Advance Your Business and Your Career

Here is an idea that can revolutionize your business and your life. Many

organizations have retreats, but how many professionals do you know that take

time to go offsite and do some thinking and strategic planning about their career

and life? A new year brings resolutions for many that are often broken before

the end of January. How about planning some meaningful time to go away all by

yourself and put some focused effort into your career? This process is commonly

called holding a retreat, though I like to refer to it as an advance – after all

you want to go forward. Your thinking, concentration ability and focus will be

enhanced when you can get away to an environment that is conducive to creative

thinking and planning. Find a place where there are no ringing telephones,

pending projects, or distractions of other kinds. To maximize your productivity,

leave behind your beeper, turn off the ringer on your cell phone, and block out

some time where you don’t feel rushed by other commitments. If you completely

clear your calendar and don’t call in for messages, your productivity will be

greatly improved. I read recently that Bill Gates even copied my idea! Except Bill

does a whole week and calls it his “think week”. He was quoted in USA Weekend:


“Ours is a very fast-moving field. You have to be able to step back from it. Many

years ago, I decided to take a week every year and absorb myself in thinking many

years ahead. I get colleagues to put together what Ph.D. theses I should read,

what products I should play with, what memos I should look at. So, it’s been,

except for sleeping a little bit, day and night all by myself uninterrupted.”


If Bill Gates can do this, I would hope that most of us could find at least one day

to spend in proactive thinking and planning. I did my first session on a beautiful

remote beach in the panhandle of Florida. I spent some time working on the

beach and some inside at the beach cottage I had rented. That one day advance

resulted in more career growth and action than any other single thing I have

done in my business. Since then, I’ve had a one or two-day session every year. I

have done my advances in State Parks, at Bed and Breakfast Inns, on a camping

trip, and in hotel rooms. Think of an environment that you enjoy and one that

stimulates your creativity. You might try the mountains, a quiet park, at the

beach or lakeside. Before you leave, give some thought as to what you want to

accomplish on your planning retreat. Here are some things to consider when you



Advance Forward

• Set big picture goals

• Develop major projects

• Brainstorm new ideas and products

• Plan educational opportunities to grow your career

• Write or revise your personal mission (you might want to read or reread

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People before you advance).


Questions to ponder:

• What can I do to develop and promote my uniqueness in my career?

• How can I continue to grow as a manager, salesperson or business owner?

• What questions can I provide answers to for my clients or my organization?

• Am I doing what I’ve been called to do or naturally do best?

• How do my family and friends factor into my work?

• Am I being challenged and fulfilled in my work?

• How am I going to stay energized and motivated?


What to do with your day

• Carpe diem – start early and work hard in the morning

• Eat foods to help you stay energized

• Make sure you are well rested before your leave

• Take an afternoon nap or short walk

• Reward yourself and play some after you have achieved your desired result


What to bring:

• Four to six colors of index cards, 15 to 20 of each color

• Something to record your thoughts and ideas

• Some motivational material to read

• Your favorite inspirational music

• Your planner and calendar

• A legal pad and colored pens


How to do it

Write a title card for the area you are brainstorming. Write one idea per card as

quickly as they come, not evaluating the ideas or coming up with action plans. If

you are familiar with Mind Mapping, create maps of each of your main ideas. Use

the different colors for different categories. After you have written several ideas,

spread the cards out and prioritize them. When you return to the office, post

all your ideas on a bulletin board in priority order so you will stay focused. Put

them where you can see them every day. Don’t be frustrated when interruptions

happen as they inevitably will. Find some way each day to work on the high

priority goals. Do something every day that will bring you closer to achieving your

big picture goals.


Remember the words of the famous anonymous philosopher who said, “If you

always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always

gotten.” Take an opportunity to make this year your best year yet. Schedule

some time, block it out on your calendar, and get ready for an incredible year!


(Tim Richardson, Certified Speaking Professional, is a professional speaker who

helps sales professionals increase sales and grow their businesses. He is the

author of JumpStarts: Wit and Wisdom to Supercharge Your Day (New Dawn

Press, September, 1998), Letters from Daddy: Lessons on Life, Love and Being a

Lighthouse for Your Son. (New Dawn Press, 2000), co‐author of Transformation

Thinking (with Joyce Wycoff, Berkley, 1995) and contributing author of

Meditations for Road Warriors (Paulson, Sanborn, et. al. Baker, October, 1998)

and Grand-Stories: Bridges of love joining Grandparents and Grandkids.

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