The Personal Retreat

I’ve had my own company for years now and dedicated full time to it the last 9 months. While reading Ryan Battles excellent blog post How to Take a Personal Retreat a couple of months ago It struck me that I’ve never actually stopped up reflecting on how things are going. I started planning my own personal retreat that same night. Famous bloggers and entrepreneurs like Ryan Battles and Rob Walling do a good job demystifying personal retreats but in short, a personal retreat is setting some time off to reflect and basically have fun. You may think that your day job is fun (I do), but the purpose of the retreat is actually to take a step out of your daily routines.

I wanted to go somewhere quiet in order to reflect and at the same time a place offering a range of activities. For my first retreat I didn’t want a long drive, why I chose a holiday resort nearby. The resort is located in great surroundings offering beautiful nature, activities like spa and mountain biking and finally a golf center. I rented a cabin in order to stay the night if needed and to have a place just for me.

Different opinions exists regarding how long a personal retreat should last. For my first, I chose to try out a single day. I didn’t know quite what to expect and I’m already out of the house a lot. I will probably spend 2 whole days next time to spread out the activities.

IMG_20150701_081750 The day arrived and after bringing the kids to daycare and eating some breakfast I headed off to the resort. Check-in where at noon, why I spend the first couple of hours in a conference room. The location where perfect with multiple whiteboards. For the first part I started writing down plusses and minuses about starting my own company. Luckily the list of plusses outnumbered the minuses but I had enough minuses to continue my work. It felt a bit strange at first, standing alone brainstorming my deepest secrets onto the whiteboard, but I quickly forgot about that feeling.

IMG_20150701_084935The findings clearly split into two categories:

  1. Something I should just do or continue doing
  2. Something that I should do something extra to fix

I started by writing down a list which where quickly named The 10 Commandments (I’m not a believer but the name sounded fun). The list contains 10 things that I need to remember every day like exercising and clean out my inbox.

IMG_20150701_095733Spending all that time thinking (I can almost hear the jokes coming) I decided to go for a walk. The resort is located in an idyllic area with a lake and forest nearby. The walk also gave me a chance to test the workout feature of the FitBit Charge HR which I bought for myself a couple of days earlier. The walk really cleared my head and recharged the batteries to continue reflection time.

Back at the resort I starting breaking down the findings from bucket #2. I wrote down 5 goals for 2015 and defined actions for each goal. I spend a little time trying to find a good service for persisting goals but ended up using a Google Spreadsheet, because I didn’t really like the free solutions out there. If you want to use a little cash, there are some good choices, but the idea here simply where to persist a bullet list of actions somewhere.

IMG_20150701_115227Lunch time and a bit of sightseeing to the nearby city. Not much to see, but I found a decent sandwich. After lunch I finished the list of actions and persisted all of the work on my laptop. I also got the keys for the cabin which were nice with a livingroom/kitchen, bath and a bed to stay the night in.

IMG_20150701_150425Something that I’ve been wanting to do for years, is to try playing golf. I’ve played a couple of days in my younger years, but never actually received formal training. I had an appointment with a pro golfer at the golf center and ended up getting ½ hour of training and walking around on the training course for an hour. Playing golf was as fun as I remembered it. Combined with excellent weather, this activity were definitely among the most fun of the day.

After my golfing adventures and being out in the sun, I stayed an hour indoor listening to my favorite podcast, Startups for the rest of us. I usually do something else while listening to podcasts like mowing the lawn of traveling but this day I chose to give the podcast my full attention. It’s quite another experience and I really got some major takeaways from the episode.

IMG_20150701_101837For supper I chose to drive to a nearby Inn. I’d been dining there a couple of times with the family, why I knew that the food where awesome. They didn’t let me down this time either.

Having spent the day reflecting and being active, I wanted to include something a lot nerdier during the evening. I always tell myself to take time off for hacking on hobby projects, but I always end up using all of my spare time on my business somehow. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because I love doing it. But sometimes it’s fun just coding something that doesn’t need to be released to anyone. I created a prototype for communicating with my new FitBit device during the first half of the evening. After that I took an hour off to visit the spa. My plan where to swim some lanes, but I were getting tired from all of the physical activities during the day and ended up laying around in a hot tub. Good times. During the last part of the evening, I looked at how to send push notifications from a .NET application to mobile phones.

Taking the time of was a great success and definitely something that I will do again. Having time to reflect about yourself and your business is not something that the 25 or even 30 year old me would have guessed on ever doing, but I got some good stuff on paper and already started implementing my goals for 2015.