Sometimes you can’t get away to a cabin in the woods or your fav Airbnb. That’s when you need an afternoon writing retreat!

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When you can’t get away, but you really need a writing retreat to get you focused on your project, there’s always the afternoon writing retreat.

Instead of planning a full weekend or week away, the afternoon writing retreat is a way to spend a whole afternoon working on your work in progress.

Sure, it’s not as productive as a week away at your favorite retreat. But it feels a little more delicious — if I’m being honest.

Getting away in the middle of the week and spending an afternoon working on writing is a great use of half a day’s worth of PTO, as well as a great way to reconnect with your project and make a little progress.

I’m sharing my tips for creating the best afternoon writing retreat. I hope they help you when it comes to planning your own.

And if you’re interested in writing retreats, make sure you check out these posts:

The Afternoon Writing Retreat

001: Get away from where you’ve been working all day.

Even if you can’t get away from the city you’re in, you can at least find a new place to work for the afternoon.

Hit up a coffee shop, co-working space, or a good library, and set up shop there. If you’re adventurous and have some good weather, maybe you could even set up at a park.

(Just know that if you can’t plug in your laptop, that’s going to severely shorten the length of your retreat.)

The idea here is to get into a new space to make the writing seem more novel. If you’ve been toiling on your WIP in your car on your lunch break or in your home office before you head out for the day, you deserve a change of pace.

Pick a place that you know will be good for you.

If noise isn’t your thing, go for a library or co-working space.

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If caffeine is your drug of choice, hit up that coffee shop.

(Even a well-lit bar is a great place to sit for the afternoon while you sip a beer and make some progress.)

What you need will probably change depending on the day, but go for what will work for you in that moment.

002: Set intentions and a time limit.

It’s easy to get distracted by email and social media. So, for the sake of this retreat, I recommend leaving your phone in the car, or at home if you’re brave enough.

If not, I would make sure to put it on Do Not Disturb, and drop it into the depths of your bag, never to be heard from again.

This retreat is only an afternoon, so you want to make that time count. Staying away from notifications is the only way to really make this happen.

And setting the intention to work on your project and avoid your phone is really easy when you know it’s only an afternoon.

Decide how long you’re going to work, and when you’re done, let that be the end.

In some cases, where you’re working will determine that for you. A lot of coffee shops have time limits, and you can’t keep buying caffeine all afternoon long.

Decide how long you’re going to work, and from there, remind yourself that you’ll be able to go back to your phone and check email and social media in whatever amount of time you have left.

(I do recommend telling someone that you’ll be doing this, just in case there’s an emergency, or they’re prone to worry if you don’t answer a text immediately.)

003: Set a realistic goal.

It’s one afternoon. You aren’t going to write a whole book.

You may make a lot of progress, but don’t make yourself write so much that you burn out. Set a goal that makes sense.

If you plan to work for 3 hours at a table at the local library, set a goal that reflects that. If you have two hours at a coffee shop, be real and honor that with the goal you set.

Figure out how much you can write in an hour, and then let that guide your expectations of your work for this retreat.

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And, if you can manage a longer retreat, don’t trick yourself into writing that whole time. Writing sprints are a great way to make progress, and to give yourself a few 5-minute breaks. Use those breaks to get more coffee, go to the bathroom, or even stare out a window.

004: Find a friend.

If you have a writerly friend who also needs an afternoon writing retreat, coordinate one together. As long as you can trust this person to work the whole time and not try to make it an afternoon gossip session, friends are great for retreats.

A bonus to this is that if you’re in public, you can watch each other’s stuff while each of you go to the restroom or to the counter to buy coffee.

And, if you like accountability, this is a great way to have someone to report to. I love doing writing sprints with friends, and trying to beat their word count with each sprint.

(Yes. I’m toxic. We all know that.)

Start chatting with your writer friends about an afternoon writing retreat. You’d be surprised by how many people are interested in sharing that experience with a friend.

005: Keep it comfortable.

It’s no secret that I live my life in dog hair-covered yoga pants. I’m fine with being a shlumpy shmoe.

(There is a time and a place to remove said yoga pants, mind you, and you can read about it in this post where I talk about why your comfort zone is uncomfortable.)

And I think for the sake of this afternoon writing retreat, you should also be comfortable. Maybe put on some clean yoga pants, but don’t get all dolled up.

The point of the retreat is that it’s taking you out of the normal. So, if you’re leaving work to go to a coffee shop, maybe pack a hoodie that you know will keep you warm and cozy if the coffee shop is over-air conditioned.

You can also change before you head out into something that is more forgiving and comfortable than business casual.

Whatever you choose — even if it’s bringing a blanket in your bag — do what works for you. And if you’re the most comfortable dressed to the nines, then do that for your retreat.

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006: Plan it all out ahead of time.

Nothing takes the productivity out of a retreat by not planning ahead.

Every detail from where you’ll go to what you’ll be working on needs to be planned out so you can make the most of your time during this retreat.

Before you head out, make sure you have the part of your project you’ll be working on outlined. Make sure you know where you’re going to go. Make sure you have a back up location just in case the other coffee shop is closed or too full.

Having this all done ahead of time means that you can just put your laptop in a bag and go and get some work done.

I even like to plan out what I’ll drink and eat while I’m there, just so I don’t land myself into decision fatigue before I even do the hard decision making that goes into writing.

007: Reward yourself!

Sure, a retreat is kind of a reward. But you’re basically just giving yourself some time to work. So, after you do that work, it’s time for the reward.

The reward can be anything. You could grab a pastry to go on the way out of the coffee shop. You could stop at a fancy grocery store on the way home to get some nice pasta for dinner. You could order a new candle to burn while you’re writing.

Whatever you choose, make it make sense for you.

One of my favorite rewards is scheduling my next writing retreat. I simply look at the calendar and pick an afternoon that I know is open, and start making plans.

Have You Ever Had an Afternoon Writing Retreat?

What tips do you have for creating a small afternoon retreat? What do you look for in an afternoon writing retreat location? How do you reward yourself after a retreat?

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