🏕 The Perfect Location for a Personal Retreat


In this edition of Practical PKM:

  • 💡 The Big Idea: Nature + Solitude = Clarity
  • 😎 Something Cool: Pin frequently used notes to the ribbon in Obsidian
  • 📚 My book notes from Rapt by Winifred Gallagher

💡 The Big Idea: Finding The Ideal Location for Your Next Personal Retreat

It’s almost the end of June, making it the perfect time to schedule your next personal retreat.

So in this newsletter, I want to share from my own personal retreat experience about what I consider to be the perfect place to host your next personal retreat.

But first, a quick refresher on the process.

What is a Personal Retreat?

A personal retreat is where you get away to a solitary place to just think about things, with the goal of achieving increased clarity and motivation to complete your goals when you return. It’s a great tool for getting clarity to cut the things that don’t hit the mark and create the motivation you need to take action on the things that do.

There are 3 key components to an effective personal retreat:

  1. You have to have the right environment. Your surroundings should be conducive to deep thinking and focus, and you need to ruthlessly eliminate novel distractions like the notifications that come from email and social media.
  2. You have to have enough time to get to the bottom of things. Your brain will come up with a few things that sound good right away, and you’ll feel like you’ve extracted everything you can. But the real good stuff comes when you push past this point and stick with it for a while.
  3. You have to ask the right questions. Not all thinking time prompts are created equal. When you ask the right questions, the answers usually become clear.

Here is the exact process I follow when I do my own personal retreats:

  • First, I review my journal entries from the last quarter (this includes my Daily Questions scores as well my journal entries, wins, and gratitude).
  • Next, I review my LifeTheme and personal core values to make sure they still resonate. If they don’t, I give myself permission to make adjustments as necessary.
  • After that, I review my ideal future. This is a descriptive note about what I want a day in the life of future me to look like. Again, I make changes if it no longer elicits the excitement it once did.
  • Next, I fill out my Wheel of Life and rate my current happiness with the different areas of my life (i.e. relationships, physical wellbeing, personal growth, etc.). This helps me identify which areas I might want to target for the next 90 days.
  • Next, I go through what I call a retrospective. I break this into 2 parts, one where I think about what happened last quarter and one where I think about the next quarter.
  • After that, I set goals and intentions for the next 90 days. I pick things that I believe will make a difference in the lowest areas of my Wheel of Life and break my goals down into habits I can consistently take action on.
  • Finally, I review and revise my perfect week. This is where I block out every hour of every day and craft a schedule I actually look forward to.

(If you want to go deeper on the personal retreat process, I have a couple of resources for you: first, I have a free YouTube video where I walk through how I do it in Obsidian. Second, I have a video course that walks through the steps in more detail and includes a PDF workbook that has all the prompts and exercises you need to do it yourself.)

I’ve been doing personal retreats like this since 2017, but finding the right place has always been a little tough. I’ve used the family cabin, but sometimes that doesn’t give me the solitude I need. I’ve tried AirBnB, but that can be a little pricey and you’re never sure what you’re going to get. But last year, I came across the perfect place to do your next personal retreat without breaking the bank: a Getaway House.

Getaway House: The Perfect Place for Your Next Personal Retreat

A Getaway House is basically a tiny cabin parked on a powered campsite somewhere in nature. Each campsite has a fire pit with a grilling grate, a picnic table, a couple of chairs, and electricity powering the tiny cabin trailer parked on the site. All the campsites and cabins are the same, so you know exactly what to expect.

It’s much quieter than other campsites I’ve been to (they actually charge fines if you make a lot of noise), and getting in nature is the perfect setting for extended thinking time. It’s hard to think of a better setting for contemplating your future than sitting by a campfire alone in the middle of the woods.

At the outpost I visited, there’s also a nature trail that’s a little less than a mile long. The location is actually an old Boy Scout camp, and the trail goes through the woods and ends up at a clearing with several old buildings that the scouts used to use, including a cabin with a fieldstone fireplace, a capped well, and a building with signage calling it “the forge.” Kind of a cool little discovery at the end of the trail, which I’ve enjoyed walking each time I visit.

The tiny cabins are very nice, and include heating and air conditioning which make them a pleasant temperature no matter when you host your personal retreat. There’s a table and chair, a small kitchen with a mini-fridge, sink, and electric stove top, and a queen-size platform bed with windows looking over the rest of your campsite and out into the woods. Each cabin also has a private bathroom with a toilet and shower, and everything you need is already there - towels, linens, and everything you need to prepare your meals. There’s even a gooseneck kettle for making fancy coffee or tea, and both firewood and fire starter are stored outside and available for purchase (just use what you want and they’ll charge you after the fact).

If you have one near you, I highly recommend a Getaway House for your next personal retreat. It’s the perfect location for extended thinking time. I was honestly pretty surprised to find an outpost only about 30 minutes away from my home in Northeast Wisconsin (they’re generally positioned as places to get out into nature for people who live in big cities and want to get away like Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York). While prices vary depending on the location and the subsequent demand, after applying a coupon code I found online (they’re always running sales) it turned out to be very reasonably priced, and booked my first getaway for about $100 USD. If you can get away during the week, you might be able to do it even cheaper.

If you’re still on the fence, check out this YouTube video I put together about my Getaway House experience.

😎 Something Cool: Pinned Notes plugin

I came across a cool little plugin this week called Pinned Notes that lets you add specific notes to the ribbon in Obsidian. This makes it easy to access these notes from anywhere by clicking on the icon in the ribbon.

Yes, you could always open these with the Quick Switcher via the keyboard or add notes as Bookmarks, but sometimes having an icon can be a visual trigger for viewing or reviewing a certain note. I don’t think I’ll use this a lot, but I am experimenting with adding a few of my Canvas dashboards here (like the Task Dashboard shown up above).

Setting these up is pretty easy, and you can customize the icons with by using codes from the lucide.dev website.

📚 Book Notes: Rapt by Winifred Gallagher

Normally when I talk about books on a podcast it’s for Bookworm. But when I came across this book, I knew I needed to talk to David about it on the next Focused episode (coming out tomorrow).

This book is a little bit older, but I really enjoyed it. It hits on a lot of familiar themes but feels fresh and is very well written. There is no fluff here. If I were to pick only one book about focus and attention, it’d be this one. It’s a great book, and if you are interested at all about living a life of intention, I highly recommend you pick this one up.

If you want to download my notes for Rapt, click here.

— Mike

P.S. I’ve been working on a done-for-you Obsidian vault that comes pre-configured with all the settings and plugins you need to implement a lot of my productivity and creativity workflows (think LifeOS in Obsidian with a bunch of custom dashboards you don’t have to set up yourself). Is this something you’d be interested in? If so, click this link to join the waitlist 🙂

Practical PKM

A weekly newsletter where I help people apply values-based productivity principles and systems for personal growth, primarily using Obsidian. Subscribe if you want to make more of your notes and ideas.

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