As a business owner, I’ve lost track of the times I’ve said to myself “I’ll get to that when it slows down.” Doesn’t really matter what “that” is — business development, strategic planning, systems analysis, even self-care — there is simply no slowing down, not even during “slow” times.
There is always something that needs to be done that keeps you from doing “that.” It’s frustrating, maddening and often times, a momentum killer. It took me too long to realize the only way “that” was going to get done was for me to physically remove myself from the day-to-day, even if for only a few days.
I call it my solo business retreat. The location has changed, but the idea stays the same: Get out of Charlotte — alone, remove distractions and get done all “that” stuff I swear I’ll make time to address, but never do.
The result? Clarity, renewed energy and vigor for the business of RSC, optimism, focus and a mess of metaphorical weight off my shoulders.
I just completed my fourth solo business retreat, and experience has taught me some valuable and unexpected lessons:
FAR BUT NOT TOO FAR: The maiden voyage to Greenville, SC was fairly successful, if not a bit too far afield, and peppered with distractions. Cute downtown, cute restaurants and shops, I have to check it out, right? Of course, but at the expense of my to do list. Two hours or less of travel time to the destination is my sweet spot, and if I’m headed to place with distractions, I’ll chose a place to stay that isn’t quite in the thick of it, instead veering more off the beaten path.
BE PREPARED: On subsequent trips, I stocked up on food and provisions before leaving town. Once I arrived at the destination, I didn’t get back in my car until it was time to check out. I made sure I had absolutely no reason to leave. I had everything I needed: coffee, wine, chips and salsa from Burrito Loco, ready-to-eat meal options from Publix, sparkling water, iced tea and dark chocolate Raisinettes.
WRITE IT DOWN: Once I set a date for a retreat, I start creating a to do list for the trip. Often started in Evernote, as I think of things I’d like to tackle, I jot it down. Once I arrive at the destination, I unpack, get settled and physically write out the to-do list. Checking things off makes me appreciate the work I’ve accomplished and helps me quantify my time.
DISCONNECT. REALLY. On this most recent retreat to an adorable cottage in Deep Gap, NC, there was no Wifi and cellphone reception was dicey. I was sure my iPhone hotspot would work, but it most certainly did not. I was panicky at first, but then relished the forced disconnection. I couldn’t waste time by aimlessly Facebooking, or reading infuriating political news on Twitter because I physically could not. Instead, I sat on the covered porch listening to the rain, enjoying some unusually long battery life on my laptop, writing and thinking without interruption.
CHECK IN. This recent trip was the second retreat of the year for me, the first being in January. I’m not a big believer in goal-setting, but I did jot down a few benchmarks I wanted to hit for the year. It was pretty cool — and gratifying — to crack open that Moleskin and see just how far the business has come in almost seven months (we’ve exceeding 12-month financial projections by 27 percent).