One of the most important things you can do for yourself as an entrepreneur is learn how to step away.
Every year, I make it a point to get out of my daily routine and go somewhere different. It doesn’t have to be the other side of the world—this year, I drove three hours south of San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. And it also shouldn’t be a “destination trip” of sorts, where you bring your friends and the goal is to see a new part of the world, visit tourist attractions, and live your life according to an itinerary for a few days.
Instead, I make it a priority to go somewhere by myself with the intention of taking some self-inventory:
- How have I been feeling lately?
- What projects have I committed myself to that no longer serve me?
- Where can I improve most in the next few months?
- Do I feel balanced? Healthy? Happy?
I have been doing these sorts of solo retreats for a while now, but this year has been a particularly important one considering all that has happened in the world. Obviously, it’s more challenging than ever for people to step away, but we can also argue that’s what makes stepping away this year more important than ever. At this point, we all need some time to ourselves to clear our heads.
So, if you are an entrepreneur and it’s been a while since you took a solo retreat, or you’ve been thinking about taking some time to yourself and stepping away, here are a few ways you can clear your head without needing to go completely off the grid.
1. Go somewhere local that gives you a different vantage point of your everyday surroundings.
Entrepreneurs can come up with every excuse in the book as to why they can’t step away: “I’m so busy these days; there’s so much to do; I have too many fires to put out; etc.”
And while that might be true for a few months at a time, you can always find ways to step out of your daily routine without needing to go completely off the grid. For example, this year I went and stayed in a guest house on a vineyard I found on Airbnb. Outside my window were rolling hills, cows and horses grazing, trees, and natural landscapes. This was a far cry from my house in downtown San Francisco one block from the headquarters of Uber or Twitter—and yet, my getaway house was ten minutes from a major highway.
The extravagance of the destination isn’t what matters. What matters is that when you look outside your window, you aren’t looking at the same way of life that you see every other day. If you live in a city, I encourage you not to go to another city. Try to find something a bit more remote, where you can escape the noise for a bit of time. And I’d say the same is true in reverse: if you already live in a remote area, well, maybe living in the middle of a major city for a few days is exactly what you need.
2. Get back to a simpler way of life.
When you are a busy entrepreneur, it becomes very easy to fall into routines of optimizing for whatever you need at the moment you need it. You push a button and a cab arrives. You push a button and your dinner arrives.
This is a big reason why some entrepreneurs I know who swear by these solo retreats tend to look for a place “off the grid.” Because the more remote you are for your solo retreat, the more these modern-day luxuries no longer become an option.
Regardless of where you go, I encourage you to get back to your roots. Get some vegetables and fruits from the local market. Cook yourself dinner. Observe your new environment. Take moments to shut your electronics off. Give yourself the time and space to let your mind wander, and think about things you probably don’t get the opportunity to think about when you race through your normal daily routine.
3. You don’t have to fully disconnect—you can have the best of both worlds.
Some entrepreneurs balance in extremes and when they’re off the grid, they are completely unreachable.
Other entrepreneurs take solo retreats that end up so closely mirroring their everyday way of life, they don’t end up disconnecting at all.
Over the years, I have learned a great balance for me is going somewhere that is different from my usual environment, but not so remote that I cannot be reached. In a sense, I want to have my cake and eat it too. For example, this year my solo retreat was surrounded by nature and beautiful landscapes but wasn’t a hundred miles from a grocery store or anything like that. I “felt” like I was off the grid, but there was still a Whole Foods ten minutes away.
In addition, I also tend to continue working during these solo retreats. Not as much, of course, but I will continue to take calls and respond to emails as needed because that’s what is most practical for my situation (and most other entrepreneurs).
4. Use this time to de-stress.
Operating and living in a different environment can be a big stress reliever for a lot of people.
Especially this year, where most people haven’t really traveled anywhere at all, driving a few hours away and getting some solo time can be a novel and much-needed adventure.
When you’re an entrepreneur, oftentimes you don’t notice how stressed you are until you get out of your normal environment. And considering entrepreneurs are their business’s most valuable asset, I would argue the self-care component of entrepreneurship is one of the most undervalued aspects of effectively running a company.
So, take some time to yourself. Remember, the whole reason people get into entrepreneurship is because, on some level, they want freedom. Financial freedom. Creative freedom. Freedom over their schedule and the choices they make for themselves.
Solo retreats are great reminders that you have that freedom, and you should make decisions that enable more of that freedom in the future.