Today marks the beginning of my annual planning retreat. Three days of solitude and silence designed to refocus my life and leadership. These days set aside in early July have been a practice for years. They have helped me to be a more focused leader.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a retreat as: “an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.” That is a pretty good definition of the way I usually feel when I leave for my retreat. The longer I lead, the more complex leadership becomes. Dangerous might be a bit strong, but it sure seems scary at times. And for a leader (at least this leader) there is always someone ready to be disagreeable.
For all those reasons, and for many others, a retreat is needed.
If you have never taken a retreat, I encourage you to give it a shot. Many great leaders have made retreats a consistent practice and have increased their impact because of it.
I used to think that pulling away was a waste of time. That was before I did it. I realized quickly that I am a lot more focused in my thinking and my planning when I am outside of my normal environment. You will be too.
Tips for a great retreat:
1. Pick a good time! Clear the calendar and make it happen. No excuses. You will waste more time in the coming year without a focused plan than you will by spending a couple of days away form the office to formulate one.
2. Find a good place! Quietness is the key. You can set this up any way you like, but you might consider a place with limited technology. Going dark with no internet, phones, or TV will only enhance your focus.
3. Write! An annual retreat is a great time to clarify your life for the coming year. You can journal, fill legal pads with ideas, or write a life plan. Remember the words of Francis Bacon: “Writing makes a man exact.”
4. Read! Bacon also said: “Reading makes a man full.” If you are a reader, you will always have something to say. Leaders need to be constantly filling their mind and heart with great ideas. Reading is one of the best ways to do that.
5. Rest! I once read that one of the most spiritual things a man can do is to take a nap. I’m not much for napping, but the point is well taken. A retreat is a great time to catch up on rest. Leave the alarm clock at home and listen to your body.
I’m convinced that every leader needs to intentionally pull away at times and refocus. Give it a try this year. You will be glad you did.
“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” ~William Penn