In this episode, I’m going to share with you my solo retreat structure, and how I prepare for my solo retreats so that I get the most out of them possible.
This episode sprung from a bunch of people asking questions when I started talking about the fact that I was coming away on a solo retreat (which is where I am now as I record this episode).
Let’s dive in!
Before we dive into getting prepared and maximising the effectiveness of your solo retreat, I just want you to go and book one.
Just book it!
The way that I decide on when and where to book my retreats is pretty haphazard. But there are a couple of key things that come into consideration.
For starters, I aim to book a solo retreat at least every three months
When I was living in New Zealand, I got to the point where I was doing it every two months, but for now, it’s every three months.
I book it for right before the ovulation phase in my cycle. (If you want to learn more about planning your business and productivity in alignment with your cycle, check out this episode of the podcast with Stasha Washburn: tashcorbin.com/316)
Think about the intention behind the retreat. What is it that you want to achieve?
On my retreats, I do a lot of talking and creating. That’s why my ovulation phase is a really good time to do it.
I also try to book a bunch of podcasts, interviews and other things in whilst I’m on retreat, particularly if I’m going for an extended period of time.
But really, it’s just about mapping out your plan, setting that time aside, boundarying it up and then just booking yourself a space.
You can book a hotel room, Airbnb, or an entire luxury villa somewhere overseas if you want to. But do what is easiest for you to book immediately.
Just get something booked.
It can be as low cost as a few hundred dollars to go on solo retreat.
If you have been really leaning in for this episode, then chances are you need one.
Get that booked in and give yourself the gift – as the CEO of your business – of going on a solo retreat for extra productivity, extra focus, or extra opportunity for you to complete projects and run your business in the way that you want to be able to do that.
Whenever someone is in resistance to booking a solo retreat, I always ask them, what would Steve do?
We think of Steve as a married middle-aged white man in the 50s.
If he was the CEO of a business and he needed to go away to get a bunch of projects finished, he wouldn’t hesitate to book himself a hotel somewhere and just get it done.
Let’s borrow a little bit of Steve’s audacity, confidence in himself, and epic selfishness (because being selfish is not actually a negative thing), and let’s get that retreat booked in!
Just book it. Go on. Stop right here and book it.
You may be wondering why I get so passionate about solo retreats…
They’re one of the most effective ways that I get stuff done in my business.
It creates this amazing opportunity for me to be in a different space, to get the big picture view of my business, but also to get right in the details of doing and implementing.
Sometimes we just need that little break from the norm, to either:
- Give us that space to get really clear on what we need to focus on, or
- Really nail the stuff that we know we should have done yesterday, but there just never seems to be the right time or the right environment for us to get it done
Particularly for me, I find retreats so powerful. I get so much done, and I make such big amazing decisions. They’re a gift to my team, who often have a bunch of things they’re waiting on me for, and I can prioritise those in my retreat as well.
Sometimes it’s a little opportunity for Davey and Munchkin to come and join me – maybe for the last day of my retreat.
There’s just so much epicness to it. (My body loves retreats too, but I’ll talk about that in how I structure and prepare for my solo retreat.)
Here’s how I prepare for and structure my solo retreat…
Set your goals
1. What is the focus of this retreat?
The focus of the retreat I’m on right now is content creation.
That content includes new free resources, a bunch of podcast episodes, content for some of my online courses, and pre-recording some content for upcoming launches.
My number one focus is content creation.
I know in every work session that I have on this retreat, I need to make sure that content creation is prioritised.
There are retreats that I go on where the focus is planning and decision-making, or there are retreats I go on where the focus is admin, behind-the-scenes and tidying up.
For this one, it’s content creation. That is what I am hyper-focused on for this solo retreat and what helps me to easily structure it.
2. How do I want to feel on this retreat?
It’s really important to me that I prioritise and get really clear on that.
On this retreat, my priority feeling is relief. I want to feel relieved.
And I tell you, I’ve done one and a half days on this retreat so far, and already I have this wave of relief that has come over me. It feels amazing!
Part of the reason for that was because I had fallen behind in a bit of content creation.
