A couple of weeks ago I returned from the longest vacation I’ve ever taken. What was unique about this vacation was not that it was the longest, but that it was the one where I “checked out” the most—in fact, almost completely! I spent significant mental time not only away from the business and my day-to-day activities, but also thinking about life and freeing my mind to consider all aspects of my life, including my business.
That presented a unique challenge, because it meant that when I came back, I had been gone—not just physically but mentally as well—for two weeks.
How did I do it?
What made the situation even more absurd was that the very hour that I landed on the ground in the U.S. from Italy, I walked my wife to a taxi, walked back into the airport, and got on a connecting flight to go to a speaking engagement. That was on a Friday evening. I spent Saturday speaking at the conference, and then on Sunday morning, bright and early, I came back home to be with my family and catch up with my kids.
On Monday morning, after 24 hours with my kids, I started an insanely busy work week. My senior leadership team was in town from all over the world. In addition to the leadership team, we had invited five of our company’s CEO Value Awards recipients to come and join us as part of the celebration of the model they are for the rest of the organization.
Naturally, this created quite the hectic week. I was host, facilitator, and participant in these leadership meetings, as well as the extra duties associated with taking care of the five Value Awards recipients.
In the midst of this hectic, crazy week; in the midst of trying to dive back in before I had even caught up on everything else: how did I keep my sanity?
Here are the five keys to keeping my sanity that week.
1. Know where you’re supposed to be.
Part of my ability to keep my sanity was the vacation that I had just returned from. I had gotten new perspective on what my priority in life was. I knew where I was supposed to be at that moment.
I was very peaceful with the fact that, while I hadn’t seen my kids in a long time because of the travel, I was doing the right thing and that I had blocked off the right time for them along the way as well. Knowing who you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re trying to accomplish allows you to put everything in perspective and integrate them together. In fact, one of the nights, we hosted a party for all the participants in our summit at our house. My kids were invited; they were able to meet the colleagues I was working with. They were able to be there; they were part of the situation.
I was comfortable doing things involving my kids that night, and I was also comfortable being away from my family certain nights as I was away from home entertaining, because I knew who I was and that I had a plan. I knew that all of this was not something extravagant or auxiliary, but it was core to my purpose and what I’m trying to accomplish.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no.
There was a night that I couldn’t go out with the team because of a baseball game. I had already missed the first four games of my son’s season because of my overseas travel. I don’t think I’ve ever missed four games in an entire season, much less the first four games in a row! I knew that part of being a father was committing and being able to say no, even though in the ideal world, I would have been with the team every night that week.
That night, though, I needed to go and be home in time for his game.
There were all sorts of things I wanted to catch up on the week of my return, but they weren’t my priority. My priority was the team.
Prioritization is all about understanding what’s urgent, what’s important, and what’s not. Focus is about what you say no to.
That week, I was able to say no to things that seemed like they were urgent because I hadn’t been on them for two weeks, but that really weren’t urgent. My attention to them didn’t matter as much as I would have liked to convince myself.
4. Surround yourself with a phenomenal team.
By surrounding myself with people I trust and who I can delegate to, I was able to not only get away, but also to come back and not worry about catching up too quickly. My team—my ability to hire people who are smarter and better than myself and who share the same values—provided me with the opportunity to get back up to speed in due time, as opposed to the necessity to panic and try to consume everything all at once.
5. Have a schedule and a plan of life that lets you catch up efficiently.
Sometimes we’re too reactive in our lives. We go from one thing to the next, and we don’t have a plan of what to do. We lose so much efficiency this way.
In my daily routine, I sit down every morning and plan my day. It’s not just calendaring meetings, but rather, looking at what my priorities are, what I am going to do that day, what I am going to accomplish, and what is on the list for when I have a free moment.
Doing this in all areas of my life—not just my professional life, but also my personal life—allowed me to get back up to speed efficiently and effectively. I could deal with urgent items and quickly get to the important things and postpone those that weren’t.
Three days after the end of that summit, I was caught up. That’s three days after what was essentially three weeks of being out of the day-to-day of the business. Kudos to my team: there wasn’t a lot I had to catch up on or that I actually was needed for. But there was plenty of content that I was otherwise missing.