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?
Does it have to mimic my planning retreat?
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?