The Importance of Pausing

This month I have been managing so many moving pieces — training new team members, booking new speaking gigs and workshops, setting up new office systems, and vetting new partnerships–that I have found it hard just to hear myself think. So this past Thursday, instead of continuing to plow through all the pressing to-do’s in my inbox, I rebelliously closed my computer, unplugged and took an entire day off to get quiet and go inward for guidance and direction.

When I lead women’s retreats, I share with the participants that one of my primary intentions for doing so is to create the space for them to hear and see what they most need to hear and see about their lives.

One of the ways I do this for myself is by pausing regularly and taking what I call “personal planning retreats.”

I take personal retreats–usually every 90 days–to sit with the questions, “What is uniquely mine to do?” and “What is the best use of my energy and talents in the next two-three months?” Whether that’s focusing on my marriage, working on a new business partnership, or getting my financial house in order.

More than ever, we’re feeling over-committed, over-scheduled, and exhausted (not to mention the stress we’re feeling from all the political and societal shifts we’re experiencing). We’re trying to do too much. A personal planning retreat is a great way to pause, pull back, and get clear on what matters most. You may want to spend this time getting clear on what in your personal or professional life is calling for your attention and thinking about how you want to allocate your time, energy and resources in the next 90 days (I find this much less overwhelming than looking at an entire year).

A good place to start is by making a list of what activities in your life currently fuel you (which ones give you energy, nurture you, make you come alive) and what activities drain you (create a physical tightness or discomfort in your back, belly or neck every time they cross your consciousness). Often these drains are things like a financial issue that must be handled, a tough conversation that has been postponed, a disorganized space at work or at home, or a career or job issue that needs to be addressed.

I like to approach these drains with a housecleaning mindset, giving myself three options for handling these energy zaps:

1. I can “just do it” —and set a deadline for when I’ll complete the project 2. I can delegate it—and ask for help if needed or outsource the task
3. I can dump it—and walk away from this task or decide it isn’t going to happen (at least not this year!)

During your personal retreat, you can revisit old goals or dreams, enlist books for inspiration, journal, draw/paint or create a collage from magazine images that represents your vision for how you want to experience the next three months.

Design a day or weekend that inspires you and helps you gain clarity and focus, but trust your intuition; this isn’t a race and you won’t be graded! A primary goal of this retreat is to give your analytical thinking a rest and give your creativity and your “inner teacher” the opportunity to speak. Some tips to help you get the most from your retreat:

  • Set aside a day or a weekend void of all distractions (a minimum of eight hours is ideal, but even 4 hours is great).
  • You may want to make this a personal retreat and be alone or you may decide to attend a guided group retreat; it depends on your current needs and life stage.
  • Choose a location that is inspiring and conducive to contemplation—a quiet park or natural setting; a friend’s vacant house; a retreat, yoga or spa center, or even a quiet coffeehouse are good places to go (but get out of your own house!).
  • Unplug, reflect, and ditch your agenda. Dream and be open to new possibilities and new ways of being. Ask with compassion and kindness, “What would be the best use of my energy and focus in the next 90–or even 30–days?”
  • Do less, have fun, and make this your own. One of our clients sat and stared at a tree for hours, watching a bird’s nest being constructed and experienced some big ah-has. When relaxed and playful, our brains can yield amazing creative solutions.
  • Get the time on your calendar NOW! Otherwise, it won’t happen. Think this sounds impossible? Well, if not now, then when?

You may, like me, decide to take a personal retreat each quarter. These planned respites are a wonderful, nurturing way for you to invest in yourself and your future. My favorite personal mantra is from stillness comes discernment.

Written by Renee Peterson Trudeau for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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