Dis­trac­tions abound from vac­u­um­ing to friends and fam­ily to laun­dry to NFL foot­ball. The weekend’s are hard to lever­age toward the high­est pri­or­i­ties, so I decided it’d be good to cre­ate room for a monthly Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreat. Two planned days pri­or­i­tized well away from all the distractions.
Turned out to be a good idea, so I thought I’d bet­ter share.

Why Plan a Solo Productivity Retreat


The Buildup

I nailed down a week­end for the first trip six weeks in advance. The buildup was bananas. A mil­lion activ­i­ties were hap­pen­ing that week­end that tempted me to post­pone (includ­ing the Bron­cos in the play­offs). The buildup also had me work­ing on my objec­tives for the week­end. I was anx­ious for it to arrive. My plan was thor­ough and ready. I knew exactly what I wanted to get done out­side of the dis­trac­tion of keep­ing the basics of life going. The antic­i­pa­tion allowed me to fend off the temp­ta­tion to post­pone. Every week­end will present obsta­cles; Every pri­or­i­ti­za­tion shift will take per­se­ver­ance in the begin­ning, so I decided to forge ahead.

The Simplicity

Fly­ing else­where lim­ited my access to stuff. I had my com­puter, some books, some work­out gear, and lim­ited WiFi. The sim­plic­ity of the tools cre­ated focus. Focus allows for flow, and 48 hours of flow can move moun­tains (just to be clear, the mov­ing of moun­tains is fig­u­ra­tive, since mov­ing moun­tains, though impres­sive, doesn’t have any­thing to do with my dreams).

The Cool

I felt good about what I was doing the whole time. I kept think­ing, “I know so many peo­ple who would enjoy doing this for them­selves.” When you feel that way about some­thing, when you feel like you’re bust­ing up the sta­tus quo a lit­tle bit, it mobi­lizes you. It makes you feel proud, excited, and capa­ble of anything.


Planning Your Retreat

Questions to Ask Yourself

What would make this feel excit­ing but won’t make it too complicated?

It’s got to be a bal­ance. I would have loved to do my 48 hour retreat in Spain, but the chal­lenge of mak­ing that hap­pen would have made me can­cel. At the same time, I could have done it at my house, but that wouldn’t have got­ten the buildup, sim­plic­ity, and cool fac­tors done.

What are your high­est pri­or­i­ties that also require a higher level of focus?

I find that my reg­u­lar day-to-day makes it tough to dive into my project tasks that require more intense prob­lem solv­ing to make progress. Focus on the more intense stuff dur­ing your Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreat. Inbox zero shouldn’t be the goal (unless you’re in really bad shape there). Laun­dry, pay­ing bills, and read­ing US Weekly are prob­a­bly not what you’re look­ing to make hap­pen here. Read­ing a book, tak­ing an online course, writ­ing for your blog, and strate­giz­ing your per­sonal busi­ness model are all good objectives.


Where could you go that you could go back to regularly?

Make the plan­ning easy so Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreats can become a reg­u­lar part of your life. Pick a place that’s easy to travel to and inex­pen­sive. Pick a hotel or AirBnB that might be good to go back to again and again.


What to Look for in Hotel and Amenities


I like a spot that I can get to eas­ily from the air­port and allows me to walk to food and activ­ity. That makes it easy. I don’t want to rent a car or get a bunch of Ubers. I’m focused but still need sustenance.



I want to lever­age 1–2 hours out of every day for fit­ness. There are no dis­trac­tions, but 16 hours in a day of straight work is unre­al­is­tic. I’ll make bet­ter use of 14 hours with a work­out or two in between. Seri­ously, your work sta­mina is going to be one of the block­ers, and the stim­u­la­tion of a work­out will renew your focus tank. Not all gyms are made equal when it comes to hotels.



Where are you going to work? Inves­ti­gate the area around the place you’re stay­ing. Does the hotel have WiFi? Are there cof­fee shops in the area?


