Fellow mediators often ask me how I make strategic decisions about the future and direction of my private practice. One way I help myself be strategic about my mediation business is to take myself on a solo business retreat every year. I call them my Renewal Retreats.
The idea of an annual retreat with myself had its roots in a series of retreats a dear friend and I held for ourselves when we were each just forming our private practices. Erika and I would gather in the inviting, pastoral home she shared with her husband in the mountains of central Vermont. We’d set aside two days of warm woodstove fires, hot tea, flipcharts, and lap cats to help each other think through our business goals and plans.
There’s nothing that replaces taking time out to reflect deeply on the work we are and want to be doing.
I use my Renewal Retreat time to sit back and think about the bigger questions of my work, the kinds of questions that get squeezed out of everyday time by the pressing parts of running a mediation business. Questions like these:
- Am I staying true to my throughline?
- Am I loving my work? If so, what makes that so? If not, what needs changing?
- What do I want to do more of / less of? How will I make those changes?
- Is my work stretching and challenging me in a good way? If not, what can I change?
- Will the current trajectory with my mediation business satisfy me?
- What are things I struggled with this year? What do I need to think out and do about them?
- How is my work impacting family and other parts of my life? Do I need to make adjustments?
Here’s what I do; it suits my personality:
- Aim for completely undisturbed time for at least two days, taking myself away from office, phone, email, and household responsibilities. I plan for my retreat time so that no looming projects are taking up space in my brain.
- Find retreat space that is inspiring. For me, that usually involves being in a cabin or quiet inn on the coast or in the mountains, with a lot of privacy and places for long walks in beautiful scenery. Airbnb has become an excellent resource.
- Identify a few excellent readings or recordings to jumpstart inspiration and reflection. As I run across good candidates in the months leading to my next retreat, I set them aside. Then, as the time draws nearer, I choose a couple to take along. The object here isn’t to fill my retreat time with reading, but to have a few items that will help me settle into the work I most want to do or spark my thinking.
- I bring snacks and tea so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to go in search of food, though I do take long walks and I do take brain breaks for meals.
- I bring a flipchart, markers, and anything else I need to support thinking out loud with myself.
I find the days leading up to and immediately following New Year’s are often excellent personal business retreat time for mediators because client loads tend to be lighter and all the busy-ness of the holiday season is winding down.