How to Take a Personal Retreat

One thing that becomes obvious to anyone who tries to work through the goal-setting and life-planning exercises mentioned in my book Release is that it takes time. Un-rushed time. And, as it says in the book’s Foreword, “In much of the world today there is no rarer commodity.”

One of the best things you can do to jump-start your life planning is to take a retreat. It’s not as scary as it sounds, and could be one of the most beneficial habits you form.

So, pasted for you below, taken from the upcoming Release Life Planning Manual, is a short summary of how to do a retreat. If this stirs you to do your first retreat, please let me know how it goes. And if you have other retreat tips, please share them below.

1. While it is possible to benefit from a half day or a day away by yourself, there is a significant gain in benefit if you can take two nights away. This gives you a full un-rushed day for reading, writing and reflection.

2. Hotels or a B&B can work as a location if they are quiet and if you are able to keep away from the TV, internet, phone. Retreat centers are better. If you have an RV that can work too. I have often canoed down a river and camp on an island.

3. My favorite way to start a retreat is to have a hot bath or a swim and then a nap. I sleep till I wake up, and I sleep whenever I am tired. I eat minimally, if at all, though I always have lots of tea and fruit juice handy.

4. The best retreats have a fairly focused purpose. That is, you are doing some thinking on a very specific question or topic: job change, business idea, relationship. This shapes the reading material you will bring.

5. It is good to have a surplus of possible “inputs” whether books or audio/video training related to your purpose. Sometimes you might feel like listening, other times like reading. But, try to keep the input time to less than 50% of your total waking time. And, it is best if at least some of the inputs are new to you, so you will hear some fresh ideas rather than material you’ve worked through previously.

6. When you have a thought, put down the book or turn off the audio, and think about it, write it down, doze off mulling on it… Write as much as you need to write to process it fully. Don’t worry about getting through the book/audio/video. The primary purpose of these inputs is to stimulate your outputs, the application of those ideas, to capture the original thoughts you will have, specific to your situation.

7. On a two night retreat, I use the final morning to review everything I’ve written, highlight the most significant thoughts and summarize the actions I need to take. Do not be discouraged if you don’t have a mega list of great ideas. Clarity on one issue that has been challenging you for some time can make a retreat one of the most strategic events of your year.

8. I have found that the only way to guarantee action on some new idea is for that idea to somehow be translated into my day timer, either as a to-do or an appointment. Ideally you do this on that final morning of the retreat so your data doesn’t get buried never to be seen again, and the benefit of the retreat is lost.

9. My personal ideal is to take a two-night retreat each quarter. This is a high standard, and One I don’t always achieve. But I find if I go too long without a retreat, it often takes one retreat to simply lower the rpm’s, and a second one to begin to generate some useful reflections.

3 thoughts on “How to Take a Personal Retreat”

  1. Good stuff, Daren. I haven’t done so much of this recently because I’m alone quite a lot anyway, but I used to do this — quite profitably. These are great ideas especially for those who are in Christian ministry. This is an essential discipline in one way or another. Thanks for these very practical tips.


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