I’ve been very open about the struggles that I’ve had over the last year returning from my three surgeries in a very short period of time.
I’ve got a big detox going on in my body right now, so it’s been challenging to get my energy up.
Something that I haven’t really felt up to doing is complex content creation in particular.
I found that what is normally something that I find so strengthening, amazing and uplifting in my business has been one of the biggest drains on me.
I needed to create this space to be able to come and do it in the right way so that it felt good, it felt doable, it’s not going to burn me out, and I can get it done.
Those waves of relief just come with every little thing that I tick off.
What is it that you want to feel?
Sometimes I want to feel inspired, sometimes I want to feel relaxed and chilled. Sometimes I want to feel productive, motivated and hyped up.
When I’m clear on how I want to feel, then that will shape the next goal…
3. What do I want to do?
There are things that I don’t necessarily want to do on this retreat.
I don’t want to be caught up in the day-to-day of my business. I don’t want to be doing admin and behind-the-scenes stuff. And I don’t want to be doing a lot of writing on this retreat.
When I’m looking at my solo retreat structure, I’m really clear on what I do want to do, and what I don’t want to do.
4. What is my non-business focus for this retreat?
On this retreat, my non-business focus is nourishment.
What that means for me on this retreat is choosing activities that nourish me.
Things like making sure I have the most high quality, organic, nourishing food for my body. But also making sure I have lots of time and space, because time and space is one of the big things that I need to feel nourished.
You can see just by setting those four goals, I can really set the scene and set the boundaries around this retreat.
1. Collect detailed tasks
In the 4-6 weeks leading up to retreat, I will start collecting tasks to work on while I’m on retreat.
A little caveat here: Don’t use this as a procrastination tool and just chuck everything into retreat.
That’s why I set those goals first.
It would be very easy for me to put off writing an email sequence until I’m on retreat. But actually no, this retreat is not about writing. It’s about video content creation and speaking.
Something I don’t want to do a lot of on retreat is writing. Therefore, that cannot go into the retreat pile.
It needs to be done now.
I also find sometimes that if I’m not clear on what my intention is for retreat, I will use it as a way of kicking the can down the road with some of the tasks that I don’t want to do.
But I want to make sure that this retreat feels really inspiring, igniting and fun for me to do. So why would I put all the most dreadful tasks in the retreat?
Instead, I don’t use it as a procrastination tool. I use it as a strategic tool to gather and batch up a bunch of things that I want to do at once.
I knew coming into this retreat, that I was mostly going to be doing a lot of video content.
Therefore, I started to think about what video content I need, and what some other ways are that I can create videos for my business.
That really helped me to get into the headspace of knowing I had to be camera ready each day. Therefore, one of the first things I did when I arrived here was get my hair done.
You can see how just in the preparation phase of my solo retreat structure, I’m starting to shape up what this solo retreat will feel like.
2. Arrival planning
I’ll usually first arrive on retreat in the afternoon (because I’m checking into an Airbnb or apartment).
The first afternoon is used for setting up my video space (which Davey usually does for me) and starting to map out my retreat.
The detailed planning that I do is:
1. Prioritise what I’m going to do that’s going to have the biggest impact.
2. Look at what my non-negotiables are that must get done on this retreat.
3. Plan how I will make sure my time working on retreat is boundaried so that I have that balance between nurturing and looking after myself, and getting lots done.
I’ll write down all of my tasks on individual post-it notes, and collect them on three different sheets of paper stuck to the wall.
I also use one extra space to collect all the stuff as it’s completed. Once a task is complete, I’ll take it off the to-do list and put it on the completed.
That’s my personal style of working.
I know some people would rather do it in a spreadsheet or on their screen. But for me, I love having everything up on the wall so I can see what’s ahead of me, as well as what I’ve already done.
As a little bonus, in that arrival planning and setting-up session, I will book in to get my hair done.
I don’t bother getting my makeup professionally done – I just do it myself. But when I’m wanting to be on camera, having some sort of hair treatment will mean it sits really well and it’s easy for me to style each day.
