This post is for all the self-employed business owners out there. You know who you are. Working your nono off to make your dream a reality. Wearing all the hats to keep everything moving smoothly. Learning new skills and tricks on the daily just to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of running a business. Sacrificing energy, time, weekends, sleep (and sometimes sanity!) to put food on your table at the end of the day. This is your sign to take some time to invest in the big picture — to go on your own mahi retreat.
A 'Mahi Retreat' (Work Retreat) is simply a little getaway dedicated to sowing into the growth of your pakihi (business). A time to recalibrate, dream big, make goals, and rest. It can be done alone, or a as whole team retreat (for larger staffed businesses), or you can organise a combined retreat with other like-minded business owners (highly recommended!).
In January 2022, us owners of @taputapu_ltd, @awhi_company and @maimoa.creative went on our own mahi retreat to Taupō to sow into our pakihi and prepare for the year ahead. The wānanga and kōrero between us was insightful and motivating, and we all left inspired and excited for the year ahead. I 100% recommend organising a mahi retreat for yourself, in whatever capacity you can. It can be quite isolating at times being a solo business owner. Taking time to step away from the daily grind to realign your goals is key, as well as networking to stay encouraged and feeling heard on your journey.
See my top tips below for organising your own mahi retreat.
Choose your company.
If you are someone who would prefer to go on a solo retreat — go for it! But I found so much value in having company. Find other like-minded business owners to go with, and make sure you have similar vibes and values. You don't have to have similar businesses at all, but it's important that you can all gel comfortably to ensure your time away doesn't drain you emotionally. Perhaps you have been messaging back and forth with another business owner for a while but have never met in person — this could be your chance to finally meet!
Location, location, location.
Splash out! Book accomodation that is a little bougee, a bit indulgent. A place that makes you feel at peace, whatever that might be. Sea views, tranquil cottage, close beach access — up to you! We chose a stunning spot in Taupō on AirBnB that had breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding hills. It was incredibly peaceful, with sounds of chirping birds and wind whispering through the tall grass in the nearby meadow. Waking up to a stunning view is a great way to start your day, as well as provide a beautiful backdrop while you get mahi done. We also chose a location that wasn't too far from where we all lived so we didn't have to spend too much time/pūtea on travel.
Make sure everyone who is going is happy with the location and accomodation cost, then choose dates that works and book it! We chose to go from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, but could have easily had another day.
Set your intentions for the weekend/week
Make sure you all go into the retreat knowing what you want to get out of it. For all of us we had a collective goal of wanting to use this time to set big goals for our pakihi, and to prepare for the year ahead. Writing lists, creating content, and planning. This helped us structure the days so we had a 'plan of attack' and didn't feel overwhelmed by not knowing where to start. We were all pretty keen to not over-do it either, and make sure it was as restful as it was productive. You shouldn't return from a retreat exhausted or overwhelmed, as that is the opposite of what a mahi retreat is supposed to achieve. You should return inspired, excited to achieve your goals, and rested.
Start your day right
Our mornings were very loose — basically just do whatever helps you start your day right. For me, it was enjoying a hot cup of coffee out on the deck looking out at the stunning view and watching the sun rays slowly reach pockets of the landscape. I had brought a good book I'd been meaning to read through and listened to a Nuku podcast episode. It was important for me to take my time to wake up and prepare my mind for the day.
For others, it might be going for an early morning run, an ocean dip, or even just a good ol' sleep in! Make sure to allow flexibility for everyone to start their day the way they want. If you all love morning walks — then why not schedule it in and arrange to all go together before breakfast.
Arrange a rough schedule
It's important to have some sort of structure to your retreat, otherwise it's easy to feel a bit lost and not sure where to start. It doesn't have to be anything extensive, and it doesn't matter if you stray from it, it's just to have as a guide to come back to. Make sure to allow for breaks and activities that don't require much brain power. Even scheduling in some times to come together and go for a hīkoi, swim, or play a game would be a great way to break up the day and give your brain a breather in-between your productive times.
Make sure to bring everything you need to get your mahi done (e.g. laptop/desktop, extension cords, stationery, camera, products to photograph, speaker for background music etc).
AN EXAMPLE OF ONE OF OUR DAYS:
8:30am : Breakfast
9:00 - 10:30am : Self-directed mahi (e.g. set goals, create content, write blog posts, etc)
10:30 - 11:00am : Morning tea. Wānanga about our progress and what we had worked on and discuss what else we would like to achieve
11:00am - 1:30pm : Self-directed mahi. All of us ended up creating some content and taking photos of products as the place we were staying had some great backdrops for a fresh look. We also helped take photos of each-other to have as content.
1:30 - 3:00pm : Lunch and relax. Take a nap or just blah if you need!
3:00 - 6:30pm : Self-directed mahi
6:30 - 8:00pm : Drinks/nibbles/dinner
8:00pm - 11:00pm : Wānanga about our day and exchanging ideas. Relaxing and watching T.V. If you're not a night owl, then feel free to clock off earlier and curl up and read a book in bed and get some extra beauty sleep.
Sort all the kai
In addition to having a rough schedule, make sure to plan all the kai for the retreat, even down to the snacks. Nikki planned all our meals so we didn't have to ever run to the supermarket and break our flow, and we had a constant supply of snacks. Make sure they're easy-to-prepare meals so you aren't spending too much time in food prep, and that the meals cater to everyone's dietary requirements. Keep them on the healthy side so you can feel energised and charged for a productive day. We also had some home-baking as treats, and indulged for breakfast with home-made waffles. We all split the costs of kai to make it easy and stress-free. You could also plan to do take-aways one afternoon/night to make it even easier if you wanted!
Support each other
Throughout the whole weekend we were often just having discussions about our mahi: our struggles, our highs and lows, what we love about being business owners, what we hope to change, what we wish we were better at...it was so beneficial being able to open up a space to encourage each-other, and to ask for advice. Everyone will have their strengths, and it's so valuable to learn from each-other's journey.
End on a high
After a productive time focussed on mainly mahi — make sure you wind up in style. We decided to head down to Lake Taupō and found a walking track that lead to a beautiful area of rocks to jump off into the warm water for a dip. We spent about four hours just relaxing, having a picnic, swimming and debriefing, which was the perfect way to end the retreat.
Don't forget to start planning your next retreat! I think one at the beginning of the year and halfway through (around Matariki) are great times to have those 'reset' moments for your business.