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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
  I also knew that I needed to
get some personal goal setting done.
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
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
  I struggle in being able to give
myself time away from my kids.
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
Have you ever taken a personal retreat? Did you have an agenda going
in, or prefer to have a more organic approach?

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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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