Getting my hair done makes me feel like this is the type of CEO that I want to be. This is the type of business that I want to run. This is the way that I want to be pampered in my role as CEO of my business.
If getting your hair done feels completely meaningless to you, then just don’t worry about it. But that’s the one for me.
You might like to do meditation as the way you start your retreat. You might like to bring in a VIP one-to-one yoga instructor to really help you centre and ground in your body.
There are lots of ways for you to feel like you’re ready for retreat, and I’ve definitely done those as well.
I’ve done a one-to-one meditation and healing session with someone at the start of a retreat on Zoom.
I’ve also hired a local yoga practitioner to come and lead me through a delicious two-hour Yin yoga session right at the start of a retreat.
It all comes back to what your intention for retreat is.
As I mentioned, I’m doing lots of videos on this retreat – so it made sense to go get my hair done.
Just book the thing that makes it feel really good for you.
I have a friend who goes clothes shopping with a stylist on the first day of retreat. How amazing is that? She goes and buys all the outfits for her retreat with a personal shopper. So good!
3. Set up and have a strong daily schedule
This is part of the ‘structure’ part of my solo retreat.
I have certain parts of my schedule that really make my solo retreats super effective.
First off is my morning routine.
I set a time that I want to get up most days. I do allow myself a lazy little sleep-in if I feel like it on retreat (I’m on retreat after all!).
I’ll be clear on what kind of time of day I want to get up. Then I have a morning routine.
I make myself a warm lemon water, go for a walk, and grab myself a decaf coffee on the way home from a local coffee shop if there’s one around. If not, I’ll bring my own dandy coffee supplies (I love dandelion tea, that’s my coffee).
Then I set myself up for the day and get into it.
I get really clear on my morning routine.
In my daily schedule, I pick an energising task to start the day. Different things are more energising for me than others.
I am on solo retreat right now recording this, so I’ll tell you what I did today…
I went and sat at a cafe, ordered a delicious green smoothie, and mapped out my content plan for the next 12 weeks.
For each podcast episode, I wrote the information out on a post-it note.
That’s how I record podcast episodes… I write the podcast episode number, the name of the podcast episode, my key points and the call to action at the end.
I actually sat down and pre-wrote all of the pieces for every single one of the podcasts that I’m going to record on this retreat.
It was so energising for me and I was so busting to get back and start recording them when I had finished my time at that cafe early this morning.
Now I’m up to my sixth podcast episode in a row that I have recorded. It was just so energising to sit and do all of that planning and preparation in advance.
All I took was a lot of post-it notes, my pens, my Heart-Centred Business Planning System, and I sat down and did all of that planning out in advance.
It was so great and energising for me.
Planning out your next 12 podcasts might not feel energising for you. You might find something else energising. But it’s a task that you doing in your business, that’s a strengthening energising task for you.
All of those extroverts out there, you might do a reel of you on retreat, or you might do a Facebook Live to connect with your audience. That might be something that really pumps you up and excites you.
Introverts – you might listen to a really energising podcast and plot out how you’re going to implement that in your business behind the scenes. You might do something that’s really stimulating for you, such as writing, pre-recording something or creating slides for something.
If you’re a really creative person, the task that you might do is some design in Canva.
You might make a new model for something inside one of your programs. But make sure it’s aligned with the purpose of the retreat, the things that you want to tick off in your business, and it’s something that’s energising for you to start your day.
You know how there’s that whole ‘eat the frog’ thing and do the yucky task first? That doesn’t actually work for my brain.
My brain wants stimulation and excitement and dopamine first thing.
That is what actually creates excitement and energy for me to stay engaged in my business… NOT doing the boring thing first.
I love to have an energising, rewarding task to start my day.
Tomorrow, I’m going to start my day with a Facebook Live. That’s my energising task.
The next day, I have a group client call that’s on at nine o’clock in the morning, so that’s going to be my energising task to start the day.
Each day I’ve set myself up with something that’s going to make me feel really amazing to get my day started and really lift my energy.
Doing the content planning out in a cafe surrounded by other people (#extrovert) really helped me this morning.
Look at what energises you in your business when looking to structure your solo retreat.
