There are a lot of wedding industry workshops and retreats out there (some great, some not-so-great), designed to inspire and re-ignite your passion for your business. When what you need is relaxation, reflection and renewed focus, though, a well-planned solo retreat can make all the difference in the world.
For the past few years, I’ve taken this kind of solo retreat (with the support of my awesome husband Evan) once a year, and it’s done wonders for me. Of course my initial purpose is always “me time,” something I get little of given that I have two preschoolers to chase and an extremely active business to operate. But since my business is so much of who “me” is, these retreats definitely take on a theme of strategic planning and organization, along with the pampering.
Because my retreats usually have at least some business planning purpose, that’s the tone of this article, too. Surely everyone knows how to make the most of pampering time!
Here’s how I recommend planning a solo business retreat:
- Decide what you find relaxing. For me, it’s holing up in a nice hotel room and not leaving for as long as possible — I order room service instead of venturing out, I put the “do not disturb” sign on the door for the entire time I’m there, and I sleep like crazy between my planning sessions. For other people, that would be a nightmare. Those people might prefer a place where they can get out for long walks, visit restaurants and coffee shops, and mix with other people. The key here is to define what setting will make you feel the most relaxed and centered, and to allow yourself enough space and time to reflect.
- Book the most comfortable spot you can. Again, what defines comfortable varies, but make sure it’s a place where you have the amenities you need and can eat well and sleep soundly. If you’re constantly having to worry about things you need and don’t have, you won’t get the most of of the experience.
- Identify your purpose. Are you looking to set your business goals for the next month? The next year? Is there a problem you want to solve? Are you hoping to redefine your company’s identity in some way? Knowing what you’re hoping to accomplish is key in actually getting there. Also, keeping your focus narrow is always a good idea — if you get everything done early, that’s all the more time to relax, but if you overwhelm yourself you’ll end the retreat feeling just as harried as before you began.
- Gather your resources. Again, keep your purpose in mind. Maybe your reading material will include books on organization and time management, or on branding, or on managing other people. I usually try to avoid being “connected” as much as possible on these retreats, but I have occasionally brought a laptop or iPad with a list of bookmarked URLs to review (usually blog posts, eBooks and the like). The key is just to be able to focus on what you’re there to accomplish, not to fall into the trap of mindless clicking like we all tend to do all the time. Be sure, also, to bring a notebook and pens — you’ll undoubtedly want to brainstorm, make lists, and/or sketch your ideas.
- Set a tentative schedule. No, you’re not punching a clock — but having idea of what you might want to read/write/focus on each day (or each half-day) will go a long way toward keeping your retreat on track. You might decide that, after check-in, you want to do a “brain dump” and list out all the tasks, projects, issues, concerns, fears, ideas and everything else in your head. The next morning, you may dive into a business book or read a set of blog posts. The following afternoon, you might begin brainstorming some goals or writing new website copy.
- Keep things balanced. Ensure you’re allowing enough time to rest and “zone out” — something most business owners don’t get to do very often. It’s great if your business planning gets on a roll, but don’t overdo it. You want to come out of your retreat with a sense of balance and peace.
- Have an exit plan. Toward the end of your retreat, take time to review what you’ve accomplished and define your next steps. What will you do with your new ideas, plans and goals?
Taking the time for a planning retreat is one of the best things you can do for your business. I can’t wait for my next one.