Map Your Battle Plan II: Planning the Journey
Hit the Reset Button
This is the second in a four part series. See the other posts here.
A while back I started an annual ritual. It’s developed over time, with elements borrowed and adapted from multiple sources, most of which I can’t remember the originator of anymore. I’ve decided to share it all with you. Take it as it is, modify and adapt it to make it your own. What works for me may not work for you, but it can be a starting point to create something that is yours and works for you, how you need it to.
As I said, I don’t recall where many of the elements came from, but I do remember the original core concept. Some time back I was listening to the Entreleadership podcast, with guest Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick fil A (I’d link to it but the archive doesn’t go back that far). Whether or not you agree with his ideals and some of his business practices, fact of the matter is, he’s insanely successful with a business that has weathered the years, controversies, and continues to grow. Part of that success is, he actively takes time off and effectively abandons the company for a bit while he works on himself. His process includes a quarterly and half year period, and an annual span of a week where he leaves the world behind, relaxes, and plans for the next year. He runs a billion dollar franchise, and he leaves it for an entire week to work on himself and plan for the future of the company. You may be thinking to yourself, he has employees, he can do that but you can’t. Consider this, I have multiple ventures running, and have for a while. I take two weeks.
Originally I followed his general concept and muddled my way through. Over time I developed my own process, expanded the time, and eventually had to do a major modification – turning my one week into two retreats. All of which is outlined for you here. I do have family, for some time I had to work around them, too, and still do to some extent. Currently, the end of my year looks like this: December 20th (or so) to Christmas I do some work, but is mostly family time. This is not part of the retreat, but it is a preamble to it and a change from my normal work flow. This sometimes includes a trip to Florida to see the rest of my family, but is usually at home with my wife and daughter. My wife is a teacher, so this part is a bit tied to her schedule and when she starts winter break.
Ideally from the 26th-31st I have the first half of my retreat, which I do as much away from family as possible, but as I stay home family interruptions are a given. Originally I’d begin the second part of my retreat immediately and would last until the 6th or 7th. In recent years there has been a major change. In the middle of my retreat, I escape to an aikido winter camp held by a dojo I frequent in Kansas, and will ring in the New Year there. As the camp is anywhere from 4-7 days, this has caused me to occasionally start my retreat before Christmas, and finish after I return from training. It is not ideal, but I gotta get my aikido on, so I make due.
The Reset Retreat
Each day I focus on one aspect I want to work on. Occasionally some days will be combined, and I change up the focus when it’s needed. During this part of the retreat I am almost entirely offline. I do still have limited texting and will check some email, and use the internet for research, but no social media, no work, and nothing net related that is really a distraction I’ve told myself I need (like most of YouTube)
Day 1 – Leaving the old behind
The first day is all about reviewing the past year, and relaxing. This doesn’t work if you’re still answering work emails and sifting through your social media streams. Yes, even if it’s just while on the toilet. Let all of that go, it’s just in the way. Take some time to unwind and release, and take a good look at the year you are closing out. I’m sure you had a busy year, maybe even an insanely busy one. But, what did you really accomplish? How much of all that business was really needed? How much of it was actually important, and how much was something you thought was important, because it was the monkey currently on your desk. Be honest. This is perhaps the most important part of the entire process, because if you can’t honestly identify where you’ve been, and where you are, you will never plot a true course forward. You’ll always be dictated your changes by other people and the monkeys they leave on your desk.
This is something you have to actually visualize, and it’s a very real thing. When someone comes to you with a problem or something urgent, they’ve come to you with a monkey on their back. It’s sitting there, watching you. It knows, you’re next. It’s likely not a well behaved one, too. Their goal is to leave their monkey on your desk for you to deal with. When they leave you, be sure they take their monkeys with them. You have your own monkeys. A considerable amount of time in a normal company is spent finding someone to take the monkeys, and they get passed around all over the place. This is why working for so many companies is like working at a virtual zoo. And never forget, monkeys have no fear of throwing their own shit around.
