Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


Leave a comment

My Third Annual New Year’s Retreat

IMG_8311

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!)

IMG_7768

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.

Advertisements