Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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My Third Annual New Year’s Retreat

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The beautiful view from my room in Hiawassee, Georgia.

So sorry for the delay on this post. I literally hit the ground running on January 1st, and haven’t stopped. I’ve been working late nights and weekends trying to get on top of my goals for the year. But now that I’m slowing down a little, more because I’m tired than anything else, I wanted to update you on my third annual New Year’s retreat.

You can read more about my first and second New Year’s retreats here, but even as I’ve had some practice at this, I still made some key mistakes that you can learn from.

First of all, if you’ve never planned a personal or business retreat before, let’s start with my basic tips. (By the way, I use the terms business and personal kind of interchangeably since I’m self-employed and all areas of my life tend to overlap. 😉

  • The schedule and format are up to you! You can read, reflect, journal, hammer out notes on your computer, or however you’d like to spend your time. Retreats are a time to reflect and focus on specific goals, so do whatever supports those. But, you need to know what you’re going to do before you leave, so plan ahead. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how best to use your time.
  • The location is up to you! I’ve taken retreats several hours away, and also just down the road. For me, it usually depends on where I have travel points to use. But you can camp, fly, or drive. You can rent a room, rent a house, or just borrow some space that someone isn’t using. The point, however, is to be away from home. You’ll get distracted at home, and that’s not what you want for your retreat.
  • The budget is up to you! It doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve eaten out, bought groceries, and stayed inside 99% of the time rather than spending money on activities. But there is always a way to fit it in your budget. On this year’s retreat, I actually paid for the hotel (thought I got a great Cyber Monday deal), so it was my most expensive retreat yet at $250.
  • Who you go with is up to you! You can take a retreat solo, or go with a spouse or business partner.
  • The length is up to you! If you’ve never done this, and aren’t sure how it’ll work for you, start small. Take a few hours and go to a co-working space, coffee shop, or park. Work up to a day trip, overnight trip, or even a couple of days. And then do it again!
  • Make sure you rid yourself of distractions! Turn your phone, email, and social media off. Tell people that you’ll be unavailable. Again, resist the urge to waste time. Make the most of your retreat, which is a total gift.
  • Know what happens when you get home. You likely need to act on what you accomplished at your retreat. Have a plan for when life gets back to normal.
  • Final tip: Create time for fun! I do this at the end to celebrate the retreat, and get my head of task mode.

Are you catching a theme here? Yep, it’s up to you! It’s called a personal retreat for a reason.

For my January retreats, I usually like to stick close-ish to home because I’ve just returned from holiday travel. This year, I drove about two hours north of Atlanta, which was a good distance, and also gave me enough time to finish an audiobook on the drive.

The only real downside to this year’s location is that we were going through a major cold snap here, and it was literally in the single digits while on my retreat. So, I just hunkered down rather than venturing out to coffee shops and other interesting places.

And as I said, even having planned my own retreats several times, I still made a few mistakes this year:

  • I didn’t think through the timing. I’d started my retreat on New Year’s Day the past two years, so that was the plan. BUT this year, I’d only been back in town for 48 hours before leaving for my retreat. And those 48 hours were fairly filled with activity. So, I was tired and slightly unmotivated when I woke up and had to drive two hours north to the retreat. However, this was important to me, so I sucked it up, and made the most of it! #entrepreneur
  • The other timing issue for me was the normal schedule I’d already developed for my business. The first of the month, and first of the week, is filled with things like writing my email newsletter, scheduling my social media, writing my business blog post, etc. So, the entire first day was spent on these items rather than digging into my retreat. That was frustrating.
  • I WAY underestimated what I could get done this time. My list was really long to try and accomplish in just a couple of days. I always tend to do this a little anyway, but I was way off this time because of an email series I wanted to watch that ended up taking most of day two.

The good news was, that the first of the year is typically a slow time for people, and I had some “buffer” time built in which allowed me to get few more things done when I got home.  So, if you can plan a little buffer time, that’s ideal. It’s hard to get out of retreat mode! It’s a beautiful place to be.

