Planning your year-end retreat

Heather ParlatoAs a creative small business owner, an important step in staying on track with your business goals is taking time to reflect on the year and get focused for the next one is. Anyone planning a year-end retreat for 2010?

I planned my first retreat somewhat by accident: I had a good amount of downtime in my first year of business, and I’d been trying to find an excuse to visit this lovely oasis I found in desert hot springs, California, for years. I made the reservation and went with a loose plan, but I loved it so much, it turned into an annual tradition.

How to give yourself a retreat: First, make the commitment rather than waiting for a time to open up. Find 2-3 days that are free in advance, and block them out. Even if you can’t spare more than 1 day, get away from your office or workplace so you can think clearly.

Second, research your ideal setting. Treat it like a vacation for your mind, a place with inspiring surroundings that also offer quiet for reflection. Do you have mountains, beaches, countrysides, or cool winter deserts landscapes with quaint small town B&B’s within driving distance? Maybe a religious retreat center you prefer? These are the places to focus on. Treat yourself!

Third, book it! Catch yourself smiling about how it feels to decline plans when you say “I’m sorry, I’ll be away for my annual year-end retreat!” Then get your favorite pens and a blank notebook to add to all your travel comforts and pack them up!

How I structure my retreats: I leave early so I can enjoy my wind-down day, which is what I do on day 1. Unwind. On day 2, I get up and enjoy breakfast, followed by some light exercise to get the blood flowing, maybe a walk or a swim or some yoga.

To get started, I review last year’s notes and analyze how everything played out. Then, I sit down with my notebook and bullet out every new thing I did in the past year that I hadn’t done before. I like to make note of compound progress, things I built on from something I did previously. I get all kinds of ideas for the future, and note them for brainstorming later.

I buffer my reflection on the past with a break of physical activity or even a night’s sleep before I work on the future, giving my brain time to digest everything. When I’m ready, I look at my list of accomplishments and think of ways to build on them.

Free-association, daydreaming and hair-brained scheming comes in handy here! Once I’m done, I like to break these into easy actions, goals to strive for, and big ideas I can contribute to in the long term.

All of this helps me get my priorities in order and approach the new year with confidence. How about you — do you do a year-end retreat? What activities do you do, and how do they help your business?

Read the longer version of this post on Heather’s blog.

BTW: Perfect tool take on your retreat? The Marketing Mentor Marketing Plan + Calendar with eCalendar add-on that syncs to your iCal, Google Calendar or Outlook.

One thought on “Planning your year-end retreat

  1. Luke Mysse

    Great post! Love the ‘unwind’ to start.

    I traditionally will do a planning retreat in December but I’ve landed a project that is due by the end of the year so I’m looking at January this year.

    I’m trying something a little different this year in that I’m involving my old business coach RaShelle Roberts. The plan is to wind down day 1, brain bump day 2 and plan with her day 2, finalize / celebrate on day 3. I will likely have my wife join in on day 3 so I can share the plan with her.

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