Road Trip-123RF Stock Photography

I recently earned some sab­bat­i­cal time away from my work here at Adobe.  But rather than spend that time on a beach sip­ping fruity bev­er­ages and soak­ing up sun, I decided to take a road-trip.   For three weeks we trav­elled over 6000 miles and across 18 states in the South of the USA.   Approx­i­mately 4 of those days were spent dri­ving.  I expe­ri­enced amaz­ing things, includ­ing Broad­way in Nashville, sun­rises over Myr­tle Beach, the French Quar­ter on a Fri­day evening, snor­kel­ing with dol­phins and rays in Florida, Texas BBQ, and the rabid bas­ket­ball fans in Okla­homa City.   What does all this have to do with dig­i­tal ana­lyt­ics and dig­i­tal media?  At first glance not much.  But the biggest sur­prise of my trip was the lessons I learned that do have appli­ca­tion to my work, and dig­i­tal ana­lyt­ics.  At the risk of being obvi­ous to the bet­ter bal­anced, allow me to share of few of my insights with you.

1. Relax­ation and Reconnection   

Step­ping away from work turned out to be one of the best things I have done for my job.  I relaxed, recon­nected with friends and fam­ily and allowed my mind to think about some­thing other than the chal­lenges of work.  Now that I have returned, I have a new per­spec­tive on those chal­lenges, new ideas, new energy, and the wis­dom to let go of what I can’t solve today.   As I’ve talked with oth­ers who have taken sab­bat­i­cals, I hear sim­i­lar per­spec­tives.  Not all of us can just pack up and leave, but I would rec­om­mend that you give your­self a small win­dow, a week­end, an extra night to move away from a prob­lem and come back with a fresh per­spec­tive.  Obvi­ous? Yes but I had allowed myself to ignore the impor­tance of some relax­ation.  Inter­est­ingly, the bal­ance issue for women and also men has come to the fore­front in recent weeks, start­ing with Face­books Sheryl Sandberg’s com­ments.  Read more about it here and here. Bot­tom line:  to be more pro­duc­tive don’t neglect your per­sonal time.

2. Be Patient While Expect­ing Progress

With all respect to my Kansas friends, dri­ving through cer­tain stretches of the Sun­flower state can seem end­less.  But then again, when you are in a car for 15 hours in one day, dri­ving across any­where can seem end­less.  I learned quickly that fid­get­ing, com­plain­ing, or get­ting frus­trated didn’t make the miles pass by any faster.  Some­times you just have to be patient.  We did even­tu­ally reach our des­ti­na­tion, and I learned to look for the lit­tle signs beyond the odomede­ter that indi­cated progress.  For exam­ple, my wind­shield started get­ting plas­tered with bugs at one point and I noticed “Hey, I’m in Gainesville FL already!”

Sim­il­iarly, your orga­ni­za­tional goals and objec­tives may feel dis­tant but if you work at it, signs of progress will mate­ri­al­ize.  I worked with a client recently respon­si­ble for a mas­sive Busi­ness Intel­li­gence ini­tia­tive that impacted sev­eral large dis­parate groups and hun­dreds of end users.  Like the end­less miles on my road trip, the spon­sor felt the project drag on day after end­less day.  But we worked dili­gently to prop­erly edu­cate other groups on the ben­e­fits that the new dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion would bring to their busi­ness and steadily raised aware­ness.  Over time, progress was made and more and more signs of progress were man­i­fest.   Bot­tom line:  know when to be patient but also expect progress at the same time.

3. To Get, Give

One of my favorite moments of any trip is that point when I can I review all my pic­tures after I return home. As I eagerly looked my travel pic­tures, I real­ized some of our best images came from some unknown stranger. You know the drill.  You need a group pic­ture but don’t want one of the group left out, so you ask some bystander to take it for you.  Iron­i­cally, many of those best pic­tures would never have hap­pened if I didn’t open my mouth-not to ask but to offer to take some­one else’s pic­ture.  Almost with­out fail, they would return the kind ges­ture by offer­ing to take our pic­ture as well.  As the trip pro­gressed I real­ized that the best way to get some­one out of a desired pic­ture spot (the per­fect one in front of the Dis­ney cas­tle or on the pier) is to give that per­son what he/she wants.   Is that cov­eted imple­men­ta­tion change tied up with the devel­op­ment team?   Are cre­ative assets back­logged and hold­ing up your next test?  Do you need move­ment from your exec spon­sor or dig­i­tal direc­tor?  Offer to help!  Assist with a project.  Pitch in with an idea.  Sim­ply empathize with that col­league if you can do noth­ing else, although I’ll bet you can.  Bot­tom line:  Every­one needs to get things done, so offer to help, and you will be sur­prised how often that move­ment will ben­e­fit your goals as well.

4. Be Pre­pared

In some ways, nav­i­gat­ing a busy Dis­ney­world or Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios can be like plan­ning the Nor­mandy inva­sion.   I stud­ied maps read reviews and even used two apps that allowed me to plan in advance (WDW Waits and Dis­ney Parks are fan­tas­tic apps).   We were stocked up with waters, per­sonal fans and snacks.  I knew what the crowds would do and zigged as every­one else zagged.  The plan­ning paid off and we expe­ri­enced what we wanted in a rea­son­able and mostly has­tle free way.  What a dif­fer­ence plan­ning can make!   When is that app slated to be released?  What are the plans with the site redesign and how will that affect you and your con­stituents?  Take the time to be a few steps ahead rather than rush­ing head­long into the daily to-do list. Rea­son­able prepa­ra­tion can pay off even if you aren’t directly respon­si­ble for the project.  You can save your­self the agony of being the last in line or help your team lead avoid that fate for the entire group.

5. But Be Flexible

I had big plans to hike Mt Bon­nell in Austin, but it started rain­ing, and then pour­ing (not a com­mon thing in Austin these days).  What to do?   We ended up in a high school gym watch­ing the annual spring review.  For­tu­nately we weren’t so attached to our sched­ule or we would have missed one of the best high school con­certs I have ever seen thanks to the won­der­ful tal­ent at West­lake High School.  Is it rain­ing?  Heck, lets hit that water ride rather than the roller coaster we planned.  Road closed?  Let’s check out this other town and see what the local food is like.  Like­wise, per­haps the VP post­poned your big dig­i­tal sales train­ing.  Is that your oppor­tu­nity to work on the social mar­ket­ing project you needed to tackle?  Per­haps you can build that ad sales dash­board that seems to have taken up per­ma­nent res­i­dence on your to-do list.  Plans and pre­pared­ness are impor­tant, but you might miss some­thing great if you aren’t will­ing to adapt.

6. It’s the Journey

Finally, let’s wrap with an overused but oh so true cliché:  it really is the jour­ney.  You don’t have to love what you do all the time.  I hated parts of my trip such as pack­ing the car or deal­ing with tired peo­ple after a long hot day.  But you should get joy and sat­is­fac­tion from your work.  I hope you like the actual data analy­sis part of your project not just the final Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion.  Hope­fully you enjoy find­ing great test­ing ideas equally as much as review­ing the results.  Where you are going won’t ulti­mately be impor­tant if you don’t enjoy going there.  I trav­elled many places and expe­ri­enced amaz­ing things with friends and fam­ily.  Ulti­mately I did want to get back home, but it’s the get­ting there that makes the trip worth it in the first place.