You can also open this entire guide as a PDF here:
Picture this: You just had a great weekend! You’ve enjoyed some of your favorite activities, whether it's hiking with your dog, reading a really good book at a coffee shop, or getting dinner with friends. It’s 4pm on a Sunday, but you aren’t feeling downtrodden that there’s a whole week of work ahead. You know that even if the work week gets stressful, you’ve got a plan to keep living (not just surviving) between now and 5pm on Friday.
I used to keep a list of all the things I was going to do when I finally had free time to do whatever I pleased, without looming deadlines for my 9-5, worry about the state of the world, or the feeling that life is moving at breakneck speed. That list was full of activities I love and that help me manage stress, like meditating, playing guitar, dancing, and trying new recipes.
From time to time on long weekends I’d do a couple of the items on my list and feel like I was on a personal retreat! But when Sunday evening rolled around I would always feel a sense of loss that my retreat was over. I knew that as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, the soul-nourishing activities I'd basked in over the weekend would drop to the bottom of my list of obligations, and life would lurch forward as if I'd never paused to enjoy it. I was desperate to fast forward to the next weekend or the next vacation.
Over time, a realization slowly started to sink in: life may always be full of obligations. I started to panic that in the process of wishing the “busy” away, I was wishing years of my life away with it.
I knew I had to redesign my concept of a personal retreat if I wanted to really live! So I started holding “mini retreats." I was already doing some of the activities that became mini retreats when I could squeeze them in, but now I pepper mini retreats into my day with intention. Even with a timer set to remind me when it’s time to get back to work, I’m keeping my thoughts in the present, rather than worrying about when the retreat will end or what obligations are waiting.
My next mini retreat is always just around the corner, so waiting, wishing, and heavy sighing don't dominate my work week anymore. My message here is simple:
You don’t have to wait to live the life you want.
Today I want to share one of my favorite strategies for creating and committing to mini retreats. You'll find the worksheet below in Microsoft Word (to edit online) and Adobe Reader (to print); just choose the format you prefer.
This page is viewed best on your computer or tablet.
Step 1: Write
Using the worksheet, brainstorm activities you’ve been reserving for when life is less busy, whether it’s the weekend, vacation, or retirement. For now, don’t worry about logistics like time, money, or skill. Just write anything that would belong on a retreat designed just for you.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and get writing!
Have you recorded everything you can think of? Just to be sure, give yourself 3 more minutes to get everything down.
Step 2: Organize
Now we’re going to sort through your list a bit. You’ll use 3 different symbols to code each activity. Any activity can have multiple codes. Here are your codes:
Simple pleasures. Use this code for activities that take minimal time, money, and forethought. In fact, you could do one today!
Lasting effects. Ignoring any and all logistics, code anything that, if you do it in the morning, you’ll still feel positive energy from it as you’re headed to bed that night.
Fireworks. Code anything that is ridiculously effective at making you feel good, whether it’s big or small, simple or complex.
Step 3: Make a plan
Well done! Now that you’ve finished coding, it’s time to explore what you’ve learned. Of course it would be great to start incorporating all of the activities into your life as soon as you can, but since you may be feeling strapped for time in your life, we’ll start prioritizing.
Find all activities that are coded like this:
These are the most important activities to build into your life immediately. They not only require minimal investment, they also substantially influence your enjoyment of life. Just think how your life would change if you attended these mini retreats regularly!
Pick 2 that you aren’t already doing regularly, but would be excited to start this week.
Write them down on page 2. Record answers to these questions:
Realistically, when can you attend these retreats? (e.g. 2 mornings this week)
What needs to change to make them easier? (e.g. set an alarm)
Go ahead and grab your calendar and book these mini retreats for this week!
Now, let's look at these:
Although they may be bigger investments, these activities are really important, too. Let’s prepare for these big-impact retreats starting now, by choosing 1 you're excited to plan.
Write this big-impact retreat down on page 2. Jot down answers to these questions:
Realistically, when can you go on this retreat? (e.g. 2 months from now)
What can you do to make this retreat a reality? (e.g. save $15 from every paycheck)
Post page 2 with your prioritized retreats somewhere you’ll see it regularly, like your mirror or the fridge, so you remember to keep self care front and center in your life.
This week, as you practice your first mini retreats and start planning your big-impact retreat, really immerse yourself in enjoying every moment with your undivided attention.
Committing to consistent self care takes thought and intention, but it will make life all the more beautiful.
Till next time,