016?
- What didn’t work in 2016?
- How do we want 2017 to be different?
- What dreams do we have for 2017? 2018?
- If you are married, specific marriage questions: End of Year Marriage Check-Up from The Gospel Coalition will be a great place to start. Do these prior to #2 or #3.
- Helpful questions like: “How could I have loved you better this year?” “How could I have served you better?” “What are some ways that you felt loved by me?” are also a good place to start.
Part Two: Calendar
Work through your calendar for the year.
- Mark any important dates
- If you have children, mark their school calendar important dates (breaks, teacher work days, last day of school, etc.)
- Mark / plan rhythms of rest
- Mark / plan tentative vacation dates
- Mark / plan tentative holiday travel
This isn’t a time to plan the details of a vacation, etc. The task is to simply go ahead and mark off on your calendar dates so that you are intentional as a family about what you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to. For example, my husband is a pastor so he does a lot of wedding ceremonies. We set our time away early in the year so that when he’s asked to do a wedding ceremony he can quickly say if he is available or not. The same goes with my travel, work projects, etc.
Part Three: Budget
Look at your budget for the previous year and ask:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What do we need to change?
- Do we need to save for specific goal items (i.e. family vacation will cost X, divide that by how many months you have left to save and you know you need to put that amount of money away each month in order to take that vacation.)
Part Four: Action Steps
- Look at your big dreams for this year and ways you desire for this year to be different and begin listing out simple action steps.
- Set a date for next month to review progress with your husband. Making the habit of having a monthly Family Business Meeting with your spouse to discuss “what’s working, what isn’t, what needs to change?” and a quick goal/dream review is always a good idea.
YEAR END RESET RESOURCES
- I love the Simplified Planner from Emily Ley & Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters
- I also use a google document with these questions listed out and a simple itinerary for our days away. The google doc is shared between me and my husband and we write everything down as we go to keep coming back to throughout the year.
YEAR END RESET RECOMMENDATIONS
WHEN & WHERE & HOW LONG?
We typically travel for this Year End Reset. Getting out of the normal rhythm allows us to more clearly reflect on our life and the previous year, what’s working, what’s not working, etc. You can just see it better when you aren’t standing in the middle of it. Getting away from normal also allows you to better connect with your spouse, to date again, explore, eat good food, and laugh together.
Obviously you don’t have to travel for multiple days to have a successful Year End Reset. If you aren’t able to travel you could give yourself an entire day together or break it up into 4 different “reset nights.”
No matter what you are able to do, the most important thing is to put it on the calendar and make it happen.
If you have never done anything like this before with your spouse, be cognizant that some of the conversations will be hard and giving yourself more time than less will allow you to be patient with one another. Don’t rush the conversations, working through the questions intentionally and purposefully is more important than necessarily “finishing.” For us it has been helpful to remember that sometimes we need to stop and pray and take a break. If we are stuck it typically is more helpful to stop and come back to it than to keep pushing forward.
LOCATION & DISTRACTIONS
If you are traveling for this little adventure I would recommend choosing a place that provides inspiration but not distraction. It can be anywhere, a nice hotel in a city, a cabin in the woods, a friends home in the mountains, a cozy coffee shop or the comfort of your living room. It just needs to be inviting, welcoming and comfortable, all with little distractions. Meaning, if you are heading to a busy touristy area, you will most likely feel the need to go and do lots of fun things, which is not the point of this time away. For us, places with great food, inviting coffee shops and plenty of space for walks is ideal. I am a sucker for tourist traps and tend to want to do all the things so for this specific type of getaway we have to steer clear of those locations.
If you are traveling I would recommend not bringing kiddos. We tried last year to bring the kiddos and to have the reset conversations after the kids went to bed. For sure that didn’t work, even a little bit. View this time, no matter if you get a sitter for a day, for a couple date nights or for a few days as a gift to marriage. It’s worth it.
Lastly, all good things require a bit of work and good doesn’t mean easy or pain-free. Remember, hard conversations will definitely be had and need to be had for the overall health of your marriage as well as a healthy start to this new season. Conversations that start with “how could I have served you or loved you better this year” or “how could we have stewarded our resources better” are difficult and no one ever particularly enjoys hearing how they may have missed it, but the beauty is that these hard conversations are helpful and useful and so fruitful. And when you are unified, both answering the same questions in a neutral environment, the tone becomes one of grace, not condemnation. When you spend solid time reconnecting and giving room for both of your hearts to be shared, it provides a unique opportunity for unity and friendship, being reminded that you are on the same team, for each other.