My goal is to do a day-long tech-free retreat each month, inspired by Richard Leider’s book, Repacking Your Bags, and by my brother Mark who has been doing retreats for over thirty years. Each month I look ahead in my calendar to see what day works best. My brother takes any month that has a 5th Friday because there can’t be any “repeat meetings” scheduled on that day. I.e. “We meet on the 2nd Friday”… or the “3rd Friday of each month”.
This is a day I turn off my phone, computer, and ignore social media, so I am not “chasing the rabbit down the proverbial hole” every time something dings, rings, or shakes. I get up at my normal time, read the paper, eat breakfast, make lunch, fill a thermos of coffee, and then pack up my things and retreat to a friend’s office in downtown Waterville along the Kennebec River. (Thank you Jeri). I have done past retreats at a local college and also on the 3rd floor of our city library, but having a place that is truly private is important. There is something magical about being at her office space, away from my home, not at my desk, not in front of my computer, that creates space for me to do my retreat.
Here are my six reasons I do a tech-free retreat.
Probably the number one reason I do a tech-free retreat is to simplify my day. When I work from home there are so many distractions and things to do that constantly catch my attention, chores that need doing, sounds of kids playing, the mail truck arriving, etc… At her office, nothing is familiar.
The noises are different, the chair is different, it smells different. Perfect, time to simplify. My “monkey-brain” seems to slow down here.
THREE MONTH PLAN
I use this time to create a three-month editorial calendar. As many of you know, I write a weekly career email that goes out every Tuesday morning. One week I typically write a blog, another week I interview people on a variety of career topics, another week I might do a Facebook Live. Today is my day to take that 5000-foot view. It always feels good to have a plan laid out for the next three months and all I have to do is execute it. When I come home, I update the three month, dry-erase wall calendar I have. Now I can see what I will be writing about or sharing for the next twelve weeks.
This is also the time I like to reflect on the bigger picture. The 10,000-foot view. Where do I want to be in three-five years? What areas do I want to revise, recommit to, or remove from my plan? One of my three-words for 2020 is “rebalance” and I am thinking about how to rebalance my work and leisure time.
It is hard to do sometimes working from home and owning my own business. This is the day that gives me the “space” to stop and think, which is nearly impossible to do at home with all the distractions. This is one of the most “freeing” feelings I get on the retreat…time to do what I want and when, and to look to the future.
[Me on top of Mt. Whitney, 14,505 foot view in 2012]
Whether you like to write or not, the kinesthetic process of handwriting your thoughts is powerful. I happen to like writing. Most regular workdays, I begin by writing in a journal. Today, I will write more. For me, the handwriting forces my brain to organize my thoughts and to choose what is important to me now.
Sometimes I only write a few paragraphs because nothing is really jumping out at me, other days, I write more. On my retreat, I tend to write lots more. Because I have done my editorial calendar, I often have a couple of blogs kicking around in my head. I started this blog you are reading on my retreat. I started another one that will be coming out in September.
OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE
I remember the first time I did a retreat. Yikes! The first couple of hours all I could think about was the text messages, emails, posts on LinkedIn, that I was missing. It took awhile on the first retreat to turn that “monkey mind” off. Now I look forward to my retreat day.
The key is getting out of my comfort zone and getting into the “stretch zone”. When we work with clients, we need to remember that there are actually three zones people can be in.
- One is the “comfort zone” where not much learning or growth happens
- Another is the “panic zone” where people are overwhelmed. There is zero learning happening here either.
- The one in between I call the “stretch zone.” This is where learning and growth happens. We are out of our comfort zone and not in the panic zone, and this is where we can think, observe, and learn.
I always have a book, magazine, blogs, or journals to read and it feels like there is never enough time to read them all…and there isn’t. But today at my tech-free retreat, I will take at least an hour or two to read. This retreat I read my current pleasure reading book, as well as three business magazines.
My challenge to you… try a tech-free retreat
Think about a day, or start with a half-day, to unplug and do the work we all must do to slow down. I call it the ‘tsunami of information’ and it comes at us all daily. We need to find ways to think and to “just be” in the moment. Do not be fooled by the fact that just because you are busy, it must mean you are productive. My tech-free retreat day is probably THE most productive day I have each month.
As the old Life cereal commercial said, “Try it, you might like it.” (Watch Mikey eat)
Want to learn more about taking a retreat? Watch this interview with three of us who take retreats and we talk about how and why we do them. INTERVIEW
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a weekly email for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
He is the author of A Field Guide for Career Practitioners: Helping Your Clients Create Their Next Move and the recipient of the 2020 Kenneth C. Hoyt Award from National Career Development Association.
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