What I Learned From Doing a 4-Day Work Retreat

 

A couple of weeks ago I found myself with an unusually clear week. A few of my 1:1 clients were traveling and we had moved their sessions to either the week before or the week after, and both my Bridge Online Cello Studio and my Bermuda School of Music teaching were finished for the summer. I didn’t have any meetings or appointments on the books, save for one 5 pm meeting on Thursday. 

This was the moment I had been waiting for, and I seized it.

 I declared Tuesday-Friday a Stay-At-Home Work Retreat. I have spent a lot of time over the past several months working IN my business, rather than ON my business. In other words, my days were taken up (quite happily, I’ll add) with 1:1 sessions, cello lessons, rehearsals, discovery calls, and writing my blog posts and weekly newsletters. There wasn’t a lot of time left over to work on tweaking my logo, cleaning up the copy on my website, updating some photos and social media handles, and putting important systems in place. 

The same thing happens to us as performers, too, doesn’t it? We have periods where we have so many back-to-back performances that we spend all of our practice time learning new notes and in rehearsals and performances. Imagine 6 months of that, and then spending a week working just on fundamentals. Scales, etudes, focusing on your sound, changing your strings, getting your bow rehaired, and reorganizing your music collection. 

 

Photo by Taylor Beach for Unsplash.com

 

Now, most entrepreneurs will decamp to a local hotel armed with whiteboards, journals, and a laptop–getting rid of all familial distractions to undertake such a retreat, but I live in Bermuda, and it’s difficult for me to justify spending $800 a night (plus food and gratuities) to sleep in a bed less than a mile from my own. 

 

Tuesday morning I woke up feeling giddy. Like, Christmas morning when you’re four years old, giddy. I was armed with good coffee, fresh fruit, breakfast items, and a few healthy snacks. I locked myself in my office/studio and got to work. 

 

Was it everything I dreamed of? Yes and No. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

Here are 6 things I learned about the process. A few things I will definitely repeat, and a few lessons learned. 

1. A little prep-work goes a long way

I had a running list in my head of all of the things I wanted to tackle, and I spent some time on Monday trying to figure out an order that made the most sense. Ie. It didn’t make sense for me to batch write some content BEFORE I tweaked my logo because I’d have to go back in and manually add it to each one. 

 

2. Give yourself time on Day 1 to have a good think-fest.

Do some goal setting, mission defining, and long-range planning. This is the time to dream and will make sure that everything you do during the following days flows in the right direction. I started by reviewing my last 12 months, and then I looked ahead to the next 12 months. Which things did I want to continue? What did I want to change? tweak? Stop doing altogether? 

 

3. Everything will take longer than you expected

I vastly overestimated what I could get done each day. There are always going to be more things that I’d like to do in the time I have, but next time, I’m going to have a master list for each day in priority order. I spent the end of each day bummed that I was “behind” and hadn’t accomplished “enough” but when I took a moment on Friday afternoon and looked at everything I had done over the week, I was amazed. Set yourself up for success. 

 

Photo by Brooke Lark for Unsplash.com
4. It’s nice to change your routine a bit

Most days I pour a coffee before my eyes are even open, but as far as breakfast is concerned, I’ll just wander into the kitchen whenever I get hungry and find…something. Before my retreat started, I picked up yogurts, bagels, smoked salmon, and some fruit, and each morning at 8 am sharp, I sat down and had a beautiful breakfast. It felt a bit more “hotel-like” and kept me in retreat mode when I easily could have slipped into my normal day-to-day routine. 

 

5. Be clear about your expectations and intentions for the week with those around you, and ask for the help you’ll need

I told my husband (who is a teacher, and therefore, was going to be at home as well) that I was doing this work retreat and that I was going to be working really hard all week. “Gotcha!” he said “No interrupting Kate!” (he’s the best, by the way). He also walked the dog for me each morning and picked up a lot of the household tasks I normally do (grocery shopping, laundry, etc.) I acknowledge how lucky I am in the fact that I HAVE a partner to help out, but there are always people around to help you if you ask for it. 

 

6. Once a year is not enough

Before Friday even ended, I had grabbed my post-its and blocked off 3 days at the beginning of each quarter to dedicate to a retreat. Beyond that, I am also going to Take 1 full day each of the other 2 months, and a half day each week that will be dedicated to certain tasks. My plan is to determine which tasks need to be done weekly, which are monthly tasks, and which ones are quarterly. Once I’ve nailed down a system that works for me, I’ll be sure to share it with you. 

Are you already doing something like this? How are you structuring your time? What tweaks have you made to your system? I’d love to hear what’s working (or not working!) for you. 

Cheers!

Kate

 

P.S. I know that not all of my lovely readers are entrepreneurs, but honestly, this kind of retreat transfers to every part of life. For performers (as I described above) for taking care of your house, the garden, your relationship? Finances? So many choices. 

P.P.S. One of the most common requests I get from clients is to help them figure out systems they can put in place to help make their lives run smoothly, with less friction between performing, teaching, and family life. Often, the systems we create for them end up increasing their income AND giving them some free time in their schedule. So they have more time to do the things they love. Like save the world, or eat more ice cream. Either way, if that sounds like the type of thing you’d LOVE some help with, book a free 30-minute call with me and we’ll see how I might be able to help get you started. 

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn for Unsplash.com

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