Plan to Thrive: a DIY Retreat

I created the Plan To Thrive half-day retreat to support the THRIVERS ( our online wellness community) as a live event and now I’m offering the framework for you here so that you can enjoy a DIY retreat day!  You deserve it. This is a long post… it has loads of info- please print out and go through it- highlight what you need and what you want to do- and go for it. Then email me.. and let me know how it went.

After you print it out, read it and decide when you are going to dive in… Take 2-3 hours for your Plan to Thrive time. Give yourself enough time to pause, to reflect, to feel what comes up and to breathe during the journey.  Take breaks to stretch and hydrate with some soothing tea.

This is a sacred practice. Please don’t over think it and  don’t use the personal narrative to repeat unhealthy thought habits or patterns.  We invite compassion, grace, gentle inquiry, and presence, truth and understanding, awareness into our heart and into our mind.


Let’s begin…

Why do you need to PLAN to Thrive?  I see planning as a very important part of my spiritual and wellness practice.  If I don’t have time for the things I love in life- the things I want to do, to be, to feel, and to see- then I’m not sure what it is all for.  If I don’t get these things in my calendar or out into the world, it won’t happen.  And for me, these things I want to happen usually involve regular movement, self care practices, time with loved ones, deepening my relationship to myself AND to others, and super spacious, playful, creative time with my kids. In order for me to have my dream life I must set some boundaries.  I have to focus my attention to where my energy is leaking; and I have to be okay with the discomfort that arises when I notice an area I have been neglecting or an area where there is an ongoing challenge.



I was able to learn how to cultivate compassion, intuition, and how to process my discomfort through my regular yoga and meditation practices.  I DO NOT see my planning as separate from my yoga practice– I see it as an extension of my practice.  I highly suggest that if you want to integrate intentionality into your life (more than you already are) that you start with the foundational practices I outline for you below in my Plan to Thrive DIY Retreat. These are the grounded practices to all this cerebral, thinking, planning work.  You see it’s NOT about how much I “can” or “should” do… it’s all about what I feel— in my body and in each day– and why I do it.

How do you feel?  How do your responsibilities, joys, and dreams align with your deepest desires. Do you wake up each day and ask yourself, “What brings me joy?”  This is one way you can start to discover the answers that may not be so obvious right now. And remember, this all takes time, effort, and practice to develop.


You get the point.

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.” – Nancy Levin

Your DIY Retreat 101


Step 1: Pre- Work

A day or two before the planned retreat ask yourself WHY.  Why do you need this sacred time?  Why do you want to have more intentionality?  Get to the heart of the WHY and bring some energy and honesty into what is going on in the areas of your life.

Create your own instructions for self care.  My darling friend Anna does this so well.  Ask yourself, “what do I need to feel good?”  Get to know yourself, play with it, try new things.

Step 2: Acknowledge 

There is a bit of a paradox here.  We are planning out all areas of our lives, making time to schedule our own care and at the same time we are fully aware that at any moment things could change AND that we don’t REALLY have control over our destiny or outcomes. I love this post.

Everything in our lives could be turned upside tomorrow,this practice allows for the grace of the unknown but right along side that is the ability to do what we can in the areas in which we DO have control.  When we intentionally Plan to Thrive we’re actually mindfully aware that things around us are always in transition AND at the same time, we are adjusting our sails and shifting our intentions & thoughts to the areas that are of true value and meaning to us in the days that we have, in the parts of the day that we can actually map out how we want to spend it.   We are identifying the areas where we want to develop the foundational supports we can rely on during the more challenging times.  We direct what we do and how and with whom we spend our days in a way that aligns with who we are at our core. The seekers, the dreamers, the questioners- this is for you!  For those who feel they want more out of life, in whatever ways they can; for those who want to create sacred spaces, moments, read, live, move more- this type of planning is for you.


Did you know humans are meant to have lots of time to rest and to digest? Did you know that we were not meant to actually live our lives in fight or flight mode?  Just think about this when you map out your week: in order for your systems to be able to run well, rest and digest is suggested to make up 60-70% of your time. By giving yourself this time, you are better able to store up the energy needed for the fight or flight modes that are also part of human nature.

All of this aligns well with our Drift. Driven. & Design  ideas which you can watch and learn about here. 

