What a Difference a Retreat Makes!

Heather ParlatoAbout a month ago, I set out on my annual retreat to reflect on the past and plan the year ahead.

In the end, I hand-wrote 17 pages following up on evolving progress and brainstorming ideas for how to build on what I’ve done. I’ll share the main ones here, though my own recap is on my blog.

Much of the major progress has come out of some suggestion by Marketing Mentor. One of these was to start a blog, and though I had a blog, I wasn’t making great use of it. I decided on a framework of post types that would give me something to write about every day, and then I made it a priority.

After attending CFC in June, I took Ilise’s suggestion seriously about contributing to the CFC blog. Somehow that validated that I could write beyond hitting my own “publish” button in WordPress, so I started looking for other opportunities. Since then, I’ve started writing for 2 other blogs, and the plans are laid to grow this into a mix of outlets that suits me well.

I should mention, one of these is for LAist, writing about food, and only sometimes design. So I got to thinking: how can I integrate my food activism into my design career? A friend and I have been talking about a food projects blog that we’d like to get going, and I put a goal on paper of writing, designing and self-publishing a food projects book. I’m really energized by making one of my passions a focus in my work.

Another thing I tried this year was programming events for AIGA. While I really love doing it, working solely with one organization isn’t best for me. But in working with others, the experience of throwing successful events has made me reach out to other local design- and LA-focused organizations to find a blend that works for me.

Finally, I launched an online store right before the holidays. It was mostly an experiment, so I wasn’t very attached to profit or sales. I was surprised to see that when I’d link to the store, I’d get more hits than any regular blog posts. I got as many sales through friends as I did from people I’ve never met [who would find the store when a friend would repost it]. As a promotional tool that pays for itself and allows me to make personal “fun” projects I don’t get to otherwise, the store is something I’m definitely going to play with in 2011.

Beyond laying plans, my retreat allowed me to take some quiet time to appreciate all the hard work I did last year. My goals aren’t like wishes or dreams anymore, they’re logical next steps, and I think it takes some time away to see that and decide exactly where to put energy.

Who else went on a retreat or held a planning session for 2011? Did it allow you to find new directions and projects you hadn’t considered before? Anyone want to share what they learned?

BTW: You can also be inspired by the sessions from the 2010 Creative Freelancer Conference, available for download here.

2 thoughts on “What a Difference a Retreat Makes!

  1. Dyana Valentine

    you and Velvette Delaney inspired me to take a retreat, Heather! I realized after I was already into the quiet time (very quiet), that even though I’d brought a box of important ideas, projects and considerations with me, that I needed something else. Rest. Recuperation time. Space to let myself recover and rebuild energy. I realized that while I deeply, thoroughly enjoy the work I do, it’s intense. I put out a lot of energy and keep my energy pointed towards my clients, colleagues, students and projects. It is my glorious calling to be doing this work–and now I realize that dedicated down time is required to keep being good at what I do. I’m curious how others’ retreats look. Thank you, again, for being you.