Last updated on February 13th, 2023

This article could very easily be titled “Why Staying at a Hotel for 3 Days a Month Helps Me Work Less, Earn More, Stay Saner”

I started going on regular deep work retreats in 2020 and this in-depth article will share not only why Mayank and I made this decision but also how we organize and schedule these so they make complete sense for our family and business.

Caveat: Deep work retreats are most definitely a “grand gesture”, as Cal Newport would say, and while these have made a huge impact on not only our revenue but also our peace of mind, they’re NOT essential.

They are, for us, a big part of how we work now, and this post is based on our experience and insights.

Deep Work Retreats: How to Plan One Effectively

How Did the Idea of Deep Work Retreats Come to Life?

The years, 2020-22, were pretty eventful, right? 😅

Two years of complete chaos in the world.

For us, it meant learning to navigate the “new normal” (Ugh!) WHILE dealing with chronic illnesses, and therefore, needing to continue to work 20 hours a week.

Fortunately, our business continued to thrive in the midst of the great unknown.

We knew we needed to shift gears to stay focused and productive.

Because as tempting as it is sometimes to curl up in a ball and rock yourself in the corner, that isn’t always an option.

So, here’s how the idea of a “deep work” retreat or workcation took shape.

Cover image of the Deep Work book by Cal Newport

In 2019, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport and it made a huge impact on how I approached work.

However, that was all within the boundaries of our cozy home office.

I had my deep work hours.

There was a routine and rhythm to our days. 🧡

BUT in 2020, all that changed.

We were at home 24×7.

Life (and work) as we knew it changed dramatically. 😱

India was in complete lockdown mode.

After we’d grappled with what complete “lockdown” meant for a few months (I’m talking … not stepping outside our homes even for our morning walks AND closure of ALL establishments other than grocery/emergency/health services), the strict rules began to ease up.

Most importantly, hotels opened once again in our city!

With a full client roster and programs to run IN ADDITION to the extra demands on our schedule that pandemic protocols — no support with household chores and online school — brought …

…  Mayank and I knew we needed to add another layer of focused work to our schedules if we wanted to get things done.

Operation: Deep Work Retreat

We identified the best hotel in our city — one that had ALL the protocols in place — and booked a room there for me to knock out a project for a client who’d booked our VIP week package for her launch copy.

It was perfect.

During those 3 days, I got TWICE as much done as I would have been able to accomplish at home, pre-Covid.

We felt like we’d hit the productivity jackpot! 👏🏼🙌🏼

However, because it was my first retreat, I wanted to pack in as much as I could. 😂

❌I didn’t schedule much outdoor time.

❌My meals were pretty unhealthy — sugary snacks, lots of coffee, and all the carbs.

❌I parked my butt at my desk for as long as humanely possible and wrote.

It felt great, but as Mayank pointed out, it wasn’t sustainable.

And looking at my increase in efficiency, we knew we wanted to make them a regular part of our process.

AND to do so we had to plan them intentionally.

This brings me to …

How to Plan Your Deep Work Retreat

After a few retreats and plenty of trial-and-error, we landed on a way to make these both productive yet paced perfectly.

Because let’s be honest … the goal isn’t to burn yourself out. BUT to get a chunk of work done effectively.

To do this, we use a 3-part approach to planning a deep work retreat.

Since I’ve been doing this for a while now, a lot of it is almost automated and I’ll explain more about that in a bit.

Like with most “investments” the first part of planning starts with knowing WHY you need a workcation. 👇🏼

Identify Why You Need A Deep Work Retreat

You can take a deep work retreat for many reasons — brainstorming, reflecting, planning, or active work.

In our case, we mainly use workcations for active work — in my case, that’s writing copy.

But Mayank and I have also taken workcations where we use our time for strategizing, brainstorming, and planning our next steps.

