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A Sample Chapter from TimeOut! To Retreat, Review, & Renew

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PJ’s annual agenda certainly isn’t fancy. Historically, it’s been a handwritten page each added to as they thought about it. It has evolved to a printed document of standard line items which is then added to by hand throughout the year. Generally, a couple of weeks before the annual Timeout, they begin honing in on issues to be addressed, asking one another what should be explored and discussed.

Most years, PJ arrive at their cabin Thursday evening and are ready to begin working on the review phase by Saturday afternoon, allowing themselves a two-day decompression cycle. By then, they’ve un-tethered from their electronics, had a couple good nights’ sleep, spent enjoyable time in front of the fireplace, played some board games, and allowed the outside world to fade into the background. Note: If your Timeout is of shorter duration, you’ll need to condense pacing. In anticipation of that, an outline for a three-day Timeout is provided at the end of this book. For now, we’re sharing with you what has evolved as an extended process for PJ.

From this relaxed place of mind and body, moving into review mode begins by taking a look at the agenda. PJ naturally begin chatting about what has happened recently and start reflecting on the past year, adding line items to the agenda as the day progresses. The intention is to settle on what new issues there are to address.

The agenda isn’t set or static, it’s added to as needed throughout the Timeout. In other words, discussing one issue often leads to other concerns that may need a separate resolution. It’s sometimes helpful to list and discuss related items as separate bullet points. Much like taking apart a pocket watch, one can observe and fix things more precisely by studying all the moving parts and examining how they are connected.

It’s also a rewarding approach for PJ, because they can experience forward movement on a complex issue by addressing and checking off some of the connected concerns. For example, when Phyllis decided to earn her Chartered Business Coach™ certification, PJ not only budgeted the related expenditure for coursework into her business plan, but also the time she was and wasn’t going to be available for clients, how Jerry was going to assume additional household duties, how her study schedule would affect family holidays and vacation plans, and so on. By storyboarding the movie frame by frame, they were able to plan for the inevitable ramifications of an encompassing lifestyle decision.

By design, the agenda contains topics but not timelines. PJ plan loosely structured “sessions” each day, lasting anywhere from one to three hours. Since they’re alone and in the same conversation space for a week, discussions take place constantly and organically, allowing PJ to go with the flow of the day most of the time. This isn’t a marathon of endurance and obligations; rather, the natural flow usually results in eight to ten hours of focused conversations each day.

For instance, if the agreement is to begin at 9:00 a.m. but one decides to sleep in, so be it. The exception to this is if one observes or feels that the other is procrastinating. In that case, simply call your partner on it, and that becomes the discussion to begin that session. In the beginning, timing was more of an issue because PJ allocated less time to their Timeout.

When they only had three days, following a schedule was necessary and helpful. The additional time they now allot (seven days) has allowed them to relax the scheduling aspect of their agenda.  Any topic is fair game, the agreement being that each partner has full contribution rights—no issue is too big, too small, or too petty.

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