Step 3: Explore

  1. Take out a sheet of blank paper
  2. On one side map out exactly what you do every “normal” day of this season. Label the time of day, the activity, and the feeling associated with each thing you do. Start from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep.
  3. When you are done, take a break.  Grab your tea.  Stretch.  Breathe.  Come back and look it over. Take it in. all.the.things.
  4. If you did not ACTUALLY do the above, please stop and do it now.  You will be quite amazed.
  5. Now turn to the other side of paper and map out your “ideal” day.  Again, labeling the time of day, the activity, and the feelings associated with each thing you do from the time you rise and the time you go to bed.

After this exercise people often feel 1 of 2 ways…

  1. VALIDATED. Life, values, and days are aligned. Practices, routines, rituals, and feelings are flowing and therefore we can spend more time basking in our wonderful efforts to enJOY more.
  2. DEVASTATED. Life, values, and days are nowhere near aligned. A pit in your stomach or tears may appear. It’s okay. Feel this discomfort. Be aware that you are in a REALLY good place to take this all in– you’ve created the opportunity to see where you are now and to make changes that you want and need. I’m super glad you are here.

Take some time to look at both sides and jot down a few core desired feelings that came up for you. Ask yourself, “how do I want to feel in my life, in each day?”  You can also jot down some values that popped up for you.  Do you value your health? Your family? Your service? Do you notice anything that can help you clarify what you would want more of in your ideal day? Can you consider 10-15 minutes where you can put your energy and attention into the area which needs your love… and let it be enough. So often we think- “Oh well- I missed the hour long yoga class so I won’t do anything!” but RESEARCH SAYS that it’s actually better for habit forming & our mindset to do less time, more often SO if you miss the  yoga class can you roll out your yoga mat and do 10-15 minutes of home yoga and let that be enough? Give yourself permission to let the smaller chunks COUNT.

Step 4: Rate & Evaluate

Take a glance at the picture below that outlines the 10 areas of your life, starting with physical health. On a sheet of paper, rate from 1-10 how these areas are presently showing up in your life. 1 is- this sucks to  10 is- this is awesome.  Do this without over thinking every area.  Remember, we are just trying to get a sense of what you value and where you are with it– are you thriving in this area or not really.

For example, Physical Health.  If you have a physical health issue/concern you want to work on (afternoon sugar fix or late night snacking anyone?) because you feel sick or sluggish then you would probably rate this area less than a 5.


10 Areas of Your Life to Consider

Now take your list and give yourself some inner praise on the areas that are rated 5-10. Then breathe into the areas that are rated below 5 and ask yourself if these areas are something you value and really need your care, energy, and attention or not really.

The areas that you value will become a big part of designing your Model Calendar (Step 5).

What is a Model Calendar?  It is a unique, fully customizable plan for your time.  Your model calendar is an overview or outline for making sure you fill up on the good stuff.  It helps you get all your priorities and activities related to your high value areas placed into your actual life. Your model calendar will change with your “season” and therefore it should feel spacious and do-able.

When creating your model calendar, I highly recommend using block scheduling. Block scheduling is just mapping out the areas of your life or work that always need your attention and putting them directly into your cal as regular appointments with yourself.  I want to give a HUGE shout out to Racheal Cook for introducing me to this over 5 years ago!  Every time I feel stressed or when I have a lot on my plate, I know it’s time to dig into the model calendar to make sure I have the right things planned in the right spot.  What a life saver!


Step 5: Create Your Model Calendar

Think about your week in chunks.  Map out all the areas you evaluated as high value or high priority areas, and where you want to cultivate more of the good stuff.  By the way, you can do this for your business/professional life too!  Your 10 areas may look a little different, but the process is the same.  As you can see from my Model Calendar below, my daily activities naturally flow and blend my work/personal life.

My Model Calendar

Early AM practices 5-7am

Family time 7-9am

Morning work 9am-12pm

Lunch Break & Nourishing Care 12-1pm

Afternoon Work 1-3pm

Family Time 3-8pm

Evening practices and care 8-10pm

In MY work week I have areas blocked out for My Money Love Dates, Writing, Calls, Customer Love, Seeing Students in person & offering Aromatouch/ doTerra team, My weekly classes I teach, and meetings. These are in my calendar as my plan for each day. I KNOW what area I am working on that day- whether it is directly being in touch with students OR creating content, writing for classes, retreats, blogs, etc.