Obstacles Always Pop Up

Accept this truth and you’ll be able to forge ahead. If the expec­ta­tion is that the sea will part and the path to your first Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreat will be paved in gold or a piece of cake, you may find your­self bummed out after can­cel­ing. You’ll prob­a­bly start to sec­ond guess if you can take a whole week­end away. You’ll prob­a­bly start to ques­tion whether you should spend the money on your accom­mo­da­tions. You’ll prob­a­bly con­vince your­self other things are more impor­tant. What could be more impor­tant than tak­ing a giant leap toward your dreams? So and so’s din­ner party? What’s his name’s invi­ta­tion to watch foot­ball? Your daughter’s birth­day party (okay, that’s pretty impor­tant, but make sure to not plan your Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreat on that week­end, ya silly).


Tools to Help You Plan

Jet­set­ter: Will help you find a great place to stay at a good value, and most impor­tantly, they have great pho­tos of the spots they have available.

Google Maps fea­ture ‘Explore around you”: In the event you haven’t used this, you should. You’ll get the lay of the land before you go anywhere.

My Plan: If you’d like all the specifics of my plan, email me.

First Things First


Goals for the Weekend

Fri­day night nail down your goals for the week­end. You prob­a­bly have more than you can get done, so pri­or­i­tize them. PRIORITIZE THEM! That’s me yelling emphat­i­cally, “Pri­or­i­tize them,” to make sure you do that night one. It makes a big dif­fer­ence. You don’t want to use your time decid­ing what to do. Just do.

Create a Schedule…that you can break

After you’ve nailed your goals, cre­ate a sched­ule. You can break it and adjust to how you’re feel­ing, but you want to be inten­tional with those deci­sions. Make sure you know what you’re skip­ping or chang­ing. Just be intentional.


If you don’t already know the area you’re in, make sure you go explore it. You want to know if this should make the rota­tion as a good place to go back to for future Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreats. One of your goals should be to know for cer­tain if you need to change your des­ti­na­tion next time or if you’ve nailed it. Just explore.

Tools to Help Focus

Stay­Fo­cused: a Chrome exten­sion that will help limit your time on web­sites out­side of your plan.

Sim­ple Pomodoro:  Chrome exten­sion that helps you keep your work sta­mina up by break­ing things up into work time and break time.

The Great Sus­pender: Chrome exten­sion that puts tabs you’re not actively using to sleep reduc­ing the mem­ory Chrome is cost­ing you.


Finish Well

Make sure to take some time after the week­end to reflect. Reflec­tion is pow­er­ful. It makes you more aware of what you’ve already expe­ri­enced so you can make changes going for­ward. Even if those changes are just tweaks. Writ­ing this has helped me get even more clear on what my next Solo Pro­duc­tiv­ity Retreat should accom­plish. Inten­tion­al­ity changes every­thing and reflect­ing on what you just expe­ri­enced is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of inten­tion­al­ity. Here are some ques­tions to start with:

What Went Well?

What Could Have Been Better?

What Do You Want to Do Next Time?


Plan the Tasks for the Week Ahead

You want to main­tain the momen­tum you gen­er­ated with daily progress, even when it’s small progress.

“If you work on some­thing a lit­tle bit every day, you end up with some­thing that is mas­sive.” — Ken­neth Goldsmith

You’ve given your­self a boost over the week­end, keep it rolling with tiny tasks each day.

Daily Tasks

Schedule the Next One

It’ll be eas­ier to push through each tiny task when you know exactly when the next big push will happen.


  • Jackie

    Nice arti­cle Ryan! I’m won­der­ing, what exactly is your plan for keep­ing up the momen­tum between retreats? At the end you said to “keep it rolling with tiny tasks each day,” so dur­ing your retreat did you think of some goals that you want to accom­plish by the next retreat? It seems like once you get back into the daily grind, with­out some spe­cific pri­or­i­ties you might end up bogged down until the next retreat.

    • Ryan Holde­man

      Good ques­tion. I did three main things:

      1. Regard­ing writ­ing, while on the retreat I cre­ated a spread­sheet of upcom­ing top­ics, so I have an out­line of sub­jects and a sched­ule of when to write them for sev­eral weeks. 

      2. I started a Trello board to cre­ate 2 daily tasks for the week­days and 4 tasks for each of the week­end days to keep momentum.

      3. I sched­uled the next retreat, and cre­ated 3 goals to nail before that.