The turning of the calendar to a new year brings with it one of the greatest blessings: an opportunity for change, improvement, and growth. However, I’ve found that without careful discipline and planning it has the tendency to quickly turn into a “field of broken dreams”. To set the tone for the year and to dramatically boost accountability, there are two processes Kryzia and I have implemented over the years to help keep us on track: Annual Game-planning and Quarterly Check-Ins. At face value I recognize how bland and “corporate” this sounds, but out of all of the different things we have done together, this piece has been instrumental in helping us to take thoughtful, objective looks in the mirror throughout the year.
ANNUAL GAME PLANNING
On an evening within the first two weeks of January, we set aside a couple hours to put on paper every possible thing that we want to improve or accomplish for the year. We’ve created a Google Drive folder that we share and it has a Word document with the subheadings:
- Andrel’s Goals;
- Kryzia’s Goals; and
- Shared Goals.
Both of us write down the different things that we want to accomplish individually (e.g. finishing a course, attending networking conferences, advancing a business idea etc.) and things that we want to achieve as a couple (e.g. buying a car/new home, identifying ways to improve our united spiritual life, volunteering together, opening a scholarship etc.).
We put these different categories on a grid and grade ourselves on our progression. We also have created a folder where we can compile documents or images of the accomplishments we’ve both made throughout the year. The beauty of this system is that while the list is typically too large to successfully accomplish everything in one particular year, it has allowed us to look out for one another and give us both a fair means to call each other out when we are doing things that are contrary to what we’ve identified as the goal. On top of that, where we have marked some items as multi-year projects, we are able to carefully plan well in advance the different things we will need to do in order to get there.
In order to maintain focus on our goals throughout the year, we schedule one review every 3 months during the planning process. We create a calendar invite that sends an alert to our phone several times throughout the week of our scheduled check-in. We try not to miss it! Ensuring both of us receive the alert is a key part of the strategy because it keeps us accountable to each other. As things inevitably change throughout the year, the check-ins allow us to revise, expand, or re-prioritize things as new ideas or opportunities present themselves to us. One thing that we are looking to implement this year is to make it more of a special occasion, planning an entire day around it. This way, it becomes something that we look forward to some more, using it as a means to grow a little closer and have fun doing it.
During our last check-in of the year, we take time to reflect on the progress we’ve made every quarter and also address areas where we’ve fallen flat on our face. Opening ourselves up to criticism from each other has allowed us to pick up on smaller issues before they turned into larger ones. It also allows our minds to actively look for ways we can help each other experience greater self efficacy.
Admittedly, one of the more difficult parts for us in the beginning stages was completely dropping our personal defenses and opening ourselves up to loving, honest criticism. Once we were able to get past that, having the willingness to make changes based on the critiques has changed the game for us. Creating a specific space whereby we can speak freely (with love) about the different things that may not be sitting well with us about each other has helped rapidly improve our communication in a short period of time. All in all, this process has done wonders for us and if nothing else, it serves as a tool to ensure that we are both on the same page with the bigger picture items and I would strongly encourage any couple to give it a shot!