Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning from a hectic travel schedule

This has been the busiest, craziest summers of my entire life. Lots of work, lots of travel. I'm always on the move with my job, but mid-June through the beginning of August was abnormally intense. We knew going in it would be as such. Jeannette and I talked beforehand and agreed the sacrifice of time this summer would be worth it in the longrun. The experiences would help us with some of our moving expenses, plus it would allow me to get Companion Statues on Southwest so that she can travel with me. August 6th marked the end of the marathon, and things are finally going back to some type of normal. Whatever that is.

So here's a rundown of my summer marathon:

I've traveled to these cities since June 1st:
  • Portland, ME
  • Boston, MA
  • Pine Bluff, AR
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Columbia, SC
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • East St Louis, IL
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Baltimore, MA
  • St Louis, MO
  • New York, NY
Total miles traveled = 13,300
  • 18 different flights
  • 9 different rental cars
  • 15 different hotels
Total days traveling since June 1st = 42 (out of 67)
  • 20 of those days the fam was with me
  • 22 of those days we were relying on Skype and FaceTime
Oh yeah, and in between all of the travels, we moved into a new condo. So when I wasn't traveling for work I was packing or unpacking boxes. One word for this summer: CRAZ-EEEE!!! But it was good. Awesome actually. Not easy, but good. 

There isn't anyone who isn't busy, simply because we all have things to do. But the intensity of this summer has caused me to really think through the idea of busyness and work. Here's some of my random thoughts:

Busyness should be a wave, not a straight line. As I said above, we knew going into this summer that it would be crazy. We understood how high the level of busyness would be, but more importantly we understood the level would come down. We went into it for a season, not for a lifetime. Some people live abnormally hectic lives because they keep adding more and more and more. The more we add the more the busyness level becomes a straight line. There's no room for breaks or regrouping, and at some point that type of lifestyle will lead to another straight line:
The wave of busyness receding doesn't mean you stop working hard. Though my crazy summer is for the most part over, work isn't. I have meetings this week, classes at Moody are starting, and there's a message to prepare for Sunday. In all those things I'm going to work my butt off. Though busyness should always be a wave, work ethic should always be a highly set line. You always work hard, and there's NEVER a good excuse not to. 

Sacrifice, but be specific as to what. At one point over the last few weeks I said to Jeannette, "I feel like I didn't have a summer." It wasn't a moment of complaining, just being honest. Over the 6-8 weeks of travel, there were some things I just couldn't do: hang out with friends, zoo trips with our kids during the day, some family events, and late night gaming sessions with friends to name a few. These were things that just had to be sacrificed over this summer. But when I did have windows of time, Jeannette, Baylee, and Jaxon weren't sacrificed. In July someone asked me to work on a media project for them. I had to say no and suggested some alternatives on how they could get it produced. As important as the project was, I wasn't going to sacrifice the precious time I had with my wife and kids to do it. We have to set priorities, and be willing to say no to things. 

Own your schedule and be on top of it. If I didn't use Outlook I wouldn't have survived the summer. That is not an exaggeration, it is a fact. Every day I look at my calendar for what is going on, but also for what's ahead in the days and weeks to come. What do I need to do and when am I going to do it? We have to think ahead and be proactive in planning. Things won't get done without this type of thinking. Most important about using Outlook, I'm able to schedule breathers. When I can see the big picture of my weeks and months, the blocks of time that work hasn't staked claim of become clear and then I'm able to mark them off for rest. If I don't control my calendar then it will get out of control. The crazy schedule I had was manageable only because I took the time to manage it.    

Some people won't understand. You can't do everything and can't be everywhere. Because of this, people will wonder why you can't do something or be somewhere. Why didn't you return my phone call? Why didn't you return my email? Why couldn't you come? Why can't you do it? It's all inevitable. Here's the thing, because it is inevitable you have to allow for it. If we can't make everyone happy, then don't try to. Now, this doesn't mean being insensitive. We have to get back to people, we have to explain to people what is happening, we have to say "no" in a kind and respectful manner. But you won't be able to make everyone happy. Accept it. The best thing we can do, which looking back I only did so-so, is to communicate with people ahead of time that we are going into a crazy hectic season. The next time I have a season like this summer, here's some steps I'll take:
  • Change my voice mail to communicate that I'm in a crazy travel season. I'll give the dates, explain it might take a day or two for me to get back, and will give alternatives for people to get help.
  • Add a personalized email signature. Similar to an automatic vacation responder, but I'll communicate the same things I would in my new voice mail message.
  • Talk with key people in my life about what is ahead and what to expect: family, friends, and co-workers. Let them know, "Here's what my next couple weeks will look like."
I changed my voice mail this summer, and it was helpful. I didn't do the email thing, just thought of that. But various family members, friends, and co-workers did know. This was helpful. Friends knew I wasn't abandoning them, some even offered to come help.  

And today I start teaching classes at Moody. Still busy. I'm a person always on the move, always with something to do. But this summer was a great time of learning for me. I still have a lot to learn about schedules and project management and all that, but these lessons that came over the summer were invaluable for me. Maybe they'll be helpful for you as well.

No comments: