The Art of the Mini-Sabbatical

The fire crackled behind me, warming the loose folds of my shirt and pant legs making it excruciating to make sudden moves. I slowly sat up, grimacing at the touch of the hot fabric against my back and took a sip from the warm coffee mug in my hands. As one of my uncles played on his acoustic guitar, another began singing along in a voice that's perfect for country songs and old hymns. The high ceilings and wooden construction of the lodge allowed the sounds to marinate in the cavernous space, producing soothing melodies.

Source: Bill Smith

Source: Bill Smith

In that moment I was grounded. I could feel the fire. I could taste the coffee. I could hear the music. I soaked it all in, intentionally ingraining the memory in my mind. Surrounding me sat some of the men who I respect most in life and my stomach was full on southern cooking - it couldn't get much better than that.

The lodge, split six ways didn't cost too much. The food wasn't complicated or expensive but it tasted better than most 5-star restaurants. The entertainment was free and participatory, not obligatory. The company wasn't forced or fake, it was family. Everything necessary to create an evening of contentment was easy enough to get a hold of. Meaningful experiences don't have to be spent in Paris.

These mini-sabbaticals - these retreats - are an incredible way to hit the reset button on life. They get us away from the constant mental stimuli that bombard our brain every minute which gives our brain time to process, rest and cultivate the creative side. They help us re-prioritize by putting us amongst people who mean the most to us which helps us remember that so much of life is simply busy-work. And they give us time to rest so that we can attack life with a renewed vigor!

So here's the deal:

1. Free time

Find a weekend - just two days - when you don't have anything going on and block it out. If, for the foreseeable future, you have no free weekends (read: no relaxing weekends), it is even more important that you do this. Create a free weekend if you must, just get some dates down on paper for sometime within the next two months.

2. Friends/Family

It's time to invite people along. Experiences are meant to be shared and the best ones are often made in great company. Keep this group small. A few best friends or your immediate family is often ideal.

3. Food

Food is a natural ingredient when mixing up meaningful moments. Preferably, ask someone in the group to do the cooking. It's simply more fun when food is being prepared than if you have to pop something in the microwave. Get all hands on deck and make the food preparation process an enjoyable time for everyone to learn a few new tricks in the kitchen. (also... FOOD FIGHT!)

4. Functionality

I loved what Michael Hyatt did when he left for a month-long sabbatical. He created an email auto-responder that told the sender that he was sorry he couldn't respond, he would be out of the office until such-and-such a date, all emails would be deleted so that he wouldn't come back to a full inbox, and that if they needed something urgent they could get in touch with so-and-so who could handle any problems.

You need to set up a system that handles life while your away for a short while. It's just two days on a weekend - it shouldn't be too difficult to make this happen. Pass the kids off to grandma and grandpa, reschedule that meeting, have your assistant run those numbers and send that fax. The worst thing for this retreat would be if you worried about all the things that you aren't doing while you're gone. Not only are you not doing them but now you're worrying about it! You need to know with confidence that things are handled back on the Ponderosa.

5. Fuhgetaboutit

You know exactly what I'm talking about. The entire weekend is going to be miserable if you are constantly connected to your life outside that mini-retreat. There are always deadlines, bosses, telemarketers, emails and people vying for your attention. It's time to disconnect.