I know you are thinking, “hmm… That’s great Plez, but how can I do this?”  In my seasonal Thrive Course we explore in detail these morning and evening practices, rituals, self-care, etc.  Planning is just the first step! Why we do these things, how it can help us, the research that supports it, plus a ton of resources, support, and accountability for you.   Check out the Thrive course outline here!

For now, I have some Model Calendar Tips and Reminders for you


  1. Find a calendar/planner that works for you.  Some prefer Google Calendar or other fancy calendars– online or print.  I prefer putting pen(cil) to paper and use Plan It Pads.  I have several plan it pads and model calendars!  I like to tape these where they are most relevant– business related calendars in my home office area, family calendar in the kitchen,  personal wellness in my bathroom, etc.  I also take a picture of my model calendars and save them to my “Notes” section on my phone so I can regularly reference it and stay engaged.

2.Your model calendar will complement your actual daily calendar (the one with your real-time appointments, reminders, scheduled events).  Your Model Calendar is your monthly/seasonal outline for the high value areas you’re working on, but you will still need to schedule the activity.

For example, using my model calendar sample above, I mention early AM rituals from 5-7am.  I can book a 6am spin class or schedule a time to enjoy a book I’m reading, write in my journal, talk a walk…. I call this Sadhna time, and it’s when I reflect, move, and honor the sacredness of the day.

3. You can create a model calendar for your entire week, or more specifically for a certain part of the day (morning, afternoon, evening routines/rituals) or specific day (weekday vs weekend).  The point is that you map out the high value areas anywhere/anytime you want to cultivate some new habits or routines, and you give yourself some structure and accountability around it.

If you find yourself saying, “I would love to read more but I never find the time…” Plan that in!  “I would love to prepare healthy, nourishing meals for my family…” Plan that in! “I want to start journaling…” Guess what, you can plan that in, too!  This is why it is super important to ask yourself the BIGGER questions around your values, dreams, heart desires BEFORE you start attacking your schedule. Do you want to do this, why do you want to do this, and is this do-able and sustainable?  Honestly answer these questions, otherwise you WILL feel overwhelmed.  I promise.

Some people have trouble when it comes to the weekends.  Our weekends can be totally over scheduled with events and commitments, or the complete opposite which can actually make people even more anxious.  In my household, we are currently in good shape with our weekends and here’s why.  On Thursday mornings or evenings Mel and I sit down for 5 minutes and just do an overview of what’s to come.  We map out who goes to workout and when, what times we both have for working/business, and times are reserved for family (commitments, appointments, etc).  We are VERY mindful to give each other time for our own personal hobbies and activities, plus time with the kiddos together or alone. I often have a workshop or retreat or class I’m leading on the weekend, so I let him know the details and logistics of that so that he can plan his time with the kids accordingly.  I ALWAYS plan 1 family weekend a month where I am NOT working at all. It is totally blocked off.  Lastly, we mindfully and graciously turn down events if the weekends feel to jammed OR the kids are wiped out and really need a break. We have worked together really well over the past few years on this and I think we are at a place where we ALL get what we need and want over the weekends.

4. Plan for the unknown. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.  Avoid scheduling things back to back.  We spend so much time meticulously planning every minute and hour and then boom!  When someone gets sick, or the President’s motorcade snarls traffic, or the alarm does not go off we end up running around like fools!  We blame it all on the uncontrollable things that really do happen in life.  When planning your week, add more time in. Make sure there are blocks or times that are empty or crossed off.  This gives you some breathing room– whether to catch up on something that you missed earlier, to deal with a curveball, or to enjoy some extra “me” time.  I know once in a while we do need to meticulously schedule things back to back to back– I have these days myself once in a while– but now I’ve learned to actually block schedule this time as “admin/errands” and I plan out a few more hours than usual to take care of what I need to. By doing this, it does not feel so stressful and it’s not leaking energy all over the place (See my Challenge, Section 6).

5. Throughout this process, I ask hard questions and listen for truth. I often ask myself, “Would the closest people in my life agree with the values that I’ve outlined as essential and important in my life?” Meaning, if I say I value friendship but I NEVER plan the time to call or see my friends, is this truly aligned with my values?  Is this really a priority for me?  I mentally put myself in their shoes to check in with them and ask them, “what do you see as my highest values and priorities?”  The other question I ask is, “Do my values show up in every day life?  Where do I see my values come to life? Is it through handwritten cards, dancing to music, painting pictures, reading with my kids?”  or “Does my life revolve around phones and ipads and computers and TVs?”  It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself.

