my personal retreat (long version)

a few people have asked what this is so i figured it was time to write it out. 

what is it?

it’s where i take some time at the beginning of the (gregorian) calendar year to focus on me.*

where/when did it start?

in january 2015, my roommate, annemarie and i just went to a coffeeshop (RIP darwin’s ltd on mass ave. in cambridge, ma). i don’t totally remember why we did it, but reflection probably just seemed like a good idea at the time.

what do you do?

if you want to see the short version, it’s over here. below is the long, detailed version:

generally, what i do is spend some time reflecting on the past year and then making some plans for the next year. it’s gotten more detailed each year, but the point is to look back and then look forward.

that first year i was using a tool that holstee sent out via email. i think i ignored the first page but pages two and three really made me think differently about my time and life. i can still trace elements from that exercise to how i think about these things now:

that might be a little vague so here’s what i do specifically:

part 1: review and reflect

1. review my calendar

i use my calendar rigorously. i even go back and make sure that i delete things that didn’t happen. this type of usage makes it a very helpful tool for reviewing how i spend my time. and, of course, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. [quote?] so i go through and write down the highlights of how i spent my time, week-by-week. it looks like this:

## week 7 (feb 9-15)

- dinner with clara and caroline howe
- attend presencing forum with otto scharmer, dayna cunningham, phil thompson, etc.
- chatted with robert hacker about 100k business plan pitch
- had interview with the food project about crew leader position over summer
- filed 2013 taxes

2. think through my values

i don’t really have a structure for this but it mostly is just a list of things that are important to me. justice, love, rest, friendships, travel, whatever. it has actually been more important than i thought it would be to revisit these.

3. review my time spent through the lens of my values

look back at the week summaries and see how spending my time did or didn’t align with my values.

4. review my budget

look back at my previous year’s budget plan (that first year i didn’t have one so i just made one up by looking at my mint.com data).

then, because i use simple, i can get a pretty quick high-level view of where i actually spent my money. i usually take about an hour to go through and clean things up: making sure things are in the right categories, adding detail where needed (mostly remembering why i took out cash), etc.

then i compare my projected budget to my actual budget. i’m usually off (as in i overspent and also overestimated how much money i was going to make), but it’s usually not too bad, ha.

part 2: plan for the next year

1. reconfigure calendar

based on my values and time review, i reconfigure my weekly calendar flow. i have a very specific way i manage my nights and weekends describe in full over here. i’m pretty neurotic about this and i certainly don’t think everyone could or should be like this, but it’s what work for me. i think this year i might also throw in a monthly calendar flow… i’m feeling bold, lol.

2. update budget

make adjustments based on future job prospects, things i want to do, amount i want/need to travel, etc.

3. archive & organize all my files

clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere

4. launch projects

over the course of the year, i’ve gathered a list of ideas for things i want to do next year. this year, i’m going to start out day 3 of my retreat by putting in a bunch of initial energy to get some of those projects off the ground. i imagine it’ll look mostly like start-up infrastructure, but i’m excited to see what comes of it.

and that’s all folks!


* sometimes i think this is a pretty selfish thing to do. but i’ve realized two things over time:

  1. part of my theory of change is that systemic change begins at the smallest scale possible. often that is at the internal level of a single individual.
  2. as i’ve watched and learned about the failures of different movements, the well-being of the movement seems to correlate strongly with the well-being of the leader(s). imo social structures are fractcals of the people at their core. so getting right with yourself only helps your work. when you have a good system for yourself, every tiny little decision has ripple effects in the work around you. conversely, not being right internally makes it real easy to have the work around you not be right.

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