Making a Business Retreat Work for You

When you run a small business, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the things. Are we up to date on taxes? Is everything properly recorded in QuickBooks? Are all appointments and reminders updated in our calendar? Do we have content scheduled for our blog and social media? We so easily get caught up in all the right brain stuff that we love to do (designing and crafting) and we can easily lose sight of the left brain stuff that has to be done (all the business logistics).

It’s for this reason that we take time each quarter to catch up on all the things necessary to keep our little business afloat. Because we have three boys running around under foot, and two awesomely supportive husbands, we usually try to sneak away to a quiet place where we can gather our thoughts, generate some inspiration and work into the wee hours of the morning getting things done.

 Working at Lafayette Flats for our Q1 Planning Retreat was inspirational!

Working at Lafayette Flats for our Q1 Planning Retreat was inspirational!

For the first quarter of 2018, we traveled over to Lafayette Flats in Fayetteville, West Virginia (about a 1.5 hour drive from our homes), and we were absolutely blown away and inspired by this venue! If you are planning a trip to West Virginia, or live in West Virginia and just want some time away, we cannot recommend Lafayette Flats enough! Absolutely phenomenal! But we digress...

If you’re a small business owner, or just a person who needs to catch up on all the life things that slip to the side, we highly recommend planning a retreat where you can focus, prepare and realign. Here are some of the things that we recommend if you’re interested in this deep dive:

Time Blocking: Yes, It Matters!

Time blocking sounds like such a simple thing, but when you take the time to write out all the things that need to be done and assign them a time in your day, they suddenly take on a new life. Start by writing down all the tasks you want to accomplish during your retreat. Next, group like items together (i.e. client communication, finances, blog, etc.). Assign each of those categories some time. Think realistically about how long each task will take. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you only allow an hour for finances, but you need to do a deep dive into your taxes! Once you know how much time each category will take, schedule it out! Look at your day and assign finances for 12pm-2pm. Or give client communication 2pm-4pm. Under each category, list out each of the items you want to accomplish within that timeframe. You can do this for a business retreat or even within a daily planner! Whichever the case, stick to your timeframes. That’s the key! You’ll find that you can accomplish so much when you plan ahead and give each item it’s proper timeframe.

 It's always important to schedule some time to step away and refresh your mind, as well.

It's always important to schedule some time to step away and refresh your mind, as well.

Floating Hour: Because It’s Hard to Accomplish All the Things

Sometimes you’ll plan two hours for a category and realize you needed fifteen more minutes. Don’t eat fifteen minutes of the next task! Move the remainder of the items in that category into your Floating Hour. (Be sure to add one or two hours to the end of your retreat time to serve as a Floating Hour.) You can easily get off track and out of productivity if you start eating into time allotted for the next task. Your Floating Hour may end up being comprised of a mismatch of things. That’s okay! Its floating so that you don’t have to stay within one category during this time.

Parking Lot: A Place to Leave Your Thoughts

One of our favorite things about retreat time is the ideas that we generate! Without even intending to come up with things, inevitably new ideas are born. This is important: move them to the parking lot! You will be tempted to come up with a new idea and run with it. Don’t! Unless it is directly related to a task you’re currently working on, it needs to move to the Parking Lot. For this, you will want to have poster board. We usually bring at least four sheets of poster board with us for a retreat (one for Floating Hour, one for Parking Lot and two for miscellaneous things we want to write down or display). When you come up with an idea that you love, move it to the Parking Lot so that it can have it’s moment to shine after the retreat. You’ll love this idea, we promise!

Location: Because you have to focus!

 Lafayette Flats: An inspiring place to drive creativity and promote workflow

Lafayette Flats: An inspiring place to drive creativity and promote workflow

Last, but not least, think about a location for your retreat. You don’t have to travel to a far off area or spend money for a getaway, but your location does matter. Find an area that’s inspiring to you and outside of your norm. If you’re planning to retreat at your desk, forget it! Your brain isn’t going to be inspired when you’re sitting where you always sit. But maybe moving to a different room or area of your house will work! Maybe going to your local library or a coworking space will help. Maybe driving hours away from your current setting works best. Whatever the case may be, find a location that works for you. No distractions (TV, outside noises) or interruptions (kids, husbands, clients). Make this YOUR time to focus on your business or the things you need to accomplish!

This process works well for us, but maybe something different would work better for you. Make it your own, but make it productive. Don’t spend your time away and suddenly realize that it became a weekend of Instagram and Netflix. Use your time blocking, fill up your floating hour and park those ideas that will mean something to your business. Trust us, you will find that taking some time for you and your business will fill you with energy and give you the push to proceed!