(Editor's note: this post is a collaboration between WeddingIQ's co-editors, Jennifer & Kyle!)
We hear all the time how important it is to be the leader of our businesses, to think strategically and focus on big-picture stuff rather than getting mired in the day-to-day tasks. This advice is the cornerstone of a couple of our favorite business books, including The Four-Hour Workweek and The E-Myth. Still, as a small business owner, actually investing time in planning and goal-setting can be easier said than done. Big-picture thinking doesn't make us money in the short-term (although it's essential for profitability in the long-term), and it's hard to push away from the computer and the phone.
With much anticipation - and a little anxiety about tuning out our to-do lists - we made the decision to spend last Tuesday focusing on the overall landscape of our businesses and our lives. We could only spare the one day, so we met at Jen's house early in the morning, already prepared with supplies and rations. Each of us had different objectives for what we wanted to get out of our mini planning retreat, but both of us were determined to come out of the day with a clearer idea of the state of our businesses and our dreams and goals. Overall, it was a big success, and in hopes of motivating you to gift your business with the same kind of planning, here's what we got out of the experience.
Jennifer's Top 3 Takeaways:
1. I got visual. As I consider myself highly allergic to all things "woo," I resisted creating a vision board for a long time. Still, at the start of this year, Kyle finally convinced me to give it a go. The board I created then has been displayed in my bedroom since then. I do like looking at it (and my kids do as well; my older son is always adorably repeating phrases from the board like "to begin, begin"). Still the board was probably too vague to be truly helpful - possibly because, at the beginning of the year, my goals were still foggy. This time around, I created not one, but two boards, with intention. All of my most specific objectives for myself are included, from my environments for life and work, to the websites and magazines where I want to be published, to the speaking engagements I want to complete, to the experiences I want to share with my friends. (Kyle, too, accomplished something with regards to her vision board - she finally completed the one she started earlier in the year, and I think she feels it's a much more accurate representation for what she's working toward now!)
2. I organized my ventures (all of them). Like many entrepreneurs, I'm currently juggling a lot: WeddingIQ in itself is a huge undertaking, plus I oversee Firebrand Messaging and MyDeejay, and do quite a bit of coaching and speaking. Unfortunately, I'd fallen into the trap of getting swamped by my endless tasks regarding each of these ventures, and hadn't spent time really planning out my goals and strategy. During this retreat, I was able to consider each of my businesses separately, and to do some of the things I'm always preaching to my coaching clients - refining my target clients, assessing my branding and marketing efforts, identifying more ways to streamline my processes. I came out feeling more focused and determined than ever, and less like I was treading water (and getting more and more exhausted in the process).
3. I clarified what I really want. Most of us exist in sort of a reactionary state - the things that happen to us are constantly pushing us toward certain actions and responses, and we aren't always doing things with true intention. The last few years of my life have been pretty tumultuous on a personal level (and have been for Kyle as well), so I needed to give myself a lot of leeway for processing my emotions and just keeping everything afloat while riding out the storm. Now that a lot of that upheaval is in the past, I realized I needed to figure out what the next chapter of my life is going to look like. How do I want to spend my time? What values am I going to embrace? The next time I do one of these retreats, and am reflecting on the preceding months, what kinds of experiences and people do I want to have included? Taking the time to really consider this provided me a new kind of direction, and I feel better than ever.
Kyle's Top 3 Takeaways:
1. I found my direction for the rest of the year. For most of the past year I’ve felt I was on autopilot. Because I had previously set up solid business practices and workflow, I knew exactly what to do and when to move all my projects forward to completion. What I lacked was any sort of plan for after the day-to-day stuff was done. Normally I do my big picture thinking and preparation in the down time during the winter months, but this year that was not going to happen. So, I struggled my way through the spring season without clear focus. Now finally I have a plan for the rest of the year so I can get back on track in 2016.
2. I calmed the storm in my head. It really is quite beneficial to do a brain dump of all your thoughts, get them down on paper and then start to organize. Like most entrepreneurs, my mind is a constant swirl of ideas. It never stops. Seeing all my concepts written out helped me to put them together into task groups and begin to prioritize. Not everything needs to be done at once, but it’s hard to know where to start when they are all just buzzing around your brain.
3. I generated ideas that excited me. When you're plugging away at the busywork, doing what needs to be done, sometimes motivation falls by the wayside. It’s nice to think of some future projects that get the creative juices flowing and reignite your passion whether personal or professional. As Jennifer and I were brainstorming, we thought of some collaborative ventures that combined our interests. I also realized I had not worked on any personal projects for quite some time, so I came up with a few I’d like to pursue over the next year.
We hope you're feeling inspired to schedule your own planning retreat. Whether it's a multi-day experience in a secluded location, or just a day spent in yoga pants in your home, taking the time to consider what you really want out of your business and your life, and mapping out how to get there, can make all the difference in your satisfaction.