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This year I am starting 2014 with a Vision Day.

Most of the year, I’m simply swamped with so much doing. It’s hard to pull away from the report that needs to be written, the class that needs to be planned and—always—so many emails.  But sometimes I just have to STOP and remember what it’s all about. A Vision Day helps me do that.

A Vision Day is an opportunity to focus, for one day, on the big picture, and to refuel my inspiration for work.

It’s an opportunity, especially at the turn of the year, to review where I’ve been over the past year and dream about where I want to go.

Vision Day is my opportunity to unplug from the urgencies and distractions of the day-to-day demands of a consulting practice and to concentrate on what is “important but not urgent”, in Steven Covey’s words. As a solo-preneur, I don’t get sent off on corporate retreats – if I want to retreat, I need to plan it for myself.

Let day-to-day demands wait

The demands of day-to-day business can wait one day. Vision Day is my day to think, take a walk with my journal in hand, watch the clouds pass (or the Northwest rains pour), savor long cups of tea, and reflect on what really matters and how that applies to where my business (and life) is going.  And, as the spirit moves me, I’ll envision the next year and begin to plan.

But forget the spreadsheets, timelines and metrics.  A Vision Day is a time to access the deeper sources of inspiration and to rekindle the spark from which my best planning comes.  Unless, of course, my inspiration takes me in the direction of action planning or my next blog.   (No need to be rigid!)  On Vision Day, I follow my nose, and let my footsteps lead me to what inspires my creative juices.

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I love to take Vision Day during the holidays. Some years ago, during the days after Christmas, I took a lot of time to reflect on the purpose of my work – inside and outside of the university for which I worked.  I sat still, contemplated, meditated, listened. I did not try to “be productive.”

Be prepared to be surprised!

During one of my long reflections, I surprised myself.  An inner voice announced that my next job was to design and launch an innovative graduate program in management, one that would be designed as a learning community.  YIKES!  You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. That wasn’t in my plans!  But the message was clear.

When the Muse Speaks, Listen

I had asked a question about my purpose and received an answer.  The next step had to be action. I retreated to my desk and typed up a vision for this new program.

Three days later, the University President was in town and I presented him with the idea for the program.  The timing was perfect—he gave it his blessings.  I spent the next six years developing and running a very creative university program—with the best people I could imagine—all as a result of an afternoon of deep reflection.

Pick the right place

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Place matters. On Vision Day, I want to be in a spot that inspires me and puts me in a mood of gratitude and reflection, such as a retreat center, a forest, the beach, a long ferry ride, or a great café. When I lived in Seattle, a 25 minute trip to Brusseau’s café in Edmonds, Washington was enough to send me into another world. If I were living again in New York City, I would choose to walk the Highline Garden with a notebook in my hand, or hang out in a beautiful hotel lobby or sit in the atrium of the old Citicorps building.  If I pick a place with the wrong vibe, I find another. It’s a special day for me, so I want the energy to be right.

This year, my home on this beautiful island feels like a retreat center, so I may take a walk around a forested pond and then curl up in my writing cabin.  I’m thinking about reviewing some of my recent journals and looking at books I keep in my cabin for inspiration.  My challenge will be to turn off my email and tell my husband that I’ll be “out of commission” for a while.

Then I’ll dial up the Muse – and listen.