Last week I spent a week in solitary confinement. No…I hadn’t been exposed to COVID-19!
I voluntarily booked myself into a little Airbnb in the Byron Bay Hinterland to spend four nights alone, with the sole purpose of starting my book.
This was the first time I’ve been alone since…..well ever. It was a work retreat – and I honestly worked non-stop. But to have time alone, to think, to organise my thoughts, was seriously good. I ate when I was hungry, I slept when I was tired, I went for a walk when I needed to move. I played music when I needed company. By the end of the week I had a quarter of my book done and was feeling motivated and excited about the rest. It was marvellous!
I’m now convinced that every single person needs a week away to themselves each year. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs popularised the term “Think Week” by taking bi-annual week-long solo retreats. They would use these times to read, think, contemplate their companies. A few years back, my husband took a week for himself to bike ride and camp around the hills and towns of the Northern Rivers. He needed time alone to defrag from a stressful time in his life and he came back a much calmer, more centred human being.
Having the week away helped me break habits that were keeping me away from my goal and establish new systems that I’ve sustained a week later. Before I went away, getting up at 5am to write was impossible. I’d set the alarm, wake up, think about sitting in my office staring at a blank screen, make up the excuse I was too tired and go back to sleep. But now, I wake up at 5am and actually look forward to the peace, quiet and solitude to write in my office before the house wakes up. It takes me back to my little retreat.
Another habit I broke was staying stuck. I learned how to recognise when I was getting frustrated – because there was no one and nothing else to blame – I realised I was causing my own frustration (go figure!!). So when I started feeling a bit antsy, I’d get up from the table, take a quick walk, change the scenery, make tea, all the while talking myself back around. Sitting back down after that quick pep talk always worked – I’d see a new angle or find a new way to describe what I was trying to write.
There have been other benefits too. I’ve been thinking about this book for a long time, wanting to get it done, but struggling to gain any momentum each time I carved out a morning or afternoon to write. I needed space and time to nut it out. The psychological pressure of having something so important to do, yet not doing it, was starting to cause me nightmares. I kept dreaming about a roller coaster and not being able to get off! Since my solo retreat, I’ve been sleeping better, waking up rested, and writing better.
I can’t recommend it enough. If you’ve never had a think week – this is what Michele Koh Morollo, author and journalist has to say:
“The time has come to think more wisely, hasn’t it?” Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama.