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Renee Trudeau's picture

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. Seneca

Most people are surprised to hear that I love making a big pot of minestrone soup for my family and neighbors as much as I love getting invited to go to India to speak to a women’s group on work/life balance. So after an intense stretch of speaking gigs and events, I’m ready to be at home, anchor, reconnect with my family and get clear on my top priorities. One of the ways I do this is by taking a personal planning retreat.

For the last 15 years, I have been taking personal retreats every 90 days to sit with the questions, “What is uniquely mine to do?” and “What is the best use of my energy and talents in the next 3 months?”

We’re all feeling overcommitted, overscheduled and exhausted. We’re trying to do too much. A personal planning retreat is a great way to pause, pull back and get clear on what matters most. You may want to spend this time getting clear on your vision for how you want to live, what in your personal or professional life is calling for your attention and thinking about how you want to allocate your time and resources over the next ninety days (I find this much less overwhelming than looking at an entire year).

Getting started: from Chapter Four on Managing Your Energy in The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, I recommend first making a list of what activities fuel you (which ones give you energy, nourish you, make you come alive) and what activities drain you (create a physical tightness or discomfort in your back, belly or neck every time they cross your consciousness). Often these drains are things like a financial issue that must be handled, a tough conversation that has been postponed, a disorganized space at work or at home or a career or job issue that needs to be addressed.

I like to approach these drains with an aggressive housecleaning mindset, giving myself three options for handling these energy zaps:
1.I can “just do it” —and set a deadline for when I’ll complete the project
2. I can delegate it—and ask for help if needed or outsource the task
3. I can dump it—and walk away from this task or decide it isn’t going to happen (at least not this year!)

During your personal retreat, you can revisit old goals or dreams, enlist books for inspiration (I recommend the exercises in my two life balance titles), draw from Career Strategists’ Inspiration Café, journal, draw/paint or create a collage from magazine images that represents your vision for how you want to experience the next three months.

Do whatever inspires you and helps you gain clarity and focus (but “do less,” and trust your intuition; this isn’t a race). A primary goal of this retreat—whether it’s a day or a weekend —is to give your analytical thinking a rest and give your creativity and your Wise Self the opportunity to speak. Some tips to help you get the most from your retreat:

•Set aside a day, afternoon or a weekend void of all distractions (a minimum of eight hours is ideal, but even 4 hours is great).
•You may want to make this a personal retreat and be alone or you may decide to attend a guided group retreat; it depends on your personal needs and life stage. I do both.
•Choose a location that is inspiring and conducive to contemplation—a quiet park or natural setting; a friend’s vacant house; a retreat, yoga or spa center or even a quiet coffeehouse are good places to go (but get out of your own house!).
•Focus on what you want to create for the next ninety days of your life.
*Have fun and make this your own!
•Get the time on your calendar NOW! Otherwise it won’t happen. Think this sounds impossible? Well, if not now, then when?

You may, like me, decide you want to take a personal retreat each quarter. These planned respites are a wonderful, nurturing way for you to invest in yourself and align with your vision for your future.

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