Regardless, this is why it’s important to know what exactly you’re going to be doing on your retreat, and also prioritize the most important items. That way, no matter what comes up, you get the essentials taken care of.

I really can’t stress taking a personal/business retreat enough. Here’s why:

  • They allow you to focus on very specific areas. This could be specific projects, long-term goals, or anything in-between.
  • They provide clarity. When you’re out of your own environment, you see things differently.
  • They provide renewal. If you love to travel, like me, you’ll get filled up with an experience like this one.

And I can’t state this enough times: retreats aren’t a luxury. This was a big lesson for me to learn, but they can be a vital way to re-examine your own business, goals, etc. There are so many ways to plan retreats to make them work for you.

As of last year, my goal is actually to take quarterly retreats, even if they’re short. This way I’m reflecting throughout the year, so I can make small adjustments along the way, rather than only doing that at the end of the year. It’s another way I strive to be intentional, and would recommend that approach for you as well.

Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be a business owner to do this. They are a great tool for anyone to utilize. You just have to decide to make them a priority. We all put our time and money somewhere, so it’s up to you to decide.

Finally, if you think a retreat would be a great idea for your year, get it on your calendar now! If you wait, you’re more likely to keep putting it off. Again, it’s about prioritizing it.

If you decide to plan your own retreat, let me know any of your lessons or best practices. Or even just tell me how your retreat went. I’d love to hear!

(And if you have any questions about a retreat, just let me know!)

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At the end of this year’s retreat, I stopped in nearby Helen, Georgia. It’s a strange, fun, and touristy place north of Atlanta that resembles a Bavarian village. But it was a good spot to stop, grab lunch, and walk around for a bit before returning home.

You can see more pictures here in Instagram.

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MLK Day

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I posted this quote to my business’ Facebook Page today. It’s a quote I don’t think I’ve heard before, but I loved it the moment I heard it on my Calm meditation app this morning.

It may seem weird, but I always look forward to reading the MLK quotes on this anniversary. I am continually overwhelmed by how much wisdom, determination, and courage was wrapped up in one person. It’s almost unfathomable.

Hearing his words, no matter where they’re posted, humbles me and brings me to tears every year, and I am a better person for it.

I even wrote about it on this previous post, “Why I Fight,” which explains my admiration for him, Moses, and Abraham Lincoln, and how I am part of their legacy in the search for social justice. So are you, should you choose to be. There is a place for each of us.

I pray we do not post a quote on days like today and leave it at that, though. I pray we remember his legacy and sacrifice, and strive to be better people, and better citizens of this planet. Everything we do affects everyone else, to sum up another one of his quotes.

May we be people of peace and love, not of fear and division.

Happy MLK Day.


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Happy New Year!

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“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” – Helen Keller

Wishing you a prosperous and joyous 2018!


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Signify: Word for the Year Recap

vertical-logo-w-taglinelargeGoodness gracious! How on earth can it be December again already? Why do I feel like the years are speeding up? Anyone else? (If we were speaking in person, my voice would be getting higher right now . . . )

It’s been one crazy year! As always, things happen that you don’t expect. And even when you do expect them, they’re never quite the same as you planned. Can you relate?

2017 marked my first, full year year in business. And I knew that would be my primary focus for the year, so it just made sense that my word for the year was SIGNIFY. I just re-read my announcement post, and I can just read the hopefulness and enthusiasm in my tone. 🙂 I haven’t lost that tone, thank goodness, but it is a little more battle-worn.

The failure rate for startups is a little scary. And 80% don’t make it past five years. As a solopreneur, I can see why—it’s hard! Unless you somehow achieve success and popularity early so you can bring on more people to help you, the wear and tear of running a business by yourself daily isn’t easy. And there are so many decisions to make! There are always more things to do than more time to do them in, and you often feel like you’re pushing a rock up the hill. Actually, I call it being “admined to death” because all of the day-to-day tasks can take every bit of time you have available, and then some.

