“We stay so busy that the truth of our lives can’t catch up.”
– Brené Brown
These days it seems like everyone and their mother runs a business retreat. Generally speaking, I think this is a great thing! We all need a bit more reflection and intention in our lives, and taking time out of your regular routine is a powerful way to gain more perspective and clarity. In fact, it’s one of my own dreams to run a retreat for heart-centered entrepreneurs.
The thing is, I also know full well that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars in order to have a great retreat experience. You don’t need to work with a ‘business guru’ or go to Mexico in order to find more business clarity. It is my most ardent belief that you have most of the answers you need within you already. Unpopular opinion though it may be, all most of us need to move forward is a good mirror for our resistance, an intentional container where we can air our bullsh*t, and some time off from our regular work schedule.
It breaks my heart to see entrepreneurs going into crazy amounts of credit card debt (when their business can’t yet sustain the expense), just because they are “sure” that working with this one coach is going to change their lives forever. The truth is, you can probably get 80% of the results for less than 20% of the price by doing your own retreat. The truth is, there are no magic bullets, and no coach can eliminate the hard work that is necessary to do important things.
Which is why I want to share some guidelines for how to create your own business retreat! This is how my friends & I run ours, where we get game-changing results without breaking the bank.
1. Choose the right people
This step is half the battle, so choose wisely! I’d recommend a group of no more than four to start with. This ensures that everyone will have enough “floor time” to get the most out of the experience. In my DIY retreats, there are three of us, and it’s the perfect number.
When you’re deciding who to go on retreat with, here are some questions to consider:
- Am I comfortable sharing vulnerably with this person?
- Does this person have a growth mindset?
- Is this person aware of the challenges of my industry?
- Is this person open-minded and positive?
If the answers are “yes”, you’re off to the races! Also, don’t be afraid to take a retreat with just one other person. As long as you’re both on the same page and share similar values, you can still make a lot of progress.
2. Business, Personal, or Both?
I happen to believe that your personal development is the bottleneck to the growth of your business. Nothing exists in a vacuum, especially not something as complex and nuanced as running a business! At our retreats, we tackle areas of our lives that need work, whether or not they’re business-related. And inevitably, when we take action in a ‘non-business’ area, we see progress in our businesses. Funny how that works, right?
My philosophy is to choose areas of focus that feel the most pressing or sticky, no matter where in your life or business that’s showing up. But that said, you could definitely run a special ‘business-only’ retreat! Either way, before you start, make sure you have clarity about what kinds of topics you want to tackle.
3. Be action-oriented
At our retreats, one of our major tenets is to focus on simple, easy action steps. It can be so easy to get bogged down in reflection, in a way that leaves us feeling even more stuck. So instead, we always set the intention of finding incredibly powerful solutions that we can take action on right away. Seriously, the goal is to identify steps that we can take either the same day or the next day!
Having this focus in mind means that it’s easier to stay positive and keep our forward momentum. Identifying the problem is not enough! We need to figure out how to solve it, or at least tackle it systematically. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when doing this kind of big-picture work, so it’s important to make practical, actionable solutions a focus.
4. Develop a format
This is where the growth mindset comes in, because finding a format that works for you is a process of trial and error! It doesn’t have to be fancy, or high-tech. At our retreats. we swear by a single sheet of paper per person that outlines four major focus areas, with room for notes and action steps on the back. We take turns in the “hot seat”, having everyone else in the group weigh in on the issue & offering solutions while someone takes notes. Importantly, we leave room for hard feelings to come up, and make sure our phones are off, and that nobody is checking email. We work for a couple hours, then break for food, then get back to it.
What we do is not as important as the fact that we make time for it. Your schedule might look totally different! You might prefer to have each person “teach” a little class in their area of expertise, or to build in field trips or outings, as we sometimes do. Or you might need dance breaks – we certainly do! The point is to set the time aside, create that intentional container, and then see what happens. You can always tweak it.
5. Do the work
One of our favourite techniques during the retreat is to do some “work sprints”. We take the solutions we’ve uncovered during our sessions, and put them into action right away. The catch is that we only give ourselves half the amount of time we think we’ll need. It’s amazing how much you can get done by changing your constraints! At one of our retreats, I built almost an entire sales page in less than an hour.
The best part is that afterwards, we get to have a little “show and tell” time to show the rest of the group what we were able to accomplish! Accountability, support, and getting cheered on = the best kind of motivation.
6. Create rituals & signals
Even though you’re only on retreat for a few days, there’s still time to train yourself to be ready to do the work. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create opening and closing rituals for your sessions or days. These signals help set the stage and get you into the zone you need to be in for deep, focused work. Here are some ideas for opening or closing signals:
- Pulling a tarot or oracle card
- Making a fresh pot of tea
- Setting an intention as a group
- Burning palo santo or lighting a candle
- Always sitting in the same spots
- Listening to the same song
- Powering down your phone & laptop
- Setting a timer or alarm
- Going for a walk
7. Divide the labour
When you’re running your own retreat, you’re also in charge of all the food & cleaning that with it! One way we try to mitigate this is by dividing up the household chores that need to get done alongside the fun stuff. A strategy that works really well is to make each of you responsible for a few of the meals & cleanup, leaving the others to actually get “time off” of the housework during those windows. Or maybe one person is responsible for cleaning up, another for setting up your sessions, and a third for doing the cooking. Or maybe you commit to only ordering in food for a few days!
Whatever solution you choose, there are lots of ways to divvy up the work and still feel like you’ve had a restful & productive retreat.
Do It Yourself
It always seems ironic that one of the best ways to improve your life or business is to take a break from it, but it’s just the way it works. Without creating intentional pauses to reflect, we have a tendency to get caught up in the default way of doing things, and the default is not usually the best fit for our lives & well-being. My goal is to work towards having a retreat every quarter, but for now even twice a year is doing wonders for me life and business.
I’d love to know: Have you ever created your own retreat, business or otherwise? What do you feel like is getting in the way of you making space for this kind of reflection? What areas of your life do you think would benefit from having a compassionate spotlight shined on them? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett.
PS. Need more intention in your (business) life? Download my signature client questionnaire, designed to help you find more clarity through reflection!