The last couple of years, as we have embarked on our entrepreneurial journey, we have become more intentional in all aspects of our lives, including parenting and family relationships. Quality family time has always been a priority for us, and frankly is one of the reasons we left the “9-5 gainfully employed” life! As we have continually defined and refined what “success” looks like for us, we have desired to not only spend quality time, but plan together as a family for what we want to do and become together. That led us to planning and holding a family planning retreat recently.
While it would have been fun to get away for a weekend and make our planning retreat a mini vacation, that didn’t work for us at this time and we didn’t want to delay our planning session. So we held it at home, in our dining room, on a Saturday. But we made arrangements to clear our calendars, scheduled and set up in advance, prepped the kids with teasers about how great it would be, and even splurged on store-bought sugar treats, which really shocked and pleased my kids.
With inspiration from several entrepreneurial families (thank you to Family Without Limits, EntreFamily, and Flipped Lifestyle) we decided as a couple what we wanted to accomplish in our planning session, including the key questions to discuss at this time. I drafted an agenda and we counseled about the roles we would play in the planning retreat. Because of my background in facilitation and strategic planning, this was really more my thing than Ben’s but he was very supportive.
Because our children are old enough (11 and almost 8) to be active participants and we are quite transparent with them about our work and plans, this was designed to truly be a group effort. We absolutely want our children to be involved in designing what we do and are as a family, but as parents we also always reserve the right to make final decisions. Part of our family culture (we hope at least!) is that our children are top priority and what they think and how they feel matters. And frankly, part of the context for our family planning retreat centered around the idea that our time with our children living at home is limited. With the years remaining before they leave the nest, we want to make sure we focus on what matters now. On what matters most.
Our goal is to be deliberate and intentional in building the family life we choose. We don’t want to look back in 7 years as our oldest leaves home and wish we had thought about what we wanted to do and be together. So that was the intent of our family planning retreat.
We started with a prayer and ended with specific next steps and assignments. In between, we worked on developing our family vision, and beginning to outline a plan for how to achieve it. Separately, we as Dad and Mom have the responsibility for the companion piece of financing and supporting the family lifestyle we desire, and we’re working on that. But that’s a separate process. J In our family planning session, we discussed questions like:
- What do we need or want to know and believe?
- What do we need or want to do?
- What do we need or want to become?
And I used a technique I’d learned years ago in my former life that worked well with the kids too: everyone puts their ideas on individual sticky notes, up where they fit on large flip chart papers.
Because the store-bought animal cookies ran out and energy waned after a couple of hours, we had to take a break. While it did end up being a little difficult to corral everyone back together, the break ended up being necessary as well as helpful, because it allowed me time to process what we had already discussed and use that to tweak the final part of our planning session.
As we had talked about learning and doing and becoming (before the break), there was definitely a recurring theme of wanting to travel more together as a family. This surfaced not just as an end in itself, but over and over as a means to accomplish other desired outcomes, such as gratitude and humility through service and diverse experiences, and gaining rich educational experiences onsite in places that strengthen faith and teach timeless truths. (The kids were amazed when I told them that history repeats itself!)
I had anticipated there would be some interest around travel, so before the planning retreat I had even made a rough calendar outline of the next ten years with known milestones marked, and space to sketch in travel opportunities and priorities. During the break, I was able to do an impromptu preparation for a prioritization exercise (how’s that for alliteration… and can you tell I’ve facilitated meetings and planning sessions a few times?)
Everyone brainstormed places they want to visit, and in most cases shared why (though we were sold already, having spent time studying history together and dreaming of being there in person). Then I gave each of us six color-coded dots (Ryan had 6 blue ones, Dad had 6 brown ones, etc.) that we could place on the destinations to show our personal priorities. The dots could be distributed however each person wished- one on each of six destinations, all six on one destination, or any combination in between. It was fun… and revealed an amazing unanimity. Five destinations received 21 of the 24 possible dots. So we know how to prioritize for major travel in the next few years- hooray! And we’re all super excited and united in those priorities.
Of course, travel is just one piece of the family plan we are developing, and I may share more as it progresses. As we used to say in the corporate world, I’m sure it will be a “living document” that evolves as we do. But for now, this session helped us identify some priorities for our family, and was a uniting and validating experience in and of itself. Frankly, some concerns our children had prior to the planning session were dispelled by the things we discussed and decided together that day. Win!
Intentional time together as a family is never wasted. And that was certainly evidenced for us in our family planning retreat. We have a lot t work on to execute the plan, and we may repeat this process every 6-12 months. It was a great kickoff to being really deliberate about what we want to accomplish and become as a family, driven by our values and priorities. We recommend it!
How do you plan together as a family? I’d love to hear your processes and ideas, so please comment below. Was this useful? If so, I’d really appreciate you sharing on Facebook.