Sunset view from the beach house deck

So, you know I just (almost) finished this Vision Into Action program because I sent that post two days ago. What I haven’t talked about before now is how intense writing and producing this program was for me.

Man.

There’s some chance you’ve read some of the many blog posts out there on how easy it is to create information products. I’ve read a zillion of those articles, too. And you know what ? I bet you can create information products that way. You might even be able to sell them for a while (after all, no one knows exactly what they are buying in many cases.) But if you want to create a really useful information product – one that will truly add value and engage the reader – it is not a simple process. It’s just not.

But it’s totally doable – and it can be done quickly and with high-quality output. Like all creative endeavors, you just need the time, space and focus to really hunker down into it and let the goodness flow. I’ve got a secret to getting all of that – uber style.

Working Retreats.

On three separate occasions during the writing and production of Vision Into Action, I packed my bags and settled into a totally new and strange (and amazing) environment and worked my fanny off. Here’s where I went: October – the beach house, November – the lake lodge, January – the local inn.

This is the part where you assume I must be really wealthy. And you’d be wrong. You might assume I have a bunch of family nearby who takes care of my kids when I am gone. Wrong again.

It takes Planning & Creativity – and for some of us, Partnership. But a Working Retreat is way worth the effort.

It takes creativity and commitment to make a work retreat work, especially if you’ve got many responsibilities outside of your work. Like the three kids 5 years old and under that I have. Or the mother-in-law for whom you are the primary caregiver. Or the daytime job you hold while you build your dream business in your off-hours. To add to the complexity, I’m going to assume that you don’t have a ton of expendable income here, so then there’s that expense thing to work out. That matters to me, too – expense.

So, see – I get it about complexity and the issues involved in up and leaving your responsibilities for days at a time. Yet, I am absolutely certain that these retreats are a primary reason that I am able to get these big creative projects handled in weeks when other people I know who have similar circumstances take years to do similar ones.

I’ll give you my strategies. Maybe they’ll work for you. This first post will be about how to find a retreat spot and prepare for the retreat. I’ll write a follow-up post about the actual details of the work retreat.

So, how to get a retreat spot…

1. House Swap: I love house swapping! House swapping is the bomb. Seriously – pick your dream spot and go stay in a warm cozy home there, in the midst of real-life in that area. With a kitchen, backyard, or – dare I even say it – a stunning view of the Oregon Coast. Yep – that’s the house-swapping experience. And it can be yours, too. Check out Craigslist or any of the online house swapping services. Now, if you have others in your house who need to stay home during your working retreat then you have to find a swap that works at off-times, when they can come to your house at another date. Plan your Summer family camping trip accordingly.

2. Seek off-season deals on lodging – My lake lodge writing retreat was in November, when the snow was beginning but not heavy enough to draw the skiing crowd. I got my beautiful lakeview room for HALF off the regular price, plus I had the whole lodge to myself for contemplative walks and fireside writing in the main area during the wine and cheese “social” (more wine and cheese for me!) Note: I paid way less than the amount listed here on this website for that lakeside room. The same is true of the local inn I stayed in for my final working retreat on the Vision Into Action program. Call to ask about rates and you may be very pleasantly surprised by unadvertised deals they’ve got during the off-season.

How to make a retreat work inside of your busy life…

3. Call on Your Partnership. If you have kids or others counting on your care and you already share kid, career and home responsibilities pretty evenly then one of you being away doesn’t require this huge download of information around school schedules, aging parent visits and food preferences. But it still requires that your partner step up and do all of the tasks for a few days. Promise her or him that you will do the same for them sometime soon. Just the thought of it usually makes this an easy promise as they launch into fantasies of their solo getaway.

4. Prepare Stuff at Home So You Can Let It Go. If responsibilities at home are more individualized, then more planning will be required. Do whatever needs to be done so that you can leave with great confidence. Cook a meal or two and freeze it. List out favorite lunch items. Write a note with details of normal visits to your parents or regular after-school activities. Ask your caregiver to arrive early and stay late just for the two days you will be gone. The important thing is that you leave with total confidence that things at home can be handled without you. Your mind is freed up for this retreat.

5. Let It Get Handled Without You. Then trust that everything will be fine while you are away. It’s that simple. You’ve got some brilliant work to do – that’s your job for the next 36 to 48ish hours. (depending on your retreat deal.)

I cannot tell you how much work I get done on a work retreat. Some of that is because I don’t have to interrupt my work to help with meals and bedtime routine with the girls – but a good portion of that is unrelated to parenting. There is something totally inspiring about unstructured time for creativity, exploration and head-down get-it-done focus. (In case you’re wondering if I miss my girls – yes, I do. But that usually kicks in right about the time I am packing to head home so it’s perfect. I’m thrilled to see them – but I didn’t spend my whole time away pining for them.)

In the next day or two, I’ll share ideas for how to structure your time and activities during your working retreat (though I use the word structure incredibly loosely here) to get the maximum out of the experience.