I achieved some of my goals for the year, but certainly not all of them. The big ones I didn’t meet really stung. I’m a bit of a Type A overachiever, so it’s been hard to work through that, and not let fatigue and comparing myself to others get me down. It definitely did some days. And to be honest, I’m just starting to come back from the brink of burnout.

One of the things I had to do this year was not travel as much. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you can probably guess how hard that was for me. I love to travel, and it’s really life-giving for me. And even though I travel a lot using points by being an amateur travel hacker, little costs here and there do add up. So, I took a step back. Honestly, it was a good financial decision, but hurt me a lot mentally. I wasn’t able to get away, clear my head, and be inspired by new places and people. So, I hope to resume that next year.

SIGNIFY means to represent, to make known, and to be important. So, that’s what I set out to do in 2017. And though I definitely could’ve made improvements, I did accomplish that in some ways.

I chose the name to represent the things my clients and I could do together. I mostly work with small nonprofits and social enterprises, because I love and believe in small business. But many of them can’t afford someone like me on staff full-time, so I’m able to help them with their marketing and communications projects. And through my company, I’m able to help get their message out into the world in a bigger way. I’m able to support their work, and make their mission known to more people. And so, even on a small scale, I have accomplished that goal. I’ve been able to work with old friends and new friends, and on some really cool projects. It’s been a blessing and an honor to help them succeed.

On the personal front, I made some progress too, but I also had some setbacks. After struggling with chronic illness for five an a half years, I had some really good test results in September. My adrenal fatigue moved from a Stage 8 (the worst) to a Stage 4, so that’s awesome. However, my mono has reared it’s ugly head again, making me not feel as good as I should with the healing in my adrenal glands. I’m on a new protocol, and seeing good results, so I’m hopeful that progress will continue. I just have to keep the stress at bay, which as you know, just makes everything worse, including existing health issues.

Additionally, on the personal front, when my energy is higher and I’m feeling better, I’m also able to get in more exercise. I love walking on a trail near my home, and even though I usually listen to business podcasts, it still helps me relax. I also do some good praying out there when I walk. And I’ve also just started doing five-minute yoga sessions in the morning to get my blood pumping and my brain working. There are several on YouTube that I’ve been trying. Obviously, I’d love to scale up to longer routines, but I’m starting with what I know I can do so that I don’t put it off. Plus, I’m not a morning person, so I have to keep it easy.

Speaking of praying, I was able to read Mark for Everyone by Tom Wright again this year, and I really love that whole series. I’m reading Hebrews for Everyone right now. This is a very cool series that lays out the New Testament books in very easy-to-understand language. It’s like an everyman’s commentary. (Check it out, or some of the other books I read this year.)

I’ve also been praying more using affirmations rather than only supplication this year. It’s sort of an idea I pulled from conversations and books. I’m still not really sure how to describe it succinctly yet, but it’s been an interesting process over the past couple of months, and allows me to talk to God in a new way. But I’m talking to him, and that’s the point. He’s constant, but I’m always learning new facets of His personality (thanks to books like Experiencing God), so of course, that’s the best relationship to keep pursuing.

So, that’s kinda my year in a nutshell. Some highs and some lows, just like you. But I try to always live with intention, and that helps shape everything.

I have kind of a concept for my 2018 word for the year, but haven’t pinpointed the exact word yet. But I’ll certainly let you know in the next few weeks.

What about you? How was your year? What was your word (or phrase) for the year, and how did it go?


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Merry Christmas!

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From our snow day on December 8th!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I wanted to share these scriptures with you on this day of celebration. They’re a little atypical for Christmas, but my friend shared them with recently, and I thought you might find hope and comfort in them too. What could be better during the holidays, right?

Proverbs 3: 6 from The Living Bible: “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.
Matthew 11: 28-30 from The Message:  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”