Photo of Mayank Malik at a Deep Work Retreat

Point is …

YOU decide what the purpose of the retreat will be and the top 3-5 outcomes you would like to achieve.

Then, comes the next step …

Find a Place that Fuels Your Creativity

When we started planning workcations, we had a few criteria in mind:

🛏High levels of comfort, safety, and hygiene: remember, we’re talking 2020, so hygiene protocols were top of mind.  And because I would be staying solo in a hotel room, safety was obviously a HUGE factor.

🤫Quiet and peace: I enjoy working in quiet spaces, so this was important.

💻Great wifi connectivity: Obviously!

🏡Proximity to our home: This was a workcation. Not a vacation. I didn’t want to travel too far from our home and want something local

With that, we decided on a hotel chain that’s known for comfort, safety, and high levels of hygiene.

Finally, for these workcations to be sustainable and profitable for our business, we needed systems.

Set Up Systems for Work, Self-Care, and Play

Whether you take an annual deep work retreat for planning your year ahead or make them a monthly event as we did, you want systems in place so you don’t end up feeling like you either wasted your time or worked nonstop.

Remember my first work retreat? 😂🤦🏻‍♀️

I worked like I needed to prove a point.


Even though I accomplished everything, I didn’t enjoy myself.

For anything to be sustainable, you need to make it at least somewhat fun. 👏🏼

Systems do that.

Here are the 3 key systems that help me get work done while truly enjoying every second of my workcation.

1. Pace Yourself

This is something Mayank has drilled into me. I’m hardcore Type-A, Enneagram 9, ISFJ, which basically means I love to work and sometimes, forget that I need to play too. Luckily, Mayank reminds me.

Before every workcation, we review exactly how the days will flow — wake up times, work tasks and times, mealtimes as well as wind down times.

2. Know Exactly How You’ll Unwind and When

Speaking of wind-down times, you need to plan a hard stop for your workcation days.Prerna relaxing at her deep work retreat

Else, if you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to pop the laptop open and just keep going.

Remember, your business needs to light you up, not burn you out. 👈🏻👈🏻

For me, that means scheduling a massage, going for walks every day, and getting in a Pilates or yoga session on one of the days. 🧘🏻‍♀️

I also take books and have either a TV series or movie lined up as well.

3. Automate What You Can

This one has been super helpful. Automation for deep workcations isn’t the same as automating your bill payments but it does the same job.

It reduces decision overwhelm and mental fatigue. 🧠

For me, it’s essential to be my sharpest at these retreats so I try to automate as many everyday decisions as possible.

Starting with …  🏨the hotel.

For the last two-odd years, for both our workcations and staycations, we’ve headed to the same hotel.

Is it boring? Not for us.

In fact, it adds a delightful layer of predictability.

Over the years, the staff at the hotel know us and our preferences. They ensure every stay is absolutely stress-free and I have literally nothing to worry about. 🧡

The other system I have in place is for my 🍱food. In the initial months of deep work retreats, I made poor choices with my food leading to recurring health issues.

Now, I work with a nutritionist who reviews the menu at the hotel and plans what I’ll order! 👏🏼

Prior to working with her, I made the switch to eating the same healthy foods every meal.

Truth is … I don’t like to think or spend too much time evaluating what to have and this system helped me reduce decision fatigue. 🧠

I do the same with my outfits.

I like to dress up when I’m at these retreats and also, use the time to record videos or take photos.

Planning my outfits beforehand helps remove the “What should I wear?” dilemma. I do this even at home, and when we’re traveling too, and it’s really convenient. Highly recommend!

My Workcation Schedule and Gear

So before I share my schedule, I need to be clear: no two workcations are ever alike. 🤷🏻‍♀️

With that out of the way, here’s what an average day may look like:

⏰07:00: I have a later start than I do at home. That’s part of the ‘keeping it sustainable’ approach. I meditate, journal, shower, and get ready.

