Retreating to Advance

I’m wrapping up a personal business retreat where I went through the past 6 months working as a consultant and freelance urban data scientist. I wanted to document the lessons I’ve learned from projects big and small, as well as the great advice and guidance I’ve received from those who’ve walked this path. I started the retreat with a mini inception that allowed me to identify my goals, my anti-goals, and the risks.

My goals were:

  • To document the lessons learned from this past year
  • To set a series of intentions for the coming year

My anti-goals were:

  • Answer all my emails (a noble endeavor but a massive investment of time and energy)
  • Stay in constant contact with those who wanted my attention (it’s important to be available, but not at the sacrifice of focus and attention)
  • Get caught up on my professional development work (again, noble but not where I need to focus my energies at the moment)

My risks were:

  • Anxieties about the coming year causing paralysis
  • Not taking this time to relax and allow the process to flow naturally

To guide me, I came up with a series of affirmations as guides:

  • Haste makes waste
  • The personal is professional
  • A creative mind is a relaxed mind
  • Plan the work; work the plan
  • Busyness isn’t business
  • Swim in the sea of possibilities without drowning

I used a simple kanban board to organize the tasks:

kanban_start

The board at the start.  Purple are “Goals”, “Anti-Goals”, and “Risks”; the pink are the items under each. The orange are the “To Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”, with the green listing the tasks. The blue are the affirmations.

This helped me structure the three days of work I put into the tasks at hand. Much of what I did focused on the back-end of a business, setting up an accounting system, tracking expenses, and finishing some administrative paperwork. I also focused on imagining what I wanted the next year to be about. I already have some projects lined up for the spring, but I’ve found over the past 6 months that working on projects isn’t the sum total of the work I want and need to be doing.

I also need to have time to network and involve myself in other projects that are going on around me. New York City is a great incubator of great ideas and if I’m not careful, I could find myself on the outside of the great work being done by the many talented people who live here.

I go back with still many things to do. There are still business chores to get done and some more planning for the next year. I also have a long list of blog posts to write based on what I’ve learned over the past year. This will all happen in time, but in the meantime, I’m more relaxed and engaged in this process, which makes it all much more fun but also more productive. I’m learning how important it is to constantly refocus my attention on what’s important, ensuring I don’t get caught up in any traps that can waste my time and energy, even if they are financially lucrative.

No matter where you may be in your professional career, I think it’s a good idea to take time to get a sense of where you and where you’re going. A set of Post-It Notes and a Sharpie are all you need to start getting your ideas, thoughts, and concerns up on a wall or a whiteboard and start the process of organizing them into a plan.

I also recommend having some good distractions to keep you from getting too wrapped up in the process and forget to enjoy yourself.

Miami Beach in winter

Miami Beach in winter

Miami_sunset

Sunset over Miami

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2015!

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