Inventory the monkeys and any actual work you got done, and then let the monkeys go.
Day 2 – It’s all about you
Time for some self-care and to start the planning. Spend some time and reconnect with you, then decide where you want to be this time next year? Not your career, side hustle, finances, or any of that – you. We’re going to lounge a bit, soak in the tub (or hot tub or sauna if you have access). Perhaps get a haircut, mani & pedi, even a massage. I strongly recommend the massage. And you’re going to determine what you need to build a better you for the next year, and the habits you’ll need to nurture to make that happen. This is where most people make their New Year’s Resolution to lose weight that they’ll stick to for, at best, a week. This isn’t about the goal, and in fact you don’t need a fully defined goal. For this, that’s often a detriment. It’s about the aim and habits needed to reach that goal.
What do I mean a fully defined goal can be bad? Consider the normal goal you hear this time of year – lose weight or get healthy. On face value, neither of these are worth anything. They are so vague as to be irrelevant. On the opposite side of that, say you make a SMART goal to lose weight – say 10 or 15 pounds. It may be a surprise to you, but you can reach that in a few short weeks. Make a major change to your diet (pick any fad diet that’s considerably different from what you currently eat), and you will lose weight. You may wake up a month later and find you lost 30 pounds. Most of that will be water weight, some of it will be muscle. All of it – and likely more – will return when your body adjusts to the new diet. You have now simultaneously achieved your goal and failed at it. That failure will lead to less desire to make further changes. All because you set yourself up to fail.
You will need some goals, but those come later. Those are what you’ll use to get where you’re going. For this stage, we’re setting the direction. What healthy habits do you need to develop and nurture to make a better, healthier you? Not what major changes, just simple habits. Something that you can sustain, and will eventually sustain themselves later.
Part of day 2, for me, is also rough planning when & where I will take certain personal vacations and retreats. Dates may get moved a bit, but if they are not on the calendar, they may never get there. Until you’ve worked out your own system for your own retreat, I would not advise doing this part until after Day 3, or you may find your plans either woefully inadequate, or in conflict with everything else to come.
A caveat here before we move on. I course correct and adjust throughout the year (you’ll learn more about this in the fourth). Because of this my annual review and determining new habits don’t tend to take very long. I already know where I am, and where I’ve been, and have documented what didn’t work and what changes needed to be made. So, for me, day 1 & 2 tend to either be more about relaxing and self-care, and less about the planning. This often means the two days get merged together. Especially on years with longer camps. This is also setting the groundwork, and I can (and usually do) return to it toward the end of the retreat to work more on it, or adjust.
Day 3 – The Big Picture
Now we’re getting into it. For many of you this may very well be the toughest day. Today is about creating the vision that will drive the rest of the year. Frankly, most people have a hard time realistically and accurately creating a vision of an entire year. Hard truth, but truth. I have a very vivid imagination, so even I can be subject to this issue. If your income is currently $45,000 you are unlikely to earn $150,000 in the coming year. But, with a proper vision, $50,000 is certainly possible. And may be aiming too low.
Today is all about the fullness of the year. You know where you are, and where you’ve been. Now, where are we going? And how are we getting there. This is about setting some of those BHAGs (Big Hairy audacious Goals) and WIGs (Wildly Important Goals). Whichever apply, or both. Remember, this is big picture, not micro planning. Much of that will come in the following days. This is about determining just what needs to be planned, and tending to those few areas that are not part of the next few days.
You will be different, but for me this is also the time I layout my marriage and family planning. As my daughter is in her 20’s and I’ve been with my wife for a quarter of a century now, much of this takes little time. Some things that are planned for my family at this time: anniversary trip (a long weekend); family trip (full week); Thanksgiving & Christmas (when, where, with whom?); father/daughter outing (long weekend), and so forth. I will also consider any larger changes I may want to make in my relationship with my wife, daughter, and the family as a whole. Now that my daughter is heading into her mid-twenties, I really wish I’d started this much sooner. It really opens your eyes when you are forced to open your eyes each year to the changes in your family and children. If the big picture is hard for you to see and work out, you may consider putting family and social relationships on their own day.
