November 3, 2020

As soon as I lay my face into the opening at the head of the massage table I exhaled really deeply.

Not just my breath, but my entire body just exhaled.

I pretty much melted into the table and felt my whole body completely relax for the first time in who-knows-when.

I don’t have a massage very often, but I’ve decided that’s going to change.

Epiphany 1 – a hot stone massage may well be my massage of choice for every retreat week from now on.

HOT STONE MASSAGE

Have you ever had a hot stone massage?

I hadn’t, until last Friday.

My friend, business confidant, and accountability partner, Lindy Alexander, had gifted a hot stone massage to me some time ago.

I hadn’t been able to use it because of restrictions placed on beauty salons due to Covid-19.

But salons were open again, so I took advantage of the opportunity to book in my hot stone massage at 3pm on the last day of Retreat Week.

What a way to wrap up a week!

WHAT IS A HOT STONE MASSAGE?

For those who aren’t familiar with a hot stone massage, it’s a relaxation massage that includes the use of smooth stones as a massaging tool.

In my case, the lovely masseur Isobel at Akemi Beauty in Castlemaine placed the heated stones in her hands and used them to massage my body from head to toe.

It was deliriously good, and could hear my body reminding me it was ‘about bloody time!’.

WHAT DO HOT STONE MASSAGES HAVE TO DO WITH RETREAT WEEK? 

When I first announced that I was going to implement Retreat Week (a 8-week-on-1-week-off operational structure for my business), I received resounding applause from my clients, friends and family.

“What a great idea!”

“So good Cass.”

“Good for you Cass – we all need more time to be ‘still’.”

Now, I certainly wasn’t seeking permission from anyone else to create this space in my business, but of course it is encouraging to hear such positive support nonetheless.

Interestingly, some clients thought I was going away on holiday to lull around in the sunshine sipping on mango daiquiris

But alas, no – my Retreat Week is not one of ‘those‘ retreat weeks….well, not yet anyway!

My Retreat Week is about retreating from being available, for 9 days (two weekends + 5 days in-between), so I could focus ‘on’ my business rather than continuing to get caught-up ‘in’ it.

The hot stone massage was the only relaxing activity I undertook during the 9-days, everything else was geared around the most productive use of the time I’d allocated.

Which is why that hot stone massage at the end was so delightful.

Epiphany 2 – why not (!) work towards scheduling one of ‘those‘ retreat weeks in on a regular basis?

WHAT DID I ACCOMPLISH?    

I’ll be honest, I didn’t accomplish everything on my lists (plural) during the 9-days.

But, there was a lot on my lists!

What I did accomplish was significant nonetheless, and included:

As you can see, there were some big-ticket-items that I was able to tick-off, which were tasks I’ve been needing to do but haven’t made the time to do!

Which is why I established Retreat Week in the first place: 9 days of uninterrupted time.

Epiphany 3 – you’ll never be on-top-of everything, but that’s OK. Small steps (as opposed to no steps) are still effective in getting you where you want to go.

HOW DID I STRUCTURE THE WEEK?

One of the reasons I booked the hot stone massage for the end of the week, and not the beginning, was because I didn’t want to ‘ease-into’ Retreat Week. 

I was worried that if I eased into it I wouldn’t get as much done as I wanted, and then would find myself no better off than I was prior.

That would defeat the purpose, right?

Instead, I got stuck-in-quick-smart from day 1.

This is what I did to make it work:

  • Recorded a greeting on my phone advising I was unavailable until Monday 2nd November.
  • Set up an out-of-office email with the same message.
  • Was strict about letting those two ‘intercepts’ do their job and not being tempted to call or email someone back.
  • Got a good night sleep every night.
  • Limited my sugar and caffeine intake.
  • Didn’t drink any alcohol.
  • Had Hello Fresh meals delivered so I didn’t need to use any brain fuel deciding what to cook (not one of my strengths).
  • Leveraged when I am most productive (mornings) and did the serious-thinking-tasks then.
  • Resisted the temptation to potter in the garden (i.e. procrastinate) during the day.
  • Stuck to my new rules: 1. personal & social activities after hours, 2. house and garden tasks on weekends, 3. daytime was for actioning the tasks that were going to get my business where I want it to go.
  • Recorded every to-do that popped into my head in the correctly tabbed section of my note book: Business, Personal, House, Garden, Clients or Retreat Week.
  • Placed any accompanying paperwork in a matching ‘in-tray‘: Business, Personal, House, Garden, Clients, Retreat Week.

For example:

  • Business cards that I need to add to my contacts – placed in ‘Business’ in-tray.
  • Draft of my Will – placed in ‘Personal’ in-tray.
  • Quote from electrician – placed in ‘House’ in-tray
  • Quote from landscaper – placed in ‘Garden’ in-tray.
  • Client’s project notes – placed in ‘Clients’ in-tray.
  • Projects for next Retreat Week – placed in ‘Retreat Week’ in-tray. 

 

Epiphany 4 – knowing the place where the information needs to go makes it much easier to locate it later.

HOW DID IT MAKE ME FEEL?

I am certainly not the first person to identify how important it is to stop and take a breath and switch off.

What I think we all struggle with is giving ourselves permission to do so and then actually following through.

Historically, taking any time ‘off’ has always felt so indulgent.

But I’ve certainly changed my view on that.

Perhaps the pandemic has facilitated a re-think about what is truly important about how we live our lives.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel during and after Retreat Week.

I knew what I wanted to get done, but I also had to constantly remind myself that the 9-day period is not the only Retreat Week I have planned.

The next one is only 8 weeks away, so what I didn’t get done last week will go onto the list for then.

Knowing this meant that as I worked through my lists I could confidently postpone other projects – that are important but not urgent – until that week.

That is the space I needed to create: the space to place the important-but-not-urgent tasks where they need to go.

Ultimately, I felt incredible when I ‘clocked-back-on’ Monday morning.

I felt calm, relaxed and clear about the road ahead.

I had a handle on what was on-my-plate, and I’d reduced the number of plates I was spinning.

In fact, I described it to one of my clients as my head feeling (before Retreat Week) like a clogged filter that was impeding my overall performance.

Now (after Retreat Week) I feel like I’ve soaked that filter in boiling hot soapy water, dried it out in the sun, popped it back in and thereby enhanced my functionality ten-fold.

When a friend texted me during the week to see how I was going I replied “I’m winning on lots of fronts. Just creating the space to think and the place for the thoughts to be collected are big wins”.

Epiphany 5 – create the space to think and the place to record the thoughts.

P.S. I must confess, I did do one other relaxing thing during Retreat Week. I got a haircut, which is always such a treat. Interestingly, this time felt different. Usually I feel guilt going to the hairdressers during ‘work hours’. But this time I felt grateful and relaxed. What a pleasant surprise!

Epiphany 6 – it’s ok to reward yourself for your own hard work. No one else will!

Have you thought about establishing a Retreat Week for your business?

About the author 

Cass Ewing

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