Monday, March 8, 2010

GTD and Vacation Protocols


At one point in my career, I was the CEO of a mid-sized design-construction firm which I founded, grew, and sold called Pray Construction Company. At a point in the early to mid 1990’s, Pray Construction really needed a job of some size. We were in the process of bidding-negotiating a major addition to Charleston Catholic High School. We knew we were one of two firms in the final running….and then my vacation (horseback riding in Ireland) presented itself.

So….with my family, we went to Ireland and I chose a style I call “going dark”…meaning I was not going to check in. Now…communications back then were quite different. E-mail was just firing up and cell phones were not at all wide spread. We were “in the west” in Ireland, which meant….from a communications point of view…that the available land lines were few and far between…but you could find one…but I choose not to. Instead of calling in to touch base…I remained anxious and worried about the job….or lack of it. (For the record, we did get the job and the decision was not finalized until I returned).

The point to all of this was I’m not sure I was better off not calling in. Yeah…I was on vacation and was not obsessing like some of my wall street friends that were also on the trip and who called the office everyday (although notably that really changed as the week went on), but I was still anxious.

So…here is what I do now…and I think this is very GTD.

1) First of all….I go on holiday with my in-boxes (electronic and two paper ones) to zero. Now…this is really no big deal for me…I’m at zero several times a week…but it is foundational I think. So…e-mails are either deleted, read or action taken, they are filed for reference, stimulate other actions steps and so forth. But..the in-box is zero.
2) I do a good weekly review just before I leave.
3) I let everyone I’m actively involved with know I’m off for a holiday. You can’t hit all the stakeholders, but you can get the big ones which really helps manage the incoming.
4) I use the out of office assistant to remind anyone sending me an e-mail that you won’t hear back from me.

So…I’m feeling very caught up and ready to leave. This involves work and discipline. Laura and I just went on a one week holiday and I’m sure I worked until 10:00 pm the night before to do all of the above.

My computer stays at home but the iPhone comes along.

I do in fact read my e-mails. If they require action, I move them to a folder on my sidebar entitled “e-mails to respond to”. This helps me delete the junk, stay very loosely up to speed, and sets the stage for re-entry. Plus, and I think this is relevant; I don’t get reminded of my work every time I review my in-box...(as the messages have been physically moved). Plus, I maintain that good feeling of having a zero in box.

I tested this process last summer on a two week holiday and just did it for a one-weeker. Process works well. I try and get back from holidays on Saturday so I can process the e-mails to respond to folder on Sunday. I have likely 50-60 e-mails that required action. This took about 4 hours.

Coming back to my two “cleaned” physical offices effectively supports the re-charging you are hoping for from a holiday. And…I woke up this morning with a zero in-box as well.

I think this method of execution helps support vitality and renewal which is one is one of the things one hopes for from holiday. But…like a lot of the GTD stuff, this works for me and may/may not for you…but perhaps is worthy of experimentation.

1 comment:

Cam said...

Hey BB,
I am not up on the latest acronyms and had to research "GTD"......I suspect you didn't mean "Gestational trophoblastic disease" since you are past childbearing age so I'm gonna take a big risk (knowing you) and assume you are referring to Getting Things Done....
If there is any rhyme or reason to my management style of late it is basically that my business is exactly the opposite of my old one: no overhead, no infrastructure, very bare bones. I didn't even have business cards until 6 months ago. I find that in business, like life, focusing on what I am doing is the best strategy (and an illusive goal). When I am at work, I work; when I am on vacation, I play. My role in my business (owner, manager, every goddam thing) requires strategic planning (a high minded term for figuring out what we are going to do) which by its very nature bleeds into all activities. Whatever strategies work to allow me to focus and be better at whatever task at hand are worth considering. I TRY and use OHIO with email and avoid checking email until I able to deal with it. This is only marginally successful but as an ideal helps increase efficiency.....
A new strategy for my WAM (Worrying About Money) concerns is that I allow myself to worry for one day at the beginning of each week and then I move on. It is sort of HITS (Head In The Sand) but then IIB........
Best,
Cam