What is a Planning Retreat and Why do I Need One?

I have heard the term planning or personal retreat several times in the past couple of years.  It always seemed like something that was not a right fit for me.  Not because I didn’t want to participate in a weekend of personal introspection – I mean the idea of going to a hotel by myself for a weekend where I could just concentrate on all of the thoughts in my head without any interruption (and room service of course!) – but the idea that I could actually put together such a trip was not at all on my radar.

Two years ago I had an infant, and with nursing and two older children to also take care of, the last thing I wanted to do was go away for a weekend (OK I may have secretly wanted to go away for a weekend!).

Then I realized that I needed that time to sit down and get all of my thoughts out of my head.


I read a book at the beginning of the year called Essentialism.  It is more of a business book than a self-help book.  It talks a lot about how executives in business are able to make decisions by weeding out the un-necessary or the unessential.  Instead, they make time only for what is essential, and somehow it seems to work.

One of the key parts of the book that I read was about thinking days.  One particular executive would take his entire team to have a “thinking day” where no technology was involved, no replying to e-mails, and instead they sat down and did some good, old-fashioned brainstorming.

That idea stuck with me.

Then I heard in the art of simple podcast, Tsh Oxenreider discussed the book and her desire to take a monthly “thinking day.”  During this day she could get all of the thoughts that never seem to make it out onto paper out of her head. 

It was at this point that I connected personal retreat weekends, planning weekends and thinking days.

I needed that time to be able to get my thoughts out and plan for what is next.

What exactly is a planning retreat?

Well, it can certainly be anything that you need it to be.  Perhaps you are in a busy season and you need to straighten out your schedule in order to be present for family time.  Maybe you are coming off of a busy season and you need a sort of reset to see what is next.  Homeschool planning certainly comes to mind for me.  Or perhaps it is everything?

For me, a planning retreat honestly meant uninterrupted time where I could get my thoughts down, and then put order to them.


Oftentimes I have so many items on my to-do list and running through my mind, that no matter how many lists I make, it does no good.  Not because I am not trying, but because there is no order.  There are too many things to do, and instead of figuring out the next best thing, my brain shuts down and goes into survival mode.

This was me at the end of the year last year, and I knew that I would need to change things.  So, I circled the first free Saturday on the calendar – towards the end of February – and I designated it my “planning retreat.”

Giving myself that date, that set time, where I knew I would be able to sit down and start to make sense of the jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts and dreams in my head freed me to continue working in the present through a very busy season (the holidays and the remaining basketball season).

I realized that I had to give myself permission to take that time.  Yes, it would be difficult on my family to have me be not present for a time – I am a mom that is always available to my family.  I am frequently putting their needs before my own.  A lot of the time that is necessary – I do have three small children – but I noticed myself saying fewer yeses to myself, and more yeses to everyone else.

Do you have to *plan* for a Planning Retreat?

Well, I think yes and no here.  For me, I personally needed to have some sort of agenda for my planning retreat.  While I would like to say that I could just sit and think, more often than not when I have any free time I will sit idle for some time relishing in the silence and be so overwhelmed with all the thoughts, I am rather unproductive. 


A planning retreat, while also used as a personal retreat, was not going to be me going away for a weekend at the spa.  It was essentially an uninterrupted working weekend – at least that was my hope.

I had homeschool planning to do – the end of the year planning as well as thinking ahead to which books I need to get for the coming year (we school year round).  I knew that I wanted to take time to get down ideas for my blog, to wrap my head around this business that I am building.  I also knew that I needed to get some personal goal setting done.  I started the year out strong with my word margin but I need to look forward and see where that word is going to lead me as the year continues.

Do I think that every person would benefit from a planning retreat, or a personal retreat, or even a thinking day?

Absolutely. 

Does it have to mimic my planning retreat?

Absolutely not.

I think that as you are able,  you see what your specific needs are.  Mine just happen to be planning for the months ahead.  Yours could perhaps be more self-care – that visit to the spa.  A weekend of writing a book, or a weekend of reading books.

Know that your retreat weekend will not be the same as anyone else’s.  That is totally fine, it is really about self-care for you, and you alone.

