Have you ever gone on a retreat? In this episode of The Productive Woman, we’re talking about how getting away (even for just a short time) can help us move forward toward more productive lives.
Getting away for a retreat can be the perfect opportunity to move forward toward your most cherished goals
As I’m recording this, I recently hosted the first-ever The Productive Woman planning retreat. Four women from the TPW community joined me at my home in Texas for a few days of quiet thought and planning for the coming year. It was a great experience for me, as I “retreated” right along with them, spending time thinking about and working on my own plans for the coming year.
As I’ve been reflecting on the experience, I’ve thought about the value of getting away from time to time–stepping away from our day-to-day lives for a short period.
Why it’s important
- Creating a meaningfully productive life requires intention and attention, which is sometimes hard to come by in the midst of our daily lives. Getting away can help, whether to plan a specific project or to create a life plan or yearly goals.
- There is value in solitude, as we talked about in episode 366 discussion of Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism.
- Clarity. Time spent thinking deeply about what’s important to you can lead to a clearer vision of what you want and what you need to do to get it.
- Restoration. Time away from day-to-day stresses and obligations, perhaps spend time in nature, sleeping in, taking naps, or just relaxing by the pool or in your space.
- Perspective. Taking a step back, especially with a change of scenery, can help you see things in a new way.
- Community (if you’re getting away with others) — someone to brainstorm with, perhaps hold each other accountable.
Options to consider (there are lots of different ways to do this and all have potential benefits):
- Alone or with others (small or larger group)
- Timing–a few hours to a few days or more. Although a longer period is good as it allows more time to wind down and focus, even a few hours–a half-day at Starbuck or the public library–can make a big difference
- “Themed” or general retreats. By themed I mean for a particular type of activity–writing, a friend does an annual quilting retreat with the women in her family, wellness-focused, spirituality, etc.
- Guided or self-designed
- Retreat center (often beautiful locations with gorgeous nature surroundings–ocean, lake, forest, desert–that can contribute to getting the focus you need; might have programs to help guide your time; might include meals) — I googled “retreat centers near me” and “where can I go for a retreat” and came up with several possibilities
- Hotel (privacy, away from home, room service, maybe other amenities, like a pool or spa) either near home or at a destination
- Air BnB (can be less expensive; lots of types of locations to choose from, again, either near home or at a destination)
- Trade homes with a friend nearby or in another state or country (I think of the movie, The Holiday, in which Cameron Diaz in Los Angeles and Kate Winslet in England trade homes for the Christmas holidays, and the change in location does them both good)
- Stay home
Retreats or getaways I’ve done:
- Years ago when all the kids were home, I would occasionally leave when Mike got home from work or on a Saturday and spend a few hours at the public library, reading, thinking, planning.
- A weekend at a local hotel with another writer; we both brought snacks, etc., and our separate writing projects; would meet for meals and otherwise work separately
- Another time I went away for a weekend at a hotel in another city. I flew to the city, stayed at a hotel at the airport, ate meals downstairs but spent most of my time in my room, working on a project
- Author Susan May Warren’s Deep Thinkers retreat–organized by her at a large house she rented in Florida or a large home in Minnesota. We paid to attend, and our registration fee included lodging, meals, teaching time, brainstorming, and lots of separate time to write.
- I attended a similar retreat at a historic home in Minnesota, organized by a woman who arranged for meals and an outing or two, but mostly it was time on our own
- I was invited to speak at a women’s wellness retreat in Alaska, planned by former TPW guest Mandy Hanson (episode 149). The organizers provided meals, special sessions on various wellness topics, a massage therapist, yoga sessions, and more.
- TPW retreat. This was held at my home for planning. We gathered for meals and a movie night, etc. There was a bit of guidance and discussion about goal-setting, and plenty of time to go our separate ways to work on our plans.
- In February I will attend a retreat with a small group of other writers; one located in a large house near the beach in Florida. We’re splitting the cost among us and each handling her own food. There are no planned activities–each of us will have her own room and plan her own use of the time we have. This one’s a more extended retreat–we’ll have the house for 2 weeks.
How to make the most of it
Have a purpose in mind–Why are you doing it? What do you hope to accomplish?
- Set goals (for the year? The month? The quarter?)
- Make progress on a project (outline a book, or write X chapters? Complete a quilt? Revamp your resume and create a list of what you’re looking for in your next job? Draft a business plan?)
- Rest or connection
- Katie Levatic, in her article called Personal Retreats: Your Guide to Hitting Reset, offers this advice:
“Think of your intention as the North Star of your retreat. It’s why you want to take the time and space to fill your own cup. When you’re clear on this, it’s easier to plan a retreat that’s perfect for exactly what you need right now. Try this mad-libs exercise to get clear on your why: My biggest challenge right now is ________ and I want to create a retreat to help me _________ so I can feel __________ .”
- What do you need for it to be a “successful” retreat?
- Food (if you’re providing the food, plan meals that are quick and easy to prepare–TPW retreat we did a couple of crockpot meals and salad kits from Costco). If you’re doing a self-created retreat, will you bring in someone to cook, like the Minnesota and Florida retreats I’ve gone to?
- Sleeping arrangements
- Comfy clothes–slippers or fuzzy socks, sweats or yoga pants
- Supplies for your project–paper, pens, index cards, yarn
- What needs to be taken care of at home so you can stay focused?
- Pet care
- House sitter?
- Out-of-office message
- Work obligations covered
- What needs to be taken care of at home so you can stay focused?
Budget for it. Make sure you set aside money for the location (if that’s relevant), food, treats, supplies, etc.
If it’s not a guided retreat, create a schedule for your time. Don’t expect that you’ll “work” round the clock; allow time for breaks, recreation. Visit the pool or the spa? Have a movie night? Put boundaries around things like TV, social media.
Writer Natalie Jesionka, in an article published on The Muse, recommends this:
“Consider some highlights of your perfect day. What would you really enjoy doing? What’s absolutely necessary for you to get done? Identify what tools or extras would make the mandatory work easier to complete. Aromatherapy while you grade papers? A powerful run? Figure out what can help you, and build it into your day.”
Even if you’re participating with others, make sure to build in time for solitude–time with no input from other minds (this was discussed in Newport’s book). Establish a balance of community time and alone time.
If you’re planning it yourself, will you bring in someone to guide or do teaching sessions?
Build your schedule intentionally, with your objectives in mind.
What do you think?
Have you participated in an intentional getaway or retreat, and how did it help you move forward to making a life that matters? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- The 20 Most Stunning Health and Wellness Retreats in the World
- Get Away From It All: How a Personal Retreat Helped My Career
- Personal Retreats: Your Guide to Hitting Reset
- How to Plan a Personal Retreat in 2021-2022
- Mandy Hanson’s Alaska Wellness Retreat
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