How To Have A Fabulous, Luxurious Retreat -- & Produce Your Best Work Ever -- Without Leaving Your House!
28 March 2012, 14:53
I always read about retreats with a mixture of lust & envy. Oh, how I would love to do 5 days of yoga on a beach in Mexico, or journey to the mountains of Colorado for a writing camp! Don’t we all want to get away from it all? It sounds dreamy, ideal, like perfection… & yet, I just cannot bring myself to cough up the money. Call me pragmatic, practical or plain old miserly; I just can’t do it!
I know I need a break from time to time — to totally disconnect, get away from it all & tap into my inner self. I know that those are the times when I do my best work… & maybe it is the same for you too. So if you, like me, get major sticker shock whenever you entertain the thought of going on a retreat, don’t despair! I’ve put together a little guide to creating your own dream retreat at home. I hope it helps you create a little slice of heaven!
We all have a project that’s on the back-burner. Maybe it’s (finally) putting together your media kit. Perhaps it’s painting & reorganising your living room, or putting together your book proposal. Are you procrastinating on putting together a travel journal, or a business plan? Maybe you have a piece of furniture which needs major attention, or a whole lot of administrative tasks to accomplish. Whatever it is, make the decision that YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
A lot of us put things off, thinking, ‘I’ll get around to that someday.’ Unfortunately, “someday” never comes. The days march on, & before we know it, it’s almost April & we’ve made no progress. If you want to make something happen, you have to start on it NOW, immediately, today! Don’t put it off any longer!
The only way to make your dreams a reality is to stop talking about what you want to do & actually do it. We can all conjure up a million reasons why now is not the time, but guess what? You are always going to have to live with self-doubt & fear of failure, but both of those things are better than procrastinating on what your heart really desires.
Think about the thing that could change your life most. Then commit to doing it.
The reason we put off these things is because we feel like our days are so jam-packed already. We think that “someday”, when things slow down, we’ll seize the moment & start on our dream project. Realistically, though, life never slows down — & when we’re able to get a break from the daily grind, we’re usually so exhausted that we spend the day in bed!
Life is always going to be crazy, but I want to encourage, cajole & persuade you to take some time for yourself. If you don’t carve out time for yourself, who will? NO ONE! Yes, it might be a bit inconvenient, & you may need to pawn off some of your responsibilities for a week, but it can be done. Chin up, soldier!
Here’s what I would like you to do:
Put all other work on hold for the length of your retreat. This can be difficult, especially if you work for someone else, but it is totally worth it. Wrangle a few days off, let your editor know you won’t be around, &/or schedule your blog posts ahead of time. Make a pact with yourself that you will not do any other kind of work within this time!
Note: You may find that you have lots of genius ideas for all your OTHER projects which occur during this time. Brilliant! Be sure to write them down, but don’t allow yourself to get distracted by them!
Turn on an email auto-responder which goes something like,
Hey there! I’m currently on a retreat while I work on (insert amazing project here). I’m going to be totally out of contact until (insert approximate end date here). I’ll be able to respond to your email then! Thanks so much. Love, (your name).
This will free you from feeling like you need to respond to everything in your inbox, & allow you a much-needed respite from the digital & social grind.
Decline all social invitations during this period. “Oh Gala, you’re so mean!” I know, I know! Watch me crack my whip! But your friends — if they’re real friends — will understand that what you’re doing is important, & they’ll be okay to wait. In fact, you might even inspire them to work on their own magnum opus!
Cover up your television, or if it’ll be used by others in your household during your retreat, make a promise to yourself that you won’t sit in front of it! I really believe that when we’re working on something important, especially something intellectual or artistic, it’s crucial to remove as many external influences as we can. You want this work to represent you, & the best way to do that is to spend plenty of time alone with your thoughts.
Let your partner, friends, family, & Twitter pals know that you’re going to be on a digital retreat for the next x days. If the people you live with know what you’re trying to achieve, you can ask them to support you & encourage you. As for telling your friends, you’ll feel much less tempted to tweet up a storm if everyone knows that you’re not supposed to be doing it!
When I say this, what I really mean is “make life as easy for yourself as possible”. For example, in our house, every night, there is a grand debate over what we’re going to have for dinner. In a perfect world, I’d make it easy for my husband & I by making this decision ahead of time.