I think the first step is honestly to give yourself permission to do something like this.  That permission was hard for me to grant myself.  I struggle in being able to give myself time away from my kids.  I definitely feel like they are only so little for so long, and I don’t want to miss anything.  Having a weekend where we aren’t able to be together is a sacrifice for me, and not one that I take on easily; but at the same time, taking that time away allows for me to be a better wife and mama, and allows me the time to recharge – and that is very welcome.

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? Did you have an agenda going in, or prefer to have a more organic approach?

29 comments:

  1. I agree taking time for yourself is very important. It doesn't have to be an entire weekend if that isn't your thing but certainly a few hours alone to treat yourself or quiet time is best!

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  2. I think that taking any time for yourself is critical. But - I am loving this planning or thinking time without technology. Or just some time to really allow yourself to figure things out for a blog or work or life. Sounds so calming...

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  3. I could so use a planning retreat! I need some time set aside to get things in order soon.

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  4. I definitely could use a retreat. As long as I am taking some me time, I am all for that because I never get enough!

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  5. I used to do this every year at the beginning of the summer. I'd plan my summer and the first part of the fall (I am a teacher) and set personal goals for myself. Haven't done this in YEARS.

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  6. I could probably use something like this. Sometimes I just need to slow down and take a breath. Not sure how I would go about planning this though.

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  7. I am a planner addict and have never heard of this but know I WANT A PLANNER RETREAT! How awesome would that be and with like-minded people - yes please!

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  8. I do this for work and homeschool right now. Once a week I sit down for my blog with my blog planner and get the following week ready. With homeschool, i do it a month in advance so my planning takes a bit longer, but all that planning is so well worth it.

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  9. LOL i like the idea of having to plan for a planning retreat. Reading it just made me laugh. I never heard of a retreat like this but I know I'd be a great candidate for going since I'm in desperate need of learning how to plan

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  10. It's so important to take care of your self before taking care of others! This sounds like a brilliant idea, even if for just a few hours to sort your thoughts out! x

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  11. I definitely have a personal retreat. I try to plan them after I have huge projects or after moments I was extremely busy. It's great to relax and kick back and we all definitely need it.

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  12. I didn't know about planning retreats but now that I've read your post and know what they are, I definitely need one!

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  13. I try and do that at least once every two weeks because otherwise I become overwhelmed and like you said have too many things to do!A planning retreat is a great concept x

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  14. I have learned that it is so important to have that time for yourself. I like my alone time to sit down and plan .

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  15. I had no idea about planning retreats. I will say I love alone time when I get a chance.

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  16. A planning retreat sounds like a great idea! I think it's awesome to have an uninterrupted time alone. It will help you keep your thoughts together.

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  17. I could totally use something like this! I am already organized but could always learn more.

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  18. A few years ago I love going to specialized retreats. The last time I did was for a Yoga and Meditation retreat. Lately, because my schedule is so busy, I try to do 'ME Time' for a day or a half a day. It's is somewhat similar to a retreat. I get rejuvenated right after!

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  19. I've not heard of these before but I think I do mini versions every couple of week where I sit down with everything I have going on in my head and prioritize, gather resources and get my head on straight!

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  20. I totally agree that you definitely need to set time aside for yourself. I usually do this every sunday which I consider to be my self care day. I take time to relax and plan my week ahead. I would like to give myself a trip away to do this though it would be nice to relax in a hotel alone with the room service.

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  21. Taking care of yourself is so important! This post was really helpful and a planning retreat IS helpful!

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  22. No way! I have never heard of a planning retreat! I want to go to one!!!

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  23. I have to get away at least once a week so that I can focus on all of the things I have to do the next week! Totally necessary!

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  24. I like the idea of this and have tried to implement it before, without success. However I think my mindset shifted over the last 12 months and I could really make this work now. Gonna try again! TFS

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  25. I love taking planning breaks to revisit my goals and do more long term planning. It can be so helpful!

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  26. I could use a personal retreat. I don't think my husband would be ok with it though. Leaving him with the kids for a weekend would be hard on him.

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  27. A planning retreat sounds like exactly what I need right now. I need a breather!

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  28. I think that I will have to take a 'personal retreat' when I am ready to settle down and plan out my next home business venture. I think that I would really have to break away from all distractions to really get everything I need to get done.

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  29. I think it is crucial to take a personal retreat every now and then. It helps us become a better version of ourselves by helping us find balance, re-ignite a zest for life, de-stress, and gives us a sense of empowerment.

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