Company retreats are a staple for most larger businesses because they’re invaluable opportunities. Beyond the initial want to build a stronger team, they allow participants to gain some physical and mental distance from the office in order to reflect on accomplishments and missteps. They can analyze what’s working and what isn’t and create goals to be pursued in the future.
Retreats, however, are something that those who work for themselves would probably never consider doing. That’s a mistake. Yes, you’re only one person, but one of the major benefits of a retreat is that it gives you distance, which makes it easier to reflect—this is especially valuable for someone who works for themselves. You could argue it’s even more important for sole proprietors because self-evaluation is their only option. What’s more, when you work non-stop, it’s hard to find time to step back for a little perspective. That’s why we think it’s vital for people who work for themselves to organize a solo retreat.
Now, you’re probably wondering, “How do you even make a solo retreat work logistically?” Here’s seven key ways you can make a retreat for yourself possible and successful.
1. Give Yourself Two Days
Whether you do a retreat quarterly or annually, be sure to always put aside two days for it. You really want to give yourself space and time to settle into the calm state of mind needed for self-evaluation. You also don’t want to rush yourself. Take your time to really explore everything without ever feeling rushed, stressed, or overwhelmed. Two days allows you the breathing room to really dive into your business goals and work routines, and take a good hard look at them.
2. Find the Right Focus for Each Day of Your Retreat
You need to establish clear parameters between both days of your retreat. The first day should be all about big picture thinking. Ask yourself questions like, “As a business and a worker, what do I wish I were doing more, or less, of? What’s working and what isn’t? What goals did and didn’t I meet? What goals do I need to finesse or replace moving forward?” Mentally audit every part of your business. Then write down what goals they leave you with, whether it’s something like “Increase Business by 50%” or “Procrastinate Less.” Then, on the second day of your retreat, tackle how you are going to achieve your goals. How will you procrastinate less and increase your business by 50%? Create an action plan that you can then spend the next few months executing.
3. Go Away
“Company retreat” has the word “retreat” in it for a reason. Getting away from your usual surroundings is a key part of your experience, which is why you need to go away—whether you work from home or a rented office space. You need distance to get perspective. So, where should you go? Up to you. You could rent a room from a hotel or through Airbnb. You could head to a cabin, or house sit for someone traveling. You can travel to another city, if you like. What matters is just getting somewhere that’s foreign and far enough away that you’ll feel out of your element, because that’s what will allow you to make the most of the experience.
4. Prepare a Full Program
Company retreats are very structured affairs. There are schedules with set times for set tasks. Because you’re on your own, it can be easy to get distracted or lose focus if you don’t have a structure for your two-day retreat. How do you create one? If you’ve done retreats in past jobs, draw from them. What exercises and schedules were used? You can also ask friends who have recently been to retreats about how they were structured. You should also look at incorporating performance development strategies, such as setting clear S.M.A.R.T. goals, or trying alternative goal-setting like H.A.R.D. Or, if your budget allows, reach out to a retreat organizer and ask them to put a program together for you.
5. Get the Right Tools
No company retreat is complete without tools like white boards, paper pad easels, sharpies, handouts, binders and more. Your retreat should be no different. It’s not just about giving yourself a normal retreat experience so you’ll treat it seriously. It’s about encouraging a perspective shift. Writing on a white board—even if it’s just for you—takes you out of your element. Sitting down with a notebook or computer would resemble your daily routine too closely. It won’t create a helpful mental distance. Using the normal tools of a corporate retreat will force you to think differently, and make this retreat really feel like one.
6. Do Fun Things
Retreats are not all business. They involve socializing and fun—dinners, drinks, and excursions with colleagues. Naturally, a solo retreat means no colleagues. But you still need breaks and fun. Go out for a nice steak dinner or see a movie. Maybe try a unique activity, something you don’t usually do or never have. What’s key is doing something—whether a drink or hitting some balls at a driving range—that ensures you’re getting a break from the hard work you’ve been doing day-to-day and during your retreat.
7. Be Okay with Being Alone
The biggest challenge you might face (especially if you’re an extrovert) in doing a solo retreat is being alone. Yes, it might feel a little strange at first, standing at a whiteboard by yourself, or running through handouts. But we promise you’ll adapt. You’ll find that once you start going through your program, you’ll see how helpful the experience is, and start getting excited. What’s more, you’ll find it’s not much different than your normal day-to-day, where you’re mostly on your own anyway. Just hunker down, enjoy the process, and you’ll not only be producing great insight into improving your business, but you’ll probably have fun too.
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