08:00: Head to the restaurant for breakfast. This is the one meal I go out for. I have the other meals delivered to the room. Luxurious bliss for this introvert! This is also when Mayank and I check in with each other and I review my plan for the day with him.

09:00: I start my first work session. This is usually a 2-hour sprint.

🫖11:00: I take a 30-minute tea break. I stretch, call home, and enjoy my tea away from my laptop.

11:30: Another 2-hour sprint till lunch.

🥙13:30: Take a full hour for lunch. Sometimes, Mayank and Manini come over and we go out for lunch.

14:30: Last 2-hour sprint.

💆🏻‍♀️18:30: Wrap up. Spend time on social. Go to the spa or Pilates or walk or chill with Netflix.

19:30: Dinner

🛏21:00: In bed with a book and my sleep music on!

In addition, Mayank keeps the following in mind when scheduling and booking my workcations:

  • Minimum calls: If there are any calls, they are either in the evening after 18:00 or early in the morning before breakfast.
  • Minimum context switching: One workcation, one project. It isn’t ideal for me to pack in 2-3 different projects and keep bouncing between them.
  • 3 days is a sweet spot: We did experiment with longer, but they ended up feeling a bit too exhausting and for a homebody like me, not ideal.
  • Tuesday check-ins and Friday check-outs: Checking out on a Friday means I get to enjoy the weekend at home and be all ready for a new week on Monday.
  • Pairing a workcation with a staycation: This doesn’t always happen but depending on Manini’s school schedule, we sometimes tack on a staycation after my deep work retreat. It’s a fun way to transition from work mode into play mode.

Let’s talk about workcation “gear.”

Since these deep work retreats are now a pretty regular occurrence in my schedule, I went a step further and created a “workcation packing checklist” in Notion. #nerdalert.

If you’d like to duplicate it for yourself, be my guest!

But here’s the shortlist:

  • Clothes, accessories, and shoes
  • Toiletries, skincare, and makeup products
  • Tech or desk gear
    • Laptop: I have a very portable 13” MacBook Air
    • iPad
    • AirPods
    • Chargers for the gadgets
    • Tripod
    • Planner
    • Scratch Pad and Post-Its
    • ALL the pens and highlighters
  • Personal must-haves like books, essential oils, etc.

How to Plan Deep Work Retreats as a Copywriter

Time and Money Budgeting for Deep Work Retreats

I’ll be honest with you: deep work retreats aren’t essential for everyone. We found they made a huge difference to our productivity AND helped us keep work hours to an average of 20 hours/week.

Full disclosure: I do work 6-8 hours a day during the 3 days I’m on a workcation.

BUT those 6-8 hours mean I can scale back when I’m at home. 🙌🏼

Screenshot of Toggl report sharing Hours worked in 2022

In 2022, I worked a total of 838 hours (see Toggl screenshot), or an average of 70 hours a month OR 17.5 hours a week. And yes, I track every second that I work on or in the business.

This includes working on a massive $100K project (!!!) as well.

I can confidently say NONE of this would be possible if we hadn’t scheduled these workcations.

So for us, yes, we budget for them — both on our calendar and in our financial planning.

It does require coordination with our family’s schedule and life season.

Again, a caveat: our daughter is now 15 years old which means she’s independent.  But she still needs us and we want to be there for her just like we were when she was 5. 😉

ALL of this to say …  deep work retreats require planning and careful consideration.

BUT they’ve been transformational for our life and business.

Are they an investment?

You bet!

But they’re an investment that reaps rich dividends.

Committing to the investment and scheduling these regularly have been a game changer for our business and our life.

Knowledge work doesn’t have to devolve into a soul-draining slurry of email and meetings.

Creating things with your brain can be incredibly satisfying —  but sometimes a dramatic change of scenery is needed to remind yourself of this reality. – Cal Newport

Do YOU schedule deep work retreats or workcations? Do you have questions about them? Share with me in the comments OR message us on Instagram!

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