Create your own work retreat

taking in the big picture photo courtesy flickr user VSELLIS

(MoneyWatch) I've spent numerous hours over the past few months working on a novel. I completed a draft, and sent it out to my beta-testers to read. Now I've gotten most of the feedback and gotten ideas for revision. The problem?

I need to carve out time to do it.

I suppose if my life looked differently, I would go hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere. I admire people who do that, and someday I hope to make that my reality. But right now, if a retreat is going to happen, it's going to have to be local and fit within business hours.

Fortunately, I think that's still doable -- for me, and for other people who want to finish up big projects. Here's what I did to prepare:

First, I carefully scheduled all phone calls and meetings next week to occur only on certain days and at certain times. The goal was to have at least 4-5 hours open on 4 days of the week -- ideally in the morning when my mind is freshest.

Second, I found a retreat location. Nothing fancy -- just a branch of the local library system that's airy and big enough that I can move away from anyone who starts talking loudly. The point was to get away from my usual work space with all its distractions.

Third, I worked through the scope of what I want to accomplish in those 16-20 hours. I made careful notes so I have a road map, because "revise novel" is a pretty intimidating sounding project. "Insert a new scene with Janie and Anton in the early part of the second section" is more doable.

Obviously, not all jobs can accommodate an in-office sabbatical -- though probably more can than we think. Many people shy away from scheduling things around lunchtime, so seizing the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for focused work on a project a few days a week might be doable. A quiet conference room could serve as a retreat location in a pinch, but so could a coffee shop or your own library if you can control where you work.

And if those hours don't work? Many successful people seize the hours before breakfast for important work. Many people could create a retreat from 6:30-9:30 a.m. several days in a row if they wanted. If there's a project you just don't seem to have time to finish, that might be a good choice.

When do you carve out time for big projects?

Photo courtesy flickr user VSELLIS

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