Work Retreat Planning: Goals & Tools — Part 2

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Did I convince you to consider the Working Retreat in my last blog post?

I hope so. Seriously, it is so worth it.

Assuming you have those planning details handled (or well-on-the-way-to-handled), let's talk about what to do during your retreat.

The number one Working Retreat Rule: No Rigid Schedules.

Inspiration and creativity need room and space. You can't force them to show up on some silly schedule you might feel compelled to put together to ensure that you stay productive during your retreat.

That said, it's a really good idea to have a few general goals for your time away. Examples of Work Retreat goals might be:

  1. Write three chapters of book
  2. Lay out all elements of new self-study program for production
  3. Write all web copy for new website in development
  4. Set goals for the coming year
  5. Write five content-rich articles for online distribution
  6. Create social media strategy (hey, I have a worksheet for this. Email me if you'd like it.)

This is Your Sacred Time.

Now, don't have this many goals for one retreat! Pick one or two. Your retreat should feel wide-open, while being very focused in intention. And try to keep your goals related to working on your business, not in your business – to loosely quote E-myth mall business guru Michael Gerber. This is sacred time meant to ramp up your creativity in ways that you deserve to have devoted to your business. (Yes, your clients deserve your greatest brilliance, too – and it'll be way more available for them after this retreat, trust me.)

Plan It – Then Let It Go.

Once you know what you want to accomplish on this retreat, let it go. Let it happen if it should. From my experience, I always get at least what I wanted done in a retreat – and usually even better stuff that I couldn't possibly know I needed or wanted because my mind was too constricted by the day to day of regular work life when I was setting my goals. This sort of fits into that somewhat woo-woo category of “this… or something better” intention-setting. Go with it.

Move Your Body. Preferably Outside.

I used to think this was some kind of idiosyncratic thing that just happened to me, but the more people I talk to the more convinced I am that at least half of the human population – maybe a lot more (though this is totally unscientific research) – experiences hugely powerful ideas while moving their bodies outdoors. I know it's not true for everyone because my husband does not experience this for the most part, probably because he is usually doing something really hard-core like skiing, treacherous hiking or playing basketball. So, maybe the advice is: move your body outdoors, but not doing something that requires a ton of intense strategy or exertion.

I don't know how to emphasize, well, emphatically enough, just how extraordinary this tool is – walking or jogging peacefully outdoors, inviting free-thinking. It is where all of my most exciting ideas originate, I'm pretty sure.

Write It. Or Speak It.

I have been trying to do Morning Pages since my first read of the excellent book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron to little avail. I am simply not a journaler. I occasionally find it useful, but mostly I get distracted and sort of bored by the whole thing. My friend, Tam, though, is a prolific journaler. So is my friend Liesl. So, I know that really smart people get a ton out of journaling because they are both brilliant women. If you know that journaling is a great way for you to get what's in your heart and mind out into the open – to release it and free you up a bit – then plan to journal on your Working Retreat. Because you want your mind as freed up and open as possible.

The nice thing about journaling or writing morning pages is that you have a pen handy and a place to write both the unnecessary thoughts (in service of getting them out of your mind) and to document the great stuff that shows up with your clear mind. Make a big fancy box or other notation on your pages where you write the stuff you want to refer to later so it doesn't get lost in the rubble of journaling.

For me, speaking is way more satisfying. Two things happen for me when I say my thoughts out loud: 1. I know what I think with way more clarity, and 2. I can let go of thoughts that are simply useless and inaccurate. Then, after those two things happen, there's the third part where all of these really cool, exciting ideas show up. This is what we're working toward with this release portion.

Don't let discomfort get in the way of talking to yourself.

Speaking feels most appropriate when there is another person present – at first. But when you use it as a tool for thought-processing and release, you get used to just saying stuff out loud when no one is there. It has the same mind-opening effect that I imagine journaling does for others, so it's worth getting past that first uncomfortable part.

I highly recommend bringing a recording device on your speaking-walks, like this Sony MP3 Recorder, which is what I use. I bring it with me whenever I take walks outside, but especially when I am on a working retreat. After you spend some time working through the first two parts of “journaling” out loud, thereby clearing your mind of idle chatter and unnecessary thoughts, get that recorder ready. You will want to document some of the ideas that show up.

I'm excited for you about your Working Retreat. I know it will be fabulous. Please check back in and let me know how it went, what worked and what didn't so we can all learn from each others experiences.

Oh, and in case you happen to be in Oregon (or would like to travel here – highly recommended, by the way) and haven't landed on a good location for your Working Retreat, Doc Huck recommended this lovely-sounding Writing Retreat spot on the Oregon Coast via her comment on the last Work Retreat Planning Post #1.

Thank you smoMashup for the lovely walk in the woods image.