3. Plan movement breaks
When creating a batch of podcast episodes, I will create them two or three at a time, depending on how long the episodes are and how well I go before I need to take a quick break.
While the episodes are processing and uploading for my team, I go and take a movement break.
I’ve got a YouTube channel that I follow (The Fitness Marshall – I highly recommend) that I’ve set up on the tv of the apartment.
Whilst my computer is uploading and processing, I go and do a couple of dances with the Fitness Marshall.
I have the ones that I want to learn and practice lined up because I actually do the same ones over and over again so I can learn the routine (so tragic, but I love it so much!).
Make sure to structure your solo retreat with movement breaks.
Seeing as this solo retreat is actually quite close to home, I have booked in for Davey (my partner) to come and bring Munchkin (my dog) after lunch tomorrow so that we can go for a walk. We’ll do the same the following morning.
I’ve got those pieces of movement in there, but I also have things I can do for movement breaks for short periods of time.
Once I’ve done a few batches of podcasts now, I’ll then go for a walk and pick somewhere to get my lunch.
Then I’ll walk back and settle in for the afternoon. This afternoon, I’m going to be recording some modules for one of my programs.
Make sure to include short movement breaks, as well as those big breaks.
Something else that I put into my daily schedule is to have one meal out and one meal in.
I will either have lunch out at a cafe and then have dinner in, or I will have lunch in and dinner out.
It means that I’m mixing up the scenery and giving myself enough stimulation and access to other people while I’m on a solo retreat.
For you, you might prefer to order in every single meal. That may be something that feels really abundant to you. Or you prepare one meal yourself and then order another one in.
It’s totally up to you.
That’s just a little something that I like to do – make sure I have one out and one in. I like sitting and watching Netflix and eating delicious food that’s been delivered, but I also equally love going out to dinner on my own.
Some people find eating out alone torture, but I absolutely love it!
4. Keep track of achievements on solo retreats
As I said, I’ve got a done list on my wall.
When I finish something (ie. a podcast episode), it goes up on the wall on the done list. When I’ve taken a post-it down and completed that task, it goes up into the done space.
Then I report that back to my team. I keep them very updated on what I’ve achieved through my retreat so that they can see how much I’m getting done.
It’s a little bit of accountability for me. But it also helps them to see how much I care about getting stuff done that they were waiting on for me.
I will update my audience as well.
I’ll take some selfies, send emails to clients, or update my students on all the new modules I’ve created for them.
I’ve been doing some updating of a program and finishing off some modules for another one. It’s just going to be great for me to keep people in the loop about what I’ve achieved on my retreat.
That is highly engaging content for social media. It’s also just really nourishing and so connecting with my audience for them to see how I create space to get stuff done… this is how I look after myself and treat myself as the CEO of my business.
It’s very inspiring for other people to see the way that we do it.
I think it’s a big permission slip as well.
That’s why I say, what would Steve do?
If you look at the way that businessmen did things back in the day, they gave each other permission to do a bunch of stuff. They’d go to conferences all the time, travel for business and get secretaries to help them.
It just normalised it, and I think for online business owners, we need to normalise taking ourselves off on a solo retreat.
It should be part of the way that we run business.
It’s so uplifting, so energising, and so nurturing.
It’s such a powerful way to create the time and space for you to be strategic and get those important tasks done in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re whipping yourself into submission.
Hopefully, you found this really inspiring and igniting and you want to book yourself a solo retreat as well.
If you’ve got any follow-up questions about how to structure your solo retreat, just slide on into my DMs on Facebook or Instagram.
As I said at the start, don’t get in perfectionist mode about the perfect solo retreat and the perfect structure.
I’ve given you a bunch of ideas to play with and practice. But the first thing you need to do is just book it.
Go on, JBI… Just Book It!
When you have, slide into my DMs and tell me because I will be so excited to see that you’ve booked it in. I will cheer you on and send you epic vibes for productivity and effectiveness while you’re on your retreat.
I can’t wait to see how YOU choose to structure your solo retreat! Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Heart-Centred Business Podcast.
Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.