The power of a personal retreat - plus 9 things I'd recommend for planning your own

The power of a personal retreat - plus 9 things I'd recommend for planning your own

I’m not going to lie – my pillars of life were out of tension recently (and still are to some extent). With a heavy work schedule, a feeling a deep malaise after lockdown and a gnawing feeling that I should be creating more, I decided to take a little weekend retreat.

My wife loves her music gigs and festivals, but I don’t, so she offered me a chance for a weekend all to myself.

I chose a weekend personal retreat to focus on getting my podcast launched. This is work that has gnawed away at me for over a decade and I’ve simply been too scared to get it done. What would the world think? Would it detract from my core business of consulting? Would I ever get it done?

Well, no more. I booked a tiny airbnb, too tiny to be honest, and packed my recording gear (and cameras), and embarked on a not very well planned weekend retreat to Essendon, Herts.

I ignored the typical personal retreat advice of having no big goals or fixed agendas, and instead set myself a goal of recording 50 podcast episodes in a weekend! Ambitious, but as I explain in the video – I need these seemingly unsurmountable challenges to get moving.

I share how I get on against my target, visit the village where an episode of The Avengers (TV show) was filmed and wax lyrical about life, death, local pubs and how to get the best from a retreat, if you’re lucky enough to have this opportunity.

I’m very grateful and lucky to be able to take a personal retreat like this and I was determined not to squander this privilege.

Part of a good (work) life is seeking to manage the tension between the pillars of life and a retreat may help you do that.

But, as Jon-Kabat Zinn pointed out, wherever you go there you are….and I certainly discovered that.

Watch the video here. Or read on to see what I learned from this – and how I would conduct the next one differently.

Personal Retreat Basics

The idea of a personal retreat is getting away from it all. The general advice seems to be:

  • Find somewhere in nature or somewhere peaceful
  • Have no fixed plans and instead be carried by nature and your emotions
  • Eat clean, sleep, don’t indulge
  • Be at one with yourself with limited distractions

My version didn’t go along those lines.

  • I did find somewhere near to nature, but it wasn’t overly peaceful. A country road ran past the tiny (I have said how small this place was) Air B ‘n’ B. It seemed to be a favourite road for people with fast bikes and fast cars – both of which had loud exhausts. It was NOISY!
  • I had a very fixed plan – record 50 episode, but I also planned some walks and the garden are was very conducive to watching the sunset
  • I ate well but did discover a local pub
  • I was at one with myself, had limited internet connectivity and had a clear focus. My mind wanders hence I set some concrete goals.

Here’s a doodle that explains what I should have done differently.

This is a pretty rubbish doodle of the air bnb – tiny – did I mention that? With some ideas on what I would do differently – and what to look out for the next time I do it.

Personal Retreat Wish List (If I’m lucky enough to do one again)

  • Cheap
  • Firepit and BBQ with outdoor space, if possible
  • Near nature or in nature – access to walks and rural life
  • A good pub nearby serving food
  • Just enough cameras to do the job of filming it – I took more gear than I used
  • A clear creative goal – but maybe not so ambitious as recording 50 episodes of a podcast (I did manage to record 23, plus some “How To” videos, plus plenty of photos (below).
  • Maybe next time I need wi-fi. Not sure about this – it will tank my productivity but will cut down on data costs.
  • Paper, pens, colouring stuff – I enjoyed doodling whilst the sunset
  • Clean food

I did proper enjoy my personal retreat and very grateful I had the chance to do this. I very much enjoyed it and got stuff done (still haven’t shared them publicly yet). I would love the chance to do another one but let’s see how money, time etc goes this year.

Here are some photos from the retreat, if you’re interested.