In the short space of three years I’ve gone from being a single, full-time professional in inner-Melbourne, to married, mother of two girls, stay at home mum, temporarily living in Belgium for my husband’s work.
Having undergone so many major physical, emotional and fundamental changes in such a short period of time, I’ve found myself in the classic situation of coming out the other end having not properly looked after myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, and am in love with my current life. My girls and husband are the single most important people in my life and we all adore each other endlessly and are having the best time of our lives on this overseas adventure. But, I also knew I had to make some serious adjustments to the coming year in order to get myself prepared for my professional return to Australia.
Predictably, I set some small New Year goals for myself which were measurable and realistic and blah, blah, blah. But the whole thing felt weak and I knew I could do better than that. I knew I owed it to myself to reach further than that.
I needed to re-think how I was approaching my objectives, to see myself as a fully-fledged business in a phase of planning. So, I outlined an agenda for my own personal Strategic Retreat.
When I raised the idea with my husband I was nervous that it sounded slightly ridiculous, but he was 100% supportive (and probably thought I needed to go away and sleep for two days anyway!) As soon as I felt that support, I booked accommodation in Antwerp (one hour drive from Brussels) which really locked in the idea so I had to make it happen. From there I set an agenda for each day which I knew would allow me to maintain focus and help avoid the temptation to just laze away for two days with room service and shopping.
The day before I was to leave, however, a thought flashed into my mind that it was ridiculous to go away from my family for the whole weekend just to get a bit organised and write some plans down.
I considered cancelling.
The weather had predicted snow, my youngest had a runny nose and I just thought ‘stay home, it’s easier’. On Saturday morning, the cars and the road were covered in snow but the sun was shining brightly. As soon as I got in the car, punched in the GPS co-ordinates and started driving I knew this was the best idea for me and for everyone around me.
Once I got to Antwerp I found a café with a quote on the wall that said ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. I was tripping on serendipity!
After lunch, I walked to get the unfamiliar feeling of freedom out of my system! Then it was back to the hotel for a drink and a think.
I jotted ideas and thoughts down with random structure.
I set out my goals and broke them down into monthly targets and weekly actions.
I scribbled out a diagram that set out my week with the girls and identified where I could dedicate times for myself.
Most importantly, I created a realistic task list for the remainder of the weekend.
On the second day, I felt really refreshed and energised in my mind. I had achieved so much on the first day I almost wasn’t prepared for how far along I was in my plans. I was able to reflect on, and appreciate, what I’d done for myself.
Treating myself like I would treat one of my clients and using that lens to see myself, allowed me to think strategically, creatively and design a confident directional path for 2017.
Six weeks later and I am hitting my weekly and monthly targets like nobody’s business and I can only put it down to my Strategic Retreat. Which is why I would recommend one to anyone operating solo as a crucial annual event in their business cycle.