5 years ago, I realized that it felt like I was on a treadmill. I was running fast yet getting nowhere. I needed to slow down the pace. But how?
An Innovation Retreat Week
I decided the key was a week-long innovation retreat. This is not a vacation. It is a week of locking the doors, turning off the phone, and getting work done. And this is accomplished away from my office and home.
Since 2013, I've done this at least once a year, starting the first week of January. But some years I will do this two or three times. In fact, last week I finished my second innovation retreat for 2018.
Think about how you typically start your year. After the Holidays, it is back to the grind stone, picking up where you left off the previous year. As a result, the new year becomes an extrapolation of the past year. There is no delineation.
Therefore, my intention is to use the start of the new year as a chance to innovate and create. Hence the innovation retreat week.
Every year I head to a resort. Given we own a timeshare which is about five miles from our house, I go there for the week. I get a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen so that I can stay in the room all day. I sleep there, even though my home is only a few miles away. The location doesn't matter; the environment does. You want to be as productive as possible with minimal distractions. Maybe a log cabin in the woods is better for you.
Of course, prior to starting your retreat week, you need to first delegate all activities that might need to be completed. Although some of you might think it is impossible to get 100% of the work off you plate, with some creativity (and trust) it is almost always doable.
The first day is preparation day. I start by going to the supermarket and buying healthy food for the refrigerator. I also organize my workspace so that I can be as productive as possible when I get started the next day. Then I plan out the activities for the week.
After the first day, my routine is pretty much the same...
I wake up at 7am and head to the hot tub where I then spend about 30 to 45 minutes meditating. I reflect on the past year and contemplate the new year. Most of my insights for the year show up during this morning ritual.
Around 8am I get back to the room and make myself a healthy breakfast. The double espresso also helps get me ready for the day.
Then around 9am I am ready to rock and roll. I plan and execute. I turn off the phone and email so I can stay focused. I work through the day, taking mini-breaks every 30 minutes or so, leveraging a variation of the Pomodoro Technique. I eat a protein bar in the middle of the day to carry me over.
Around 7 or 8pm, I step away from the work and reflect on what I accomplished and what I want to do the next day. I cook dinner and then relax for a little bit. I don't work too late in the day as I find it stimulates my brain and negatively impacts my sleep.
Around 10pm, I hop in the Jacuzzi in the room and clear my mind. I meditate again on the day's activities and my aspirations for the year.
This gets repeated for 7 days.
When the week is over, I am refreshed and energized. More importantly, I accomplish a lot. This is not just a thinking and planning week. It is a doing week. One year I wrote the first draft of a book in seven days. Another year I created a new product during the week. This year's retreat week was focused on the creation of a new digital product which is now ready to launch.
For me, this week is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It sets the trajectory for the new year. Or when done midyear, it becomes a course correction for the second half of the year.
How do you innovate when you are busy running a business?