I spent half of August doing what I once thought was impossible.
A year ago, I decided to purposely seek extended travel periods and make choices that were in support of that. Every month, I visit my family in north Texas and travel frequently as President of Texas Business Women. Quarterly, I take a week and visit family farther away or attend conferences. Last month, I went to the other side of the world for 21 days, kept my job, and didn’t use a bit of vacation time.
Looking back, I realize I could have been doing this for the last decade. I just didn’t have the courage to make those choices.
1. I purposely planned to make it happen.
When it came time to negotiate my current position, I asked to trade the standard compensation element of vacation and sick time for a flexible work arrangement. That means that my performance is based on results, not desk-time, and from a purely financial perspective, it means I get paid less. Surprisingly, my GM agreed immediately.
Then, I explained the arrangement with my team and committed to helping them achieve their dreams as well. They’ve been supportive from day one.
2. I started small, preparing and practicing with my team.
First, we developed better systems to plan our workflow and minimize emergencies or surprises. Each month, we agree on a calendar of work, committing to internal deadlines for each group of tasks. We monitor it weekly and assist each other if issues arise. When we started with long weekends, we’d meet during the previous week and outline tasks that I’d need to complete before I left and what I planned on doing while traveling.
To ensure that I always keep their trust, I strive to never drop the ball. I maintain a reliable travel kit (including a quality laptop, compatible software, mifi service, vehicle power converter, and fax to email service) at my own cost. Aside from illness (which has only happened once during this time), I’ve met each of my scheduled commitments regardless of travel challenges.
As we progressed to extended periods out of the office, I trained them to participate in key corporate meetings in my place. At first, they attended with me. Then they took the lead, and I attended for support. After a few weeks, they knew exactly which information to report and issues to listen for. I also introduced them to key vendors and customers, empowering them to make decisions.
3. I took advantage of timezones.
Navigating a 13 hour time difference was actually easier than the 2 hour time difference from the west coast. I’d heard this, but couldn’t believe it.
As my team was starting their day here, it was 9pm in the Philippines. I’d stay online for an hour or so, confirming priorities and answering questions via email or chat. When I awoke at 4/5am, their day was wrapping up. We’d often schedule conference calls during this time (using skype) as well.
Keeping that schedule, I had the entire day available, without interruptions. I used the time to participate in an unconventional conference with entrepreneurs from all around the world, work on major projects, and explore a new country.
It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I learned skills I’d been wrestling with for years and developed friendships with amazing people I’d never have met otherwise. Most importantly, I finally silenced that nagging voice in my head that told me it could never be done.
What “impossible” thing can you mark off your list?