I’m one of those people love fall.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – summer is great. I love the whole sunshine and being warm thing. But there’s also something about summer that can be, well, exhausting.
When the sun’s out, I feel compelled to take advantage of every gorgeous second. It’s hard to hunker down and work when people are inviting you out for bike rides, and hikes, and early afternoon happy hours on sunshiny patios.
Who wants to stay home for the weekend when you could go camping or out to the Oregon coast to get rained on? (You know. If you miss the rain in Portland in the summer you can always head to the coast.)
This morning was the first day that it truly smelled like fall. We’ve had our share of rainy, cold days, but this morning it smelled…different.
It smelled like a season of change.
I’ve been planning a personal retreat for a few months now. It coincides with a race that my husband is doing. I agreed to drive him to the start, and then I’m secreting myself away for the four days that he’ll be racing. Originally, I thought this could be a writing retreat where I could make some solid progress on a novel, or whatever needed done.
But now, with fall in the air, I’m taking this as an opportunity for personal reflection.
It comes at the perfect time – I’m ready to switch gears on a number of projects. A large business venture that my husband and I have been working on all summer long has been mostly put to bed. (At least, the most labor-intensive parts.) I’ve just put the finishing touches on an intensive novel revision, and sent it out the door to a couple of agents. I have a few big client projects on the docket, but I’m not wrapped up in anything big right now.
Basically, this is the perfect time for me to take a deep breath, look around at my life, and decide where I’m going from here.
I’ll report back after my personal retreat is over, but I wanted to offer a “before-and-after” look of how I’m planning this thing – both to have accountability, and to help others who are planning something similar.
Here are my guidelines:
I’m not going to go completely off the grid – partly because I think I might go crazy and partly because I’ve told a few clients that I’ll be available to chat about projects starting when I get back.
But I am going to limit my internet time to two hour-long sessions: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll unplug the modem and not use my phone to check email or social media.
(We’ll see how my willpower goes with the phone. I hesitate to put it on airplane mode because I’ll just worry the whole time that something happened to my husband on the race and no one can get ahold of me. If my willpower doesn’t work, I’ll install an app like Freedom.)
Personal Retreat Schedule
I’m thinking the best way to stay on target is to set myself a schedule. I’ll probably modify it as I go along, but at this point, I’m planning to start my day with exercise and meditation – something I always mean to do at home, but never quite get around to.
I’ll set two aside sessions in the morning and afternoon to do some serious work. I’m thinking at least one session per day will be a more “intentional working meditation” session, where I set my mind to mull over a topic while my body does something active. This will likely be either a hike or a woodworking project, of which I have several to complete.
The other session will be more practical application, like working on a book proposal outline, or outlining my next novel.
In the evenings, I’ll either read at home or head down to the local bar to have a drink and actually talk to other humans.
Because I want to show up on the first day of this personal retreat ready to work, I’m developing my list of intentions ahead of time.
Overall, I plan to examine my life as a whole and make sure I’m still on course. I’m really satisfied right now with my work, life, and relationships, but there definitely things I could improve on. One of my goals for this week will be to identify areas to improve and strategies to bring my life more in line with what I want it to be.
Because so much of my life is my work, I’ll be spending the bulk of my time considering that.
I always break my work into two parts – the freelance work I do for clients, and the fiction work I do for myself. I thoroughly enjoy both categories, and lately I’ve managed to get them to be about 50/50 when it comes to my overall workload. I’d like to keep it at that, so part of my considerations will be to look at my freelance marketing and niches to get more projects that I love and which pay well.
I expect that the freelance side of my business will float the fiction side of my business for a few more years – but ultimately I would like to make money writing fiction. It’ll take some strategic planning to get there.
The last thing I want to consider is travel. It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a big trip, which is something I find very important. I was really inspired by this recent interview that Ed Gandia did with Kevin Casey about freelancing and traveling. I’d love to find a practical way to incorporate more travel into my life.
Have you ever taken a personal retreat like this? What was your experience? I’d love to hear what goals you set and how you structured your time.