See below for Michael Hyatt’s Tips to End Overwhelm, plus some fun quotes to inspire you, and an awesome  Pledge for Disciplined Action by Barbara Stanney .


Step 6: Challenge

I have taken my model calendar design a step further– not only do I identify the areas and practices I want to nourish, I also map out my energy leaks and drains. When I work on my model calendar I have to take into consideration what type of energy I am putting into something and how to balance it out so that I don’t burn out.  I do this so I’m mindful of having enough at the end of the day for myself and my family.

In reality, this just looks like I have a lot less going on in my actual calendar than I ever have had before, but still I have so much more energy in each day, all day.  I don’t feel        “exhausted” or “overwhelmed” all the time (if you find yourself saying this a lot, let’s talk) and the sense of burn out is WAY less.  The more I commit and engage with the questions: “What do I need today? What kind of energy does this take? What does that mean I need to do the day/ night before and the day/night after?” I find myself saying less and less negative things like ” I need a vacation” or  ” I’m losing my mind!”  (which, FYI were things I said regularly before I truly learned how to balance my energies).

Notice, I am NOT saying “I have balance in my life” because my life is NOT IN BALANCE. It is in alignment which means, I spend way more time on things that give and feed me energy and I spend less time on things/ people/activities/thoughts that don’t. And in between all of that, I have guilt-free self care breaks and non-negotiable sleep times at night. All of this has led to powerful changes in energy, attitude, overall health and well being as I continue to investigate how my body and life changes with the seasons.

Step 7: Advanced Planning

Pull out your daily life calendar– the real-time one with appointments, schedules, etc..  Look ahead a few months, and think about when things might change up again.

Schedule in the following:

  1. Your next DIY Plan to Thrive Retreat.   Again, schedule 2-3 hours for yourself to look over your values, visions, goals, dreams, desires, and how they integrate with your daily schedule/model calendar. Realignment may be in order or letting go of some items or maybe even adding some.  I usually do this seasonally (fall, winter, spring, summer) but you may be good with just 1-2x a year (depending on the dynamics of your “season” with life, kids, job, etc).  It’s super important to engage with these questions, activities, and exercises regularly so that you can truly be able to navigate and discern for your own life, speed, pace and type of person you are instead of letting life pass you by!  Some people will look at this once, put it down, and never integrate. Others will keep researching, reading, and buying new planners BUT never actually INTEGRATE.  For me, I find simple is sustainable.
  2. A digital detox period maybe once a week or once a month.  Pick something that feels good to you.  Consider taking Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest off your phone for a few days.  Think of a way that you can disconnect from technology based on what your current relationship is and be honest with yourself!

I have gotten really into planning my own weekly Shabbat– I use this time to disconnect.  The added bonus: this is where I do my house cleaning for the week. I love calling it Shabbat and not “weekly cleaning” because the intention behind it is so different. When I call it Shabbat I move around the house with more joy, cleaning up after the family I love, and making our home a more wonderful place for them. When I call it “weekly cleaning” I find myself grumpy and wondering why no one in this house cares about it the way I do and I blame them for being messy (which they really are not) and I lean towards resentful. Occasionally we have to play with what we call something, and it helps with our mindset.  We set the intention and it can connect us again to something bigger: towards the ways we WANT to feel.

3.  A care retreat for yourself. A minimum of 3 hours of rest, reflection, journaling, walking, or doing NOTHING quietly on your own either in nature, at home, or leave town! I’ve got a few coming up including, Mom’s Up with Alexandra Hughes in October, a half-day Pause retreat at IMCW in Tenleytown in November (more info coming soon), and Delight in December.

WHOA! You made it! This is a lot. E-mail me at if you want to work on your Model Calendar together!  I usually reserve 1 spot a month to work with someone privately through this process because I absolutely love it and believe in it.  I’ll support you and hold your hand lovingly (while guiding you) and you’ll end with clarity and your own sustainable model calendar.

You can also join Thrive- my online well-being course where planning is only the first principle to Thriving! If you love this and want more.. JOIN US!  The Fall course starts Sunday, 9/18.  You can also e-mail me to get on the wait list for our next session!


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