Writing retreats are often seen as an ideal way for authors to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and focus on their work. So when a colleague offered me a place on her virtual retreat for writers, I was delighted! I imagined using the time to focus on the training side of my business, but I had reservations: How would I focus, given that the retreat was online and I’m easily distracted? Would it matter that I’m not a writer? How would I manage to carve out that much time amid the distractions of daily life?
Turning off the noise – the power of behavioural goals
I needn’t have worried, Wendy Baldwin, of Linguaverse, has been running these structured retreats for a while and knows what she’s doing! During the writing session on the first day I turned my vague goal of ‘Work on my training courses’ into a list of about 12 concrete actions. Before each writing session, Wendy encouraged us to set an output goal and a behavioural goal. I mostly chose ‘Turn off my email’ as my behavioral goal, which really helped me to concentrate. I guess it’s obvious that removing the distraction of email alerts would make it easier to concentrate, but I’ve always been resistant to doing that! I liked the ideas from other participants of using Freedom to block websites and reading How to break up with your phone to cut down on phone use. I plan to try both of those in the coming weeks.
The two main days of the retreat involved writing sessions, each preceded by a quick chat where we shared our writing and behavioral goals. The final session on Day 3 was a chance to reflect on our experience.
To my surprise, I enjoyed the retreat immensely. I stayed focused for most of the time, and when real life interrupted some of the writing sessions, I made up the lost time during the evenings. By the end of the retreat I had completed several of the tasks on my list and made progress on the others. Achievements included making a video about the New Window feature in Word, sending an email to my list, trying out ChatGPT and posting about my training courses on social media.
Overall, the writing retreat was a surprising and fruitful experience. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a writer, and the retreat provided a fantastic opportunity to focus and make significant progress on my training courses. It was also a good way to connect with others and hear about their writing experiences. If you are looking for a way to focus on a task, I can highly recommend taking an online retreat.