So, on a retreat, I’d be planning our meals a week in advance. Maybe I’d stock the fridge with these heat-&-eat salmon meals that I totally LOVE, or perhaps I’d talk my husband into cooking something & freezing a few portions. I know that you have something similar in your life: a decision you have to make every day that you’re totally sick of! Think about what that is, then work out how to streamline it.
When you’re on a retreat, a lot of your choices are made for you. A sample day might go like this: You’re up & ready to go by 8am, your lunch is served at 12pm, you meditate at 3pm, have dinner at 6pm, & go to bed at 10pm. If you can create a schedule & regiment your day in this way, you’ll find getting your work done much easier. Sometimes, working within limitations can be immensely freeing in a way you wouldn’t expect!
You’ll also be able to reserve all your mental energy for your big project, & that’s what we really want.
I think it’s important to be alone with your own thoughts, but I also acknowledge that batting ideas around with someone else has tremendous value. In order to stay focussed & on task, I would strongly advise familiarising yourself with a person who you think can help you during this time. This person might be a psychologist, a life coach, your mother or a business mentor: it doesn’t matter, as long as you get value out of the time you spend together.
If you can’t find any of these people, you might like to enlist a friend to give you a pep talk every couple of days! Let them know that you want to discuss your project with them, & during your retreat, have a few phone-calls with them. Hopefully they will be able to talk you through your stumbling blocks, & guide you into the next phase.
We all work best in a space that is uncluttered, clear & airy. Some of us are lucky enough to live in a home that looks like it should have been featured in Zen Homes & Gardens (does this magazine exist? It should!), but the VAST majority of us, myself included, live in a place that looks like a bomb hit it! You have two choices: you can clean up, or you can go somewhere else that serves your purposes.
Some of us might be tempted to use cleaning as another procrastinatory device — you know who you are! — & if this is the case with you, you might find it’s easier to work in a cafe down the road.
I have to add that sometimes, the simple act of working in a different location can help you produce your best work EVER. There’s something about being somewhere a little unfamiliar that just helps eke out fantastic things. Additionally, you don’t have to contend with the distractions of, say, a sink full of dirty dishes!
Another good option is to rent a space in a co-working office. A lot of them are very flexible & are happy to offer you space per day or per week. This will get out of the house, & surround you with other motivated people — which might be exactly what you need.
Either way, take a couple of days before your retreat officially begins to organise yourself. You don’t want to be running around trying to get materials or resources when you’re supposed to be working. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” as they say!
The truth is that most of us can probably come up with about 3,001 reasons why we need an internet connection at all times. What if there is a Twitter emergency? & what if your favourite blogger posts something that revolutionises your life?!
Harsh reality time: This will not happen. I promise! & if someone does post something brilliant that you can’t live without, guess what? It will still be there in a week’s time! Their post isn’t going anywhere.
Every time I go away on holiday, I’m struck by the fact that I’ve missed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING by not being online. It’s a fantastic way to jolt you back to reality. 99% of what happens on the internet is total nonsense, & deep down, we all know it!
So bite the bullet, & turn off your wifi. Power down your phone. Take the batteries out of your T.V. remote if you have to! It’s a small sacrifice to make, & it will pay dividends. Pinky swear!
Now, the idea of taking a retreat is not to be chained to your computer 24/7 like some kind of prisoner. Feeling cooped up & stuck isn’t going to help you produce anything wonderful!
Allow yourself to get out of the house, or wherever it is you’re working. Go for a bike ride, walk through the park, or meditate on your rooftop. I have personally discovered that working out is an essential part of what keeps me happy, & whenever I don’t get to the gym, I start to feel wretched! Make time for these leisurely pursuits that will allow you to get some fresh air, to stretch your legs & see things from a different point of view.
I have never had a supremely brilliant idea while sitting at my desk. Instead, lightning bolts of inspiration always strike me when I’m out walking. Maybe you have those moments during yoga class or when you’re driving somewhere, thinking about something else. Give yourself permission to have these moments! They could change your work forever.
It’s true! All the theory, thinking & planning in the world won’t make your project happen. You need to get up from your desk, take your eyes off your screen & move your toosh!
Haven’t you put it off long enough? I know I have. (This whole article is to convince myself as much as it is to convince you!) Let’s both decide to take a retreat & make some real magic in our lives. We may not be able to do it this week, but go through your calendar & figure out when you can. Put it in your diary & make it non-negotiable!
I can’t wait to see what you create!
Go get ‘em, tiger!