Day 4 – Career planning I
What? Part 1? Yep. As I’ve said, I have multiple ventures going at any given time. Today is about my primary work. This is the most important, and it gets it’s own day. For you, that may be your 9-5. For me, it’s planning my writing and publishing.
We’ve got our big picture, so now it’s time to start developing the means to see it through. From here on each day will be about focusing in more on the aspects of the big picture. Again, as I have a system to course correct and adjust as I go through the year, certain aspects of life need far less planning than others. For me, the next two days are about career. After you’ve looked through my process, you may decide to take a day instead for family, or social relations, learning/school (a note here, if you are a high school or college student, consider that you primary work, and any job you may have as secondary work).
I spend this day, as best I can, laying out my writing schedule: when books should go out to first (beta) readers and who that will be; when I’ll (most likely) be working on revisions; sending works out to my critique partner; and so forth. This is also when I determine when I’ll be able to start a new book, for which I always have several ideas waiting to get put to paper. I’ve found that this is the best way to approach my writing, as in the past I’d do whatever fit my fancy at the time. When I turned around and realized I had 3 complete novels, three mostly complete, and a half dozen started (none even close to publishing) I realized the old way wasn’t working. Part of this is also setting aside time to write Reclaimed articles, but that’s it. The rest of Reclaimed work comes later.
What is your primary work? It may be your 9-5 job, a career, or a side hustle you want to make your career. This is the day to map it out, as best you can, for the year.
Day 5 – Career planning II
I’ve taken care of my writing, now it’s time to deal with the rest: teaching, EFC, Reclaimed, and anything else. There have been years where this was a two-day project instead of one. For example, when planning 2020 I also had The Embodiment Conference. This one event was no small feat, and needed more than a passing acknowledgement. It was a major commitment that would be a huge disruption in my work. Even with the extra planning, it became a major disruption. So, take this as a sign that, regardless of the planning, you WILL need to adjust and may even need to stop and re-plan the whole affair. While TEC was a major disruption, because I planned ahead and had a means to course correct along the way, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Indeed, some of my colleagues had a much larger impact on their lives, which they will be recovering from for quite some time.
So, what do I plan here? First is my teaching schedule. If things have gone well, I know when I will be teaching my aikido and iaido classes. As best I can I’ll plan any workshops or seminars I may be teaching at. Things will come up, but that’s fine. I will also do planning for the Embodied Facilitator Course US for the upcoming year, as I am the course manager. Much of the big stuff will have already been handled by now, but there’s always something to deal with. Next is Reclaimed Masculinity. First determining just where I think I want to go for the year and then planning it out – planning out a rough schedule for articles, campaigns, and in general where I want it to go and do. After Reclaimed I get into any other projects or such that I may be doing. For me, there’s usually a couple that need to be considered.
Day 6 – Planning the first steps
Now we’re getting down to it. We’ve taken care of ourselves, seen the big picture, set goals, and laid the foundation for the work we’ll be doing for the year. Now, we get more into the nuts and bolts of all that. Now, we plan out Q1. Spend the day, take all the material you’ve generated, and lay out the next three months to actually make all that planning come to fruition. This is also when I set-up my journal for the year (I use a modified bullet journal).
If I have done everything else well enough, this will actually take little time. I have been known to do it the morning before driving out to camp, and even in chunks during camp before. I do try to not have work during camp, but this takes up little time and not much effort.
That’s it, my first week of my two-week reset retreat. If I’ve planned this well I’ll be off to winter camp, and then return and start week 2 of the reset (no camp this year due to covid). Next up, week 2.