After mulling over the whole “live like you’re on a retreat” thing, it’s time for me to make like the Winged Victory of Samothrace and just do it. I’m declaring July to be the Retreat to Move Forward 2018, to help me break some bad habits, develop new ones, and get my sh!t together. And yes, the name of the retreat is a 30 Rock reference! Thank you for noticing.

Since this is a dumb blog, here’s a bunch of bullet points and quick notes explaining my plans and intentions.

Stick to a Routine

  • Wake up at the same time every day
  • Eat breakfast at the same time every day
  • Have a mid-morning break at the same time every day
  • Eat lunch at the same time every day
  • Have a mid-afternoon break at the same time every day
  • Eat dinner at the same time every day
  • Have a mid-evening break at the same time every day
  • Go to bed at the same time every day

It doesn’t matter what I do in between those times, although I’ll mostly be writing and working. If I want to take a morning to binge-watch a TV show or an afternoon to read a book, I can do that. I still need to respect meal times and break times. I need structure.

Keep Things as Quiet as Possible

  • No music
  • No television
  • No news
  • No social media

One of the best parts of every retreat I’ve ever been on has been the silence. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a corporate/business retreat, a spiritual/religious retreat, or a writer’s retreat. All of the media goes away, along with all cares about the outside world, so you can focus on what you’re there to do.

Again, though, if I want to watch a movie or a television show, that will be the only thing I’m doing. I’m relegating news to the space between after dinner and the evening break. Nothing during the day, and certainly not in the hours right before bed.

Have Regular Fellowship

  • Meals and breaks are for interaction with other human beings.
  • Spend time with people face-to-face if possible
  • Text, email, and social media is permissible if no one’s around

Even if the only person around is Katie, use the time to talk about what I’m working on, what she’s working on, and how we’re both doing. When she’s out and about, use the time to answer emails and engage with people online. Not surfing and skimming, but commenting on other peoples’ Tweets and blog posts.

Prioritize the Beautiful Weather

  • Get outside on as many breaks as possible
  • Keep the doors and windows open as much as possible
  • Blow off work if something interesting is happening in town

Eight months of the year qualifies as “winter” here in central Finland. A lot of Finns save their vacation time and take the entire month of July off, because you have to enjoy summer while it lasts. Many businesses close down, or are only open limited hours. It’s absolutely gorgeous here, but it’s a limited-time kind of deal. I can hole up in front of my laptop  when it’s cold outside. If there’s an opportunity to be out in the sunshine, I’m taking it.

Even if it’s raining and cold, I want to keep the windows open. If I were camping, either in a tent or a cabin, I’d be chilly. It’s an excuse to drink more coffee and put on warm socks. And it’s still warmer than it will be during the Long Dark.

Reinforce Good Habits

  • Meditate after waking up and before bed
  • Meditate at the start and end of work blocks
  • Eat mostly vegetarian
  • Leverage that bullet journal for all it’s worth

Part of the routine thing. I’m going to play around with finding the best times to perform certain tasks. My pain, energy, and anxiety levels actually fluctuate fairly predictably throughout the day. Mapping tasks to align with my ability to do them, and sticking things that don’t require as much focus at the time of day when I’m worn down, just makes more sense. It also alleviate guilt that I’m not powering through complex tasks that take more than I’ve got to give.

Build New Habits

  • Keep track of what’s working and what isn’t
  • Pay attention to unfulfilled needs and wants
  • Make a plan to pursue those needs and wants
  • Add small daily steps to the routine
  • Track results, including obstacles and solutions

My intention isn’t to make this about building new habits. It’s really about finding a sane way to address both my workflows and my self-care needs. In doing so, however, I need to be aware of things that I could be do, or doing better. It’s not a major tracking project. All it requires is having some awareness, and a willingness to